Mapping Out Your Goals

So here we are, the final installment of my inspirational musings. A few weeks ago (Aug. 19th, 2019), my brother asked me to help him with an English assignment. His teacher gave him four questions that he had to pose to two people and then write a response to each of their answers. What he didn’t tell me was that the paper was supposed to be 2,000 words total… I sent him 4,000. Whoops… 

In week one’s article, “ A Word For the Young and Young of Heart,” we explored the first question he sent me, “What do you think my strengths and weaknesses are?” I shared the answer I gave to him with all of you and then a bit of encouragement I wished someone had told me when I was a teenager. In week two’s article, “ Identifying Your Brightest Talents,” we looked at the question, “How do you think I can use my talents in a meaningful way?” I talked about my answer for my brother. I then took my readers for a walk through an exercise that I hope helped a few of you to become a little better in-tuned with your deepest passions and had you thinking about how to do something exciting with them. Last week, in “Build Your Dreams One Bite At A Time,” we recalled those passions and broke them up into digestible pieces. This week we’re getting into a more goal-oriented mindset and looking at steps you can take to achieve everything you’ve ever wanted to.

Below is the answer I gave to my brother. All these very specific tips and tricks I’ve gathered from my girl, Rachel Hollis over the years. I’ve read both of her books, Girl, Wash Your Face and Girl, Stop Apologizing. I also listen to her multiple podcasts and I religiously follow her on social media. She’s not the only inspirational person I follow, but she’s by far the one that resonates with me the most. Her goal-oriented plans work best for me. If you have something that works better for you, I’d love to hear it! Drop me a comment and we’ll have a conversation about your personal strategies!

*****

4. What advice would you give to help me achieve these goals?

Define them. Define them now, and define them in as much detail as you can. Then, as you age, mature, and find yourself, keep defining them until you no longer recognize them.

First, I suggest you establish your “Five to Thrive.” These are the five core values that most define you. I don’t expect you to know them all right now at this stage in your life, but you should be aware of them as you move out of high school, and, hopefully, into college. These are my five:

  1. Make my health my top priority.
  2. Make time for the people (and animals) I care about most.
  3. Live life with the goal to have fun.
  4. Exude love and understanding (the world has enough close-minded hate).
  5. Keep my hobbies a hobby – and designate at least an hour to them each week.

Once you know these, you can reference them quickly and efficiently before making any decisions in your life. Let’s say that someone was to ask me to join their band, and I know they are really into this thing and are already planning gigs. Pretend, for a moment that I know anything about playing guitar (I don’t), but I only strum casually every once in a while as a hobby with no real dreams of it being a career. This person is someone I really like and I don’t want to disappoint them, so I feel conflicted and want to say yes. In that split second while they are waiting for my answer, I can bounce the proposal off my value list and see that it conflicts with value # 5. For me, that’s exactly the kind of reassurance I need to do the right thing by letting my friend down easy upfront instead of making a commitment I would later resent and drop out of anyway. See how handy this tip is to keep your life and commitments on track? 

You will also use these five when making your next list: Your 10/10. Get a notebook, write down the 10 goals you want to achieve in the next 10 years in AS MUCH detail as possible. Reference these goals against your Five to make sure they don’t conflict. Here’s an example from my list: 

  1. “I want to run a successful blog/podcast. I will start by posting 1,500 words or more on my blog every two weeks until it’s a ritual. Then, I will rally my two voice-actors plus myself to record and act out the content in my fictional stories. We will publish these recordings twice a month.”

These two lists are something I wish with all my heart I’d had at your age. If I had, perhaps I wouldn’t have spent my high school days (and most of my twenties) feeling completely lost and directionless. I also might have graduated from college already instead of, yet again, giving community college a try. Or perhaps I would have realized sooner that I didn’t have a real goal. I was still finding out who I am. Maybe if I’d worked out my five values, and watched them as they kept changing, I would have gone out and found myself instead of wasting two and a half years of my life (and my limited financial aid allowance) on meaningless classes that now don’t even count towards my major. I could have then spent my time more wisely by working in a job and building a savings or investing in a good car or property. Instead, I’m swimming in credit debt and can’t imagine ever seeing an end to it.

