2017 In Review: I’m On My Way

2017 in Review: I'm On My Way

At the beginning, I was terrified. Stressed more than anything, but still terrified. The world around me was closing in, claustrophobic. There was no space, no time, no energy to breathe. “If I can just get through this…” I kept telling myself. I made myself trudge there every day even when I didn’t want to. I had to. I kept counting off the days until I would be free again. I felt like breaking down was as imminent as a heartbeat.

 

The dams were open. I had just come out of the whirlpool with the new knowledge that what I had been seeking HAD NOT BEEN THERE. I had searched for it, implored that it show up, talked to them, tried to open up, felt at home, lost it, had to remain there. For years & years, the thing that haunted me had been my own deep isolation, & through trying to find that connection I learned it had never been what I’d been looking for. I finally had the experience, but it was worth much less than the price of admission.

 

I watched as people around me changed. I drew back, quiet, the recluse in the hall. I watched them branch out & make new connections. Their connections made me jealous, sad, outcast at first. “WHY NOT ME?” I cried to the broken windowpanes. But through the months & the journey, I realized I liked solitude & connection, but only if connection was genuine, & if it was authentically valuable to me. I would hate to have friends like she has. What a change from before, when even the most deadbeat of friends would have been welcomed with open arms!

 

But I connected with things differently. I saw them differently, felt them differently. I felt the visceral satisfaction in the lighting when it was just the right way. In the photographs I saw. In the music that played over crackling speakers on vinyl. In the way it smelled in the car when the sky was just clearing from rain & that song came on the radio & I plugged into beautiful, indescribable things. I still embraced the Alien I had discovered last December, but it stopped being so self-loathing, & I learned to love it & trust it.

 

I realized I didn’t have to be like anybody else.

 

& despite my terror that 2017 was going to be bland & meaningless, mixed with my hope that it would be the year things finally began, I started finding my way.

 

I stopped doubting the way I felt about the inherent things inside me, feelings I’d carried since birth. I stopped putting on their brown-lensed goggles that made the world look dark & muddy & hopeless. My real eyes saw colors other people could not understand, & different things had meaning to me than what they found valuable. I got my sustenance from the images inside & outside of my mind, & from the specific feelings those images evoked. I stopped looking at her life like I was falling behind, like I was the late-bloomer, like there was something wrong with me. Because perhaps I was, had been blooming, but my flowers were much different than hers.

 

I let the weird, wonderful authenