Ashley and the Tale of the Red Balloon

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I got my first tattoo when I was a freshman in college. It was small — a tiny little star with rainbow stardust, on the side of my right ankle.  I was about a week into school, on my own, 3 hours away from my parents.  My first attempt at being a rebel.

A rebel.. one who gets a tiny star with rainbow stardust tattoo.

My second tattoo was the one that would change my life. And, it was completely random. Unplanned. Ironically enough, that’s what made it so magical.

I went with a group of friends who were going to get tattoos.  We spent about an hour in the parlor, looking around. Going back and forth on whether they were going to do it or not.  Eventually, both friends decided against getting one.

“What!?” I exclaimed. “We literally spent all this time here, and no one is getting a tattoo?!”

They shuffled their feet and mumbled under their breath, obviously still debating, but ultimately deciding it was best to wait before permanently marking their bodies.

“Well, I mean.. we’re here. So, maybe I’ll just get one.” I said, trying to act way more confident than I actually was.

“What? What would you even get?” My taller friend was attempting to call my bluff.

“I don’t know.. maybe I’ll just get a red balloon or something.”

“Why a red balloon?” asked my other shorter friend.

“Why not?”

30 minutes later, I walked out of the tattoo parlor with a fresh red balloon tattooed on my left calf. It was simple, a red balloon with a black string. No muss, no fuss. It didn’t need any.

There were a few days afterward where I secretly questioned why I got it. A red balloon? Of all the things to get tattooed, I chose a red balloon?! So strange.. At that point I didn’t have the same affinity for balloons as I do now. It had no meaning, no significance. It was really just a spur of the moment decision that would eventually mean everything to me.

The randomness, the “spur of the moment” decision, the “giving no fucks” attitude, the impulsivity.. that wasn’t really my style.  I’m known to be very type-A: a planner, a to-do list maker, a thinker, a high-expectations-of-yourself-and-everyone-else overachiever. The split moment impulse to get a red balloon tattoo was one of the more spontaneous things I had done in my life to that point — and I did it without much thought or contemplation. As the days, months, years passed since getting it — of all the tattoos I have, that one gives me the most joy.  It gives me life.

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The red balloon is such a great reminder for myself of important life lessons.

  • Sometimes the best parts of life are unplanned and unpredictable. And that’s okay!!
  • It’s all about the little things.  Take time to appreciate the little things, for one day you will wake up and realize all the little things were actually the big things that make life so wonderful.
  • When life throws challenges your way, pick yourself up and rise like a balloon.
  • Smile. Just smile.
  • Every little thing is gonna be alright.
  • When everyone else is finding joy in bursting your balloons, don’t let them. You are stronger than you think.
  • Fear can be two things: Fear Everything And Run — or — Face Everything And Rise.  Choose to rise.
  • You will rise by lifting others. So lift up with your whole heart and let them go.
  • “If one wants to rise like a hot air balloon, one must cut the wires and let go of the weight that hold back the true potential.”

As I’ve grown older, the balloon has become such a happiness boost for me. A muse. A hope.  I eventually added in the word “Hope” into the string of the balloon — again.. a reminder. Don’t lose your hope, don’t let it break — it can be fragile, it can get twisted, knotted, cut-off. Cherish it, and keep them high.

“Nobody can be uncheered with a balloon.” — Winnie the Pooh.  Preach, Winnie. Preach.

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Friends, your life is like a balloon. If you never let yourself go, you will never know how high you can rise. Da Vinci said, “Once you have flown, you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you long to return.” You’ve seen my descent, now watch my rising.

Ain’t nobody gonna burst my balloons anymore. I am in control of how high I rise. And the sky is limitless.

Fuck the haters, love the lovers, and rise above.

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Ashley: reinvented.

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Life has a funny way of teaching you things you never knew you needed to learn.

At the beginning of 2016, I chose a one word theme for the year — something to help keep me motivated, something to drive me and my decisions, something BIGGER than resolutions that are notorious for being broken time and time again.  I chose growth.  Growth.

Growth –  noun.

  • the process of growing.

Growing – verb

  • to become better or improved in some way

I’ve always been the type of person who had expectations of how my life would go, or plans on how it would all work out in the end.  By choosing the word “growth” this year, my expectations were that I would gain insight into different aspects of my life to live a little happier. I was seeking that “passion” in my career that everyone talks about when they say “living the dream” or “love what you do, you never work a day in your life.”  I was seeking that “drive” when it came to living a healthier lifestyle, becoming “fit” mentally, physically, emotionally. I was looking to find more sunshine and rainbows, even in the mundane “everyday” routinized activities we “have” to do. Talk less, smile more. Become a better “me” so I can be better in every other role I fill.
I had no idea how much “growing” I would actually have to do this year.

How much work I needed to do, not just in the areas I wrote above — but in areas I didn’t even know needed help.

Or did I know but refused to believe it? Or did I know but just was too blind to actually see it?  Was my heart confusing my head, or was my head telling my heart different things to protect it from getting broken?

Will I ever know?

Does it even matter now, at this point?

I’m not sure I believe in the adage “Everything happens for a reason.”  I believe that everything happens the way it is supposed to, whether there is a reason or not. I’m still trying to wrap my head (and heart) around the “not needing to understand reasons or lack of reasons” part, but I’m working on it.

Someone wise once told me, “Everyday is another opportunity to turn it all around.” I believe that. We have one life, one chance, one moment, one breath, one body, one mind, one soul. Now is the time, the time is now.

Remember. Stop crying in the corner of the kitchen. Pick up your pieces.  Dust off your shoulders.  Breathe in, slowly let it out.

Remember. Smile from your liver. Stop, Cancel Cancel. Everyday is another opportunity it turn it all around.

Remember. 10 miles, barefoot. Stronger than you think. Move forward. Look back, but only to enjoy the memories and then let them go.

Remember. 26 breaths per minute. Take another one. One foot in front of the other. One more mile ran. One more sad song. “How does it feel?”

Remember. “I’m not in love with you anymore, I’m in love with someone else.” “Eat. Workout. Clean yourself up.” Supernova. Everyday is another opportunity to turn it all around.

Reme
mber. “Today is going to be a great day. The sun is shining, a few clouds in the sky. And today is going to be a great day.” “God, please help me.” Send me love and light, and drop it.

Remember. She’s looking to you. She deserves it. She is everything. She will learn from you how to get through the seemingly impossible. Find rainbows everyday.

Remember. “They will be lining up at your door.” Columbia. Afternoon movies and bookstores. Falling more in love with the city that never sleeps. Can’t start a new chapter when you keep rereading the old ones.

Remember. Prospect. Central. Try new things. Talk less, smile more. Move forward, with me. Everyday is another opportunity to turn it all around.

Remember. Just remember.

 

You’ve got this. Don’t you forget it.

Find rainbows everyday.  When you are living the best version of yourself, you inspire others to live the best versions of themselves. Love the person you’ve become because you fought to become her. Sometimes the negative things that happen in our lives put us directly on the path to the BEST things that will ever happen to us.

Growth.

Ashley: Reinvented.

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