High school should be spent getting to know who you are, not who you have been told to be. Use these guides to help you realize that, and when you’re ready to work through those ten goals, then you know that I will always be right there, ready with a self-help plan or book. I know you got this, “life thing,” without my help, but rest assured you will always get it anyway.

*****

So this was easily my longest response to him because achieving goals is what I’m all about. My life has changed so radically over the last five years and I couldn’t have done it without shifting my focus. I used to feel aimless and spent life hoping for good things to simply happen or to figure themselves out on their own. Everyone around me held a firm mantra of, “It’ll happen, give it time,” and “You’ll figure it out, be patient.” Well, patience and time don’t make your life happen for you. Only you can take control of your course and get your life to its desired destination. A ship left to bob along in the ocean will not magically get you to land before your resources run out. You have to turn on its engines, chart a course, and then use your accumulated tools to steer you there. Hopefully, these two lists will add some powerful new tools to your arsenal, and if you want to know more about goal setting, make sure you check out my girl, Rach. 

I hope you enjoyed this little bout of inspiration and I would truly love everyone to share what plans work for them! What goals are you working on? What plans, if any, have you made to achieve them? Is there any part of these musings that you may add to your existing plans, or have you been inspired to make a plan when you never have before? Let me know all this and more in the comments below! 

Build Your Dreams One Bite At a Time

A few weeks ago (Aug. 19th, 2019), my brother asked me to help him with an English assignment. I explained this more in my first article, “A Word For the Young and Young of Heart,” and in the second, “Identifying Your Brightest Talents,” so if you missed out, it can’t hurt to go back. His teacher gave him four questions that he had to pose to two people and then write a response to each of their answers. I was thrilled to help him out because, well, writing about how great people are is kinda my thing. What he didn’t tell me was that the paper was supposed to be 2,000 words long- total… I sent him 4,000. Whoops… 

Week one, we explored the first question he sent me, “What do you think my strengths and weaknesses are?” I shared the answer I gave to him with all of you. I then shared a bit of encouragement that I wish someone had told me when I was a teenager. Week two’s question was, “how do you think I can use my talents in a meaningful way?” For this one, we looked more at you, the reader, and walked through an exercise that I hope helped a few of you to become a little better intuned with your deepest passions and got you thinking about how to do something exciting with them. This week, we’re going to recall those passions and break them up into digestible pieces. Week four is when we’ll get into a more goal-oriented mindset, so make sure to check back next Monday (Sept. 16th, 2019). 

3. How do you see me contributing to the world in the future?
Whether you decide to pursue a path in video games or change course and go develop the next hot app, or completely shock me and get into plumbing, I know that you’ll be amazing. I bet, by the time you hit your career’s peak, tens of thousands of people will know your name, if not hundreds of thousands. Heck, maybe one day I’ll be the one writing the scripts for the games that you develop, and between the two of us, we’ll become more famous than J.K.Rowling. A girl can dream. 

When answering this question for my brother, I took a very straightforward approach. Now, several weeks later and after beating my head against this prompt trying to understand how to make it appeal to a broader audience than just my family, I decided to shift my perspective on this question. Let’s look closely at the “How” at the beginning of the sentence. I’m going to use my own goals as an example because they are the ones I’ve put the most research into and can, therefore, write about with more ease (given as I’m writing this the day before my deadline). 

I want to be a published writer, and I see myself contributing my works to the world and, hopefully, making a positive impact on how people view themselves and others, but how am I going to go about doing that? I’m going to take some advice from my girl, Rachel Hollis and her newest book, Girl, Stop Apologizing. In one of these many influential and inspiring chapters, Rachel talks about starting with the dream and taking one step at a time backward from there. 

This means if I want to be a successful and published author, my first step is, obviously, to get published. What do I need to do to get published? Well, this is a question that can be dumped into the search engine of your choosing, and the answers will be endless. For the sake of ease, let’s say I can either self-publish, which has a lower impact and lower chance of reaching the level of audience that I want, or I can find a publisher willing to pick up my as-of-yet unwritten novel. Choosing a publisher is the best bet for the goals I have in mind. So, on to the next question for the search engine – how do I get a publisher? First, I need to write a query letter. A query letter is basically a written, and formal sales pitch from you to the publisher that you have to make sure stands out above all the thousands of other pitches they receive every day of the week. Basically, it needs to be a diamond in the rough, so no pressure or anything. 

Another action one can take to help be noticed in the query letter is to be already published. I know, I know, it seems counter-intuitive, but there are ways of meeting this prerequisite. One could submit short stories or poems to literary magazines and cross their fingers and say a silent prayer until someone finally bites. Once that story is published, rinse and repeat until you have a decent portfolio. One could also amass an internet following through a successful blog (*hint, hint*). Anything you can do to earn a little fame going into the pitch. Oh yeah, and having a degree in some sort of English field helps too.

Circle this all back around, and you have where I am currently standing in my life: an aspiring writer, trying to hold herself to blog goals and deadlines. Adjusting to deadlines after never having placed any on yourself is way harder than all the self-help guru’s make it sound. On top of this, I’m also having to keep up with college life after eight years of being away from the school scene in the hopes of at least getting an AA degree so that I can say, “I gave it the old college try.” Yeah, I hated me for that joke too. 

So where is the relevance to you in all this jabbering? My point with this example is that it can help if you unpack your dreams the way I did and reverse engineer them. If you take this vast, explosively overwhelming dream that you have for your life and break it down into bite-sized pieces, it suddenly doesn’t seem so hard. I have also heard it phrased as, “The best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.” If we learn to look at our goals as bites instead of the unreachable impossible, they suddenly start to seem less daunting. It’s not like anyone told you that you had to eat the whole elephant in one day! There is a reason they are called “life goals,” because it’s supposed to take you a lifetime to perfect and achieve them! You have more time to make these dreams a reality than you think you do. Breath, slow it down, and for the love of all that is good and beautiful in this world, enjoy the journey!

Again, good luck with those dreams. I hope this helped you start thinking about the stages of goal setting because next week we’re going to revisit the sage advice of my girl Rachel and set step-by-step goals for getting through each of those tiny bites in next week’s fourth and final question. Hope to see you there!

Next Week’s Question:  What advice would you give to help me achieve these goals?

Identifying Your Brightest Talents

A few weeks ago (Aug. 19th, 2019), my brother asked me to help him with an English assignment. I explained this more in last weeks article, “A Word For the Young and Young of Heart,” so if you missed out, can’t hurt to go back, though it’s not really necessary. His teacher gave him four questions that he had to pose to two people and then write a response to each of their answers. I was overjoyed to help him out because, of course, I was. What he didn’t tell me was that the paper was supposed to be 2,000 words long- total… I sent him 4,000. 

Last week we explored the first question he sent me, “What do you think my strengths and weaknesses are?” I shared the answer I gave to him and then shared a bit of encouragement that I wish someone had shared with me when I was a teenager. This week, we’re going to look at how to identify your talents and embrace them.

Question 2: How do you think I can use my talents in a meaningful way

This one is a very personal question. For my brother, I focused on his love and interest in computer programing, though my response still feels inadequate. Only we can know our real strengths. Only we know what talents and dreams whisper to us and call to us. I’ve been begging my brother to hang out with me so that I could explore this question with him in greater detail, but, naturally, he’s avoiding me at every turn (don’t forget, he’s sixteen. He’s allowed to get away with that and not hurt people’s feelings too bad). Since he’s decided to treat me like a violently contagious disease, I again focused on his love for gaming. It was vague, but I’m sure it’s still more than what 90% of the other kids got, so I feel good about it. Here’s what I said:

I think, if you follow this interest in gaming and programming that you can turn your gamer passion into a very profitable career. Computers are the future, and programming is the new global industry. Programmers aren’t just making video games, but security systems, mods, self-checkout registers, self-driving cars, Siri, Bixby, Alexa. You name it, and your future becomes endless. Follow your dreams, and I know, without a shadow of a doubt, you are going to leave your digital footprint all across the globe.

When I was in high school, my strengths were already readily apparent, I just hadn’t yet come to embrace them as the things that would define me in work as well as in my social circles. I was extraverted and therefore, always ready to engage in meaningful conversation. The stories of people’s lives have always fascinated and inspired me and my fiction. I have been utterly obsessed with storytelling since I learned to write, if not sooner, and wrote bits of fiction every time an excuse arose. I also had this deep-seated desire to paint pictures, even though I was shite with traditional media. 

I wish someone could have swooped in back then and given it to me straight, “Look, girl. You’re great with people. Quit wondering about what mainstream profession you’re going to pick up, and embrace the fact that you were born a saleswoman. The wealthiest men alive are businessmen, not doctors, so stick that to your family when they start in on you for being aimless. Next, you’re a writer. You always have been, you always will be. Now go paint your pictures with words and put down the acrylic, okay? You’re embarrassing yourself, and most importantly, you’re embarrassing me, so just let it go, okay?”

Unfortunately, I didn’t have this magical spirit guide to point this all out to me, and my family was hardly better. I suppose I grew up with a sense that my passions were “sweet,” or “endearing,” or “a phase,” that I would grow out of before I stepped into my true calling of being a doctor or an engineer or an accountant. Something respectable like that. No one ever sat down with me and asked what it is at this very point in my life that I love pouring my energy into, what gets me fired up and what do I genuinely get excited about and engaged in. No one ever made me take a pause nor asked, “What would your life look like if you turned that fire into a profession?” 

So, I’m going to ask you now. Stop what you’re doing (okay, finish this paragraph, then stop), close your eyes, and ask yourself these questions. What are the things in your life that set you on fire? Do you love hanging out with the guys or the girls and having drinks while swapping stories? Have you always longed to travel? Have you always burned at the thought of learning a new language? Do you love making things with your own hands? The list goes on, but you see where I’m going with this. Now, take those things, because I assume there isn’t just one, and visualize doing those things. 

Focus on your emotions right now. Are you happy? Is your heart racing with excitement? Now, imagine someone who does what you were just envisioning for a living. What do they do? Are they a developer? Maybe that person was a therapist or a child’s counselor. Perhaps they were running an Etsy shop from their home, or giving motivational speeches in front of a crowd?

Can you see this person clearly? Are they using one of your passions, or juggling many? Now, I want you to suddenly realize that this person has been you all along. Focus on this feeling. Let it wash over you. Amazing right?

Now, I can go on for another 400 or more pages about how to achieve these goals and make roadmaps, but let’s save that for some other time. For now, bask in the glory of this visualization. You were always meant to be more than the person you are today. Never forget that the only limits to your success are the ones you choose to place or yourself.

For now, good luck, and never stop dreaming.

Next Week’s Question: How do you see me contributing to the world in the future.

A Word For the Young and Young of Heart

Last Monday, my little brother asked me to help him with an assignment in his English class. I was so excited by his project and impressed with the finished work that I had to share it. Whether or not the final product was worth the level of self-importance I felt after completing my responses is neither here nor there. This feeling is what makes writing worth embracing, and it’s so exhilarating that it seemed selfish not to attempt to share it with all of you, so here it goes.

Before we continue, there are two things you need to know about my brother and I. The first being that he and I are twelve years apart in age. This means I spent the larger part of his life hating and resenting his very existence due to zero fault of his own. The second is that I have spent the last four years of my life absolutely adoring everything about that kid. You guys remember that little dog from the cartoons that always bounced around that bulldog who barely seemed to notice his existence? Yeah, that’s me around my brother, and it will continue to be me until the day he finally breaks down and agrees to be my best friend. The most significant event that brought about this change for me was getting away from my childhood home. Don’t get me wrong, I love my mom to pieces, but that lady craves destructive energies the way a zombie craves brains. Pinning my brother and me against each other was just one of the many ways she satisfied her drama quota.

I don’t have a lot of details surrounding the assignment my brother sent me, because it was all through a text, but it involved four “simple” questions. In fact, my brother’s exact words were:

“Hey Ashley i have some questions to ask you it’s just 4 questions and you don’t have to spend hours on it it’s for my english class.”

Oh, my dear, sweet, naive baby brother. You absolutely know that I don’t need hours to make this into a full-length novel. I am presently grinning a devious little smile as I imagine how priceless his teenaged reaction must have been to the two-page self-help novel I sent him via email. *Note: I have since been informed by my mother that the total word count, including his response, was to be 2,000 words. I sent him 4,000.

So, since my answers were long, and because I had so much more to say, I have decided to break the questions up over four weeks for a little #MondayMotivation. I also feel that these questions are a valuable exercise to perform with any minors in your life. It also seems beneficial for anyone you know who is struggling to find purpose or meaning in this hectic world, or even as a couple’s exercise. It’s always a shocking and refreshing thing to realize that other people see us. That they acknowledge and value our strengths, and recognize, as well as accept our weaknesses. Many times, the people around us see our potential a lot more clearly than we see it ourselves, and it can be really beneficial to have it pointed out. I highly encourage you to use these questions with the ones you love and see how it might impact them positively and encouragingly.

Question 1: What do you think my strengths and weaknesses are?

For my brother, I chose video games as his strength and his weakness. Here is what I wrote to him: 

Your strengths and your weaknesses are one and the same: video games. While some people complain and criticize the fact that you stay home all day playing video games, I see this as a lesser of potential evils. It is unfortunate that you are not getting the positive experiences that come with venturing beyond the home ( e.g., a taste for independence/ a chance to discover who you are separate from a parental figure/ the ability to make mistakes that turn into character-building lessons/ develope elevated social skills/ etc.). However, it does also mean that you are not experimenting with the life-ruining experiences that many youths your age choose to partake in. Many sixteen-year-olds in America are experimenting with hard drugs, entering into gangs, engaging in turf wars, having babies before they are old enough to understand what a mortgage is, and so much more. You have avoided this lifestyle by choosing safe, docile friends who would rather ignore the peer pressure of the world and unwind with some hard-core gaming. I’m sure, if you wanted to, you would have been more-than-capable of finding a “bad crowd” to fall in with. Instead, you chose a path that merely delays your social development until a time when you decide it’s of value to you. It will be hard, and not fun to play catch-up later, but it’s most certainly possible. I can attest to that. 

When I was his age – well, firstly, when I was his age, I was a punk-ass goth kid. Aside from that, I was a really good kid. I hung out with my friends. I wore all black. I cussed every third word. I wrote a lot of fantasy stories with vampires and werewolves that I’m ashamed to recall (because the writing was dreadful). I flirted with boys that I was too shy to do anything more than kiss, and even that I was probably too shy to pursue. 

I didn’t have my first alcoholic drink until my 21st birthday. I never in my life have dabbled in any kind of drugs, not even so much as a single puff on a joint (unbelievable, I know). I never had suicidal tendencies nor took up cutting, as a few of my friends had when the depression became too much to bear. I have never knowingly in my life committed a crime- and listen, stealing pattern blocks in Kindergarten doesn’t count. I had no idea what theft was back then, and I needed to show them to my mom so she would understand what I was so excited about every day!

All that said, I did miss out on a lot of learning opportunities. Our teenage years are a time when we are supposed to build a mental separation between our parents and us. Between who we’ve been told to be and who we actually are meant to be. It’s a time to make really stupid mistakes and to learn what doesn’t fit well with who we are becoming. It’s also a perfect time to get out all those really bad ideas so that they don’t sneak up on us later in life when they can cause more lasting hardships. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying go out there, give yourself alcohol poisoning while snorting cocaine and waking up in a jail cell, but I am saying that it’s okay to live a little and go enjoy your last hurrahs as a kid! Go loiter in front of a sign that says “no loitering” or drink a soda while driving past a sign that says “don’t drink and drive,” or zoom by on a skateboard in a shopping center that says “no skateboarding,” you know, annoying things that don’t hurt anyone.

One of the lasting hurts of my teen years, one I still find myself subconsciously seeking validation for, is that I could have been worse, and not a single adult acknowledged that. With the exception of my therapist, whom I love dearly (obvs), the only feedback I received was from everyone that was going to “pray” for me, and how “shameful” it was that I wore black clothes and dabbled in the “devil’s lore” (vampires, werewolves, Harry Potter, anything popular that came out of Japan, etc.). I also was really into video games, though, granted, not as heavily as my brother. In spite of all the criticism, harsh looks at church and strangers hands on my arm as they told me, “The devil- is bad,” (No- seriously. That actually happened) I knew that I was a good kid, and I knew how much worse off I could be. Hell, I knew how much worse all my friends were! I simply chose not to tag along to all their after-school parties nor partook in their questionable pastimes. In retrospect, they must have been good friends, because they all loved me despite that, and never pressured me. They simply respected that I didn’t care for drugs and alcohol. 

My point here is that it’s important for my brother, and anyone who feels unheard, unseen, and unappreciated, to hear the words that I craved all through my high school years. Those words, are this: You are a good kid, whether you’re 10-years-old, or 100-years-old and the choices you’re making now are not going to ruin your life unless you decide they are. They are going to give you different experiences from everyone else’s unrealistic ideas of who you should be, and that’s absolutely, and unquestionably okay. Keep up the good work, and just be as aware as you can of the experiences you’re giving up as you continue to make the choices you are. If you don’t like something, or you’re depressed that you’re missing out on something, then it’s never too late to change it, and help will always be available to you as long as you’re determined to seek it.

Good luck, kiddos.

Next Week’s Question: How do you think I can use my talents in a meaningful way?

Weight Loss

I have a confession to make. I started a trendy diet. I know, I know, your first thoughts are probably, “She conformed to societal pressures through body shaming! Tragedy is thy name!” I assume this is your first thought because this is exactly what my first thought used to be whenever someone started a new food fad. However, after a few recent events, some serious soul searching, and a substantial amount of self-help books, my entire view of weight loss has completely changed. Allow me to give a little background information on my life.

My mother was adopted. This means that she and I have no medical history to share between the two of us- nothing, nada, zip. “But, Ashley,” you might say, as my doctors before you have, “Surely you have half your medical history. What about your father’s side?” To you, I will say what I’ve reiterated to my doctors time and again, “Yes, you’re probably right. When I hear from him next, I’ll be sure to ask about that, right after I find out what was so much better than watching his daughter grow up into a semi-functioning adult.” I know, “ouch.” You can say it again if it makes you feel better, but hey, at least I can have a sense of humor about it. In his defense, he does come out of the woodwork to text, call, or facebook message once or twice a year. In these calls, he will usually spend a good two to five hours lamenting me with his present woes. Funny how, in these annual conversations, I never seem to remember to add, “Oh yeah, by the way, all your dead and dying relatives, what ailments did and do they have? Is there anything that I should be concerned about, genetically speaking?” Somehow I think the answer would end up being a bewildered, “I don’t know!”

Failed genetic record-keeping aside, one of these significant life events was a $200 genetic test kit that also assessed our health. Myself, my mother, brother, and yes, even the estranged father (after I gifted him the kit for father’s day) took this test. There was nothing too surprising, and I was told a lot of things I already knew, such as the fact that I’m 100% pure white person (which my sugar-free almond milk latte could have told you already), with the most substantial majority of that being British and Irish (redhead, duh). There is, contrary to my father’s insistence, no percentage of Native American anywhere in me (which I already knew thanks to my ivory complexion). I also had little to no genetic tendencies towards any unsavory degenerative diseases or recessive this-and-that’s which could be passed to all the offspring I’ll never have, which was a bit of a relief (though, since I’ve already decided I will be living forever, I was unsurprised by this as well).

It was my mom who got the breakthrough in the form of a second cousin on her mother’s side of the family. I think I was the one to start up a dialogue with this cousin, and using the information my mother and I provided her, she clicked us into her family tree. This girl, I kid you not – her family tree went all the way back to the 1400’s! The mother stinking 1400’s people! Do you know how excited we were to have this information! Granted, we didn’t know what to do with it, and technically we still don’t know what to do with it, since it was just a bunch of names, birth dates, and death date- a lot of death dates. That was when I figured it out – everyone on my mother’s side of the family, including the only sibling of her’s we could find a record of, all died in their 50’s and their 60’s, with one grandmother who had married into the line dying in her 70’s. Guys, my mother is in her 50’s!

This information was upsetting, but not particularly core-shaking nor life-altering. The real heavy blow came some few days later when my mother went to her general practitioner for some antibiotics when her bronchitis had started back up again. They were getting through the initial check-in and taking her vitals when the nurse frowned. They’d been taking my mom’s blood pressure and the nurse, sounding a little hesitant, declared they were going to try that again. She tried it a third time and then excused herself from the room. She came back in with a second nurse, and they brought between them a large machine and declared they were going to try again. They took my mom’s blood pressure five total times before announcing that they were admitting her to the ER. My mother’s blood pressure was 221 / 122. If you Google a chart of blood pressure ranges they all end at 190 / 120. My mother was in the stroke zone with no knowledge of her situation nor any perceived symptoms. My entire reality had been shaken to its very core. In that one day, I went from seeing my mother as an indestructible female version of He-Man, to someone mortal who won’t be around to scold me one day, and whom I won’t be able to torment endlessly with my superior wit. I realized that one day, and one day soon if she didn’t tear down and restructure her entire way of living, my mother would be gone, and with her, my sense of security, my place of fall-back if adulting becomes too much for me to bear. This was quite a shift in perception for me.

I was frantic, texting my mom every fifteen minutes for updates, calling my grandmother who had been calling the doctor’s directly, and getting whatever updates they’d been willing to give her after my mom had permitted them to speak to her. My mom called me about five hours later from the BlueTooth in her car to say they’d discharged her and she was heading home. We talked a bit about what the doctor had said and what they had done before my mom announced that she was next up in line. “In line where?” I had asked. She was at Starbucks! I shrieked at her to get out of the line! She was genuinely confused as to what she had done wrong. “What in the seven hells do you think caffeine is going to do to your blood pressure, Mom?” I demanded of the receiver (Side Note: I am so glad that my mother hates reading and will therefore never read this post).

Needless to say, nothing has changed. My mom takes her blood pressure pills, but most of her life has stayed the same. She skips a few extra mochas here and there and pretends she’s doing something beneficial for herself. She goes to the gym three days a week (though with the number of times she and her personal trainer cancel on each other, it balances out to once a week) and my mom is considering signing up for an individual meal service, but I know that she’ll finish those meals and then go see what other junk food is lurking around the house. These events, these facts, these hard checks on reality have done nothing to instill a sense of seriousness in her. Life is a never-ending joke and has never been anything for my mother to take seriously.

I have spent my life coming to terms with the fact that my relationship with my mother, though playful and sisterly, has been extremely codependent. It’s been a 12-year road to realizing that I can never hope to convince her to change any of her self-destructive behaviors. However, this acceptance doesn’t have to mean I can’t do anything to regain some sense of control over life’s events. Between the family tree and my mother’s medical situation, I realized that there was something to be gained, and there were actions that could be taken to save a life, to save my life. See, if I am going to achieve my life-long goal of immortality (not amortal, immortal, mind you), then I had better start by getting my own eating habits and weight under control. I am 5’ 4” barely, and at my last heaviest weight I had been 223 pounds. I didn’t actually weigh myself before I started the diet, and therefore, I could have been worse than I realized. I was a size XXL with a 48 DDD bra, and I hated shopping for clothing items of any kind. Today, I still hate shopping for clothes, because I’m broke and clothes are expensive, and shopping is stupid. That said, a mere four months after my mother’s health crisis, I’m 181.4 pounds, a size medium and a 43 D bra (which is actually too big for me now that I think about it, but I do not want to buy another one yet).

What was my secret to losing all that weight? Well, I just gave it to you. The diet that I’m on isn’t the point. The food that I choose or the supplements that I take also don’t matter. What mattered was my “Why.” What mattered was the motivation behind finding a diet that worked for me and then making that choice day, after day, after day, to stick with it. What mattered were the days when I would wake up, consider eating something that I knew would set me back, and then reach for that feeling of determination and chose to start all over again from a stance of resolution. People always say that we can do anything that we put our minds to, but that saying is meaningless if we don’t have a strong enough, “why.” If you want to make a change in your life, whether it’s your diet, your weight, or a goal for your career, then you need to know exactly what it is that you’re working towards and you need to make sure you genuinely want it. Find a way to let go of the excuses that are holding you back, and make your “why” as specific as you possibly can and as achievable as you possibly can so that you don’t sabotage yourself before you even get started.

I know a lot of this is “easier said than done,” but believe it or not, there is a lot of outstanding help out there. For those of us unable to afford a counselor or a personal trainer or a dietitian, there are self-help books, podcasts, motivational YouTuber’s, audiobooks, bloggers, and so much more! There are whole communities of men and women out there ready to support you and become your cheer squad. You need to understand that you are worth more than the life you were given at birth, whether it was a good one or a bad one, and that there are people out there who are excited to help you grow into the dreams you were born to make happen.

I won’t list the things that have helped me here, today, in this post, for fear that it will be perceived as an advertisement and therefore diminish the impact of my words. If you want some suggestions on where to start your personal growth journey, or where to turn to get over life’s next hurdle, feel free to leave me a comment below with a description of the personal goal that you’ve been struggling to overcome. I’m not going to pretend to have any level of expertise, but I do generally have a book, podcast, or another auditory medium I can recommend for just about any topic. I hope we can grow together as a community, and maybe, just maybe, we can build up our own little cheer squad here on this site to boost each other up on those rough days when we just want that dang frosted cookie. If anyone has a success story they’d like to share, I would also like to invite you to share with us in the comments.

I look forward to hearing from you all, and I hope that your comments will inspire my next personal insight. Until then, take care of yourself, and make sure to drink your water today!

Featured

The Purpose of This Blog

First and foremost I’d like to say “welcome” so- Welcome! Welcome to my blog, and thank you so much for showing interest in my interests.

Second, I thought it might be a good idea to explain and outline my hopes and dreams for this little project of mine. I will start with my personal goals and things I hope to gain, and then I’ll outline my hopes and expectations from you, the reader.

Personal Goals:

  • I hope this blog will offer incentive to keep me writing and practicing the art of shaping my thoughts with words.
  • It’s an excuse to get my 1,000 words or more completed each day by creating a sense of commitment to you, my treasured supporters.
  • It’s an excuse to exercise many of the writing prompts I’ve found intriguing, and to push myself to write stories and genres I would normally be afraid of approaching.
  • It’s an excuse to visit a new world and new characters on a regular basis so that I don’t burnout on a piece the size of a novel

My Hopes For You The Reader:

  • I hope to receive constructive feedback from you the readers that will help shape me into a stronger writer
  • If you think a change or clarification needs to be made, let me know! I am always willing to change, edit, and improve my pieces if I feel the suggestions are a good match for my personal style and voice.
  • I wish to hear which stories you loved and which ones you didn’t.
  • I want to hear which ones you are craving more of.

How You The Reader Will Personally Shape My Content:

The goal of this blog is to push myself to explore worlds and characters and stories that I wouldn’t have explored, yes, but I have another hope- a grander hope. As stories begin to receive feedback, and as readers start asking to know what happens next or what happened before, I will go back and revisit my story snippets. I wish to build upon the stories, enter these worlds once again and expand them into a mini-series- almost like comic books, but without the pictures. These are my visions, my dreams of the future of this blog. So what do you say? Will you help me shape the future of this site?

The Diving Board

Welcome,

My name is Ashley Northbert. I have been a writer from birth, though I have spent more than half that time convincing myself otherwise. The best parts of my 28 years of life have been spent in pursuit of a “real career,” and every trail I’d chase always lead me rushing back to my one true love over and over again. Finally, tired of looking for things to fill my life with some sense of satisfaction, and full of the encouragement of those around me whom I love, I decided to take the plunge and started this blog.

I have absolutely no idea what the future holds for this little child I’ve barely begun to construct, but I am alive with excitement to see what it may yet become. I will be using this primarily as a reason to crank out my recommended “thousand words a day,” that all writers are supposed to strive for in order to get better at doing what they do. These words will be anything from a thought I wanted to explore to a writing task I completed for my day job that I feel particularly proud of, but mostly they will be short pieces of fiction. I had a little burst of inspiration during my drive into the office today. I thought it might be nice to buy books full of writing prompts that I can flesh out into little scenes. I hope that, as I make these short stories and little scenes, that I will collect a small group of people who encourage me to revisit a setting or a scenario or a character until these little fictional lives come to full realization. I’m hoping that, through feedback and collaboration and helpful suggestions, this blog will evolve and take on a beautiful little life of its own based on my narration and your requests.

Well, that should about do it for an introductory post, mainly because this is as far ahead as I’ve planned this thing through. Some writers are mappers and planners and architects knowing exactly where they are steering their ship. I wish to every god ever worshiped that I was this sort of writer, but I am not. My characters live their lives through me, and they are the ones who tell me where they will go and what they will say. This blog is no different. It doesn’t know what it is yet any more than I do, but we will find ourselves together.

I hope you’ll be there with us when we do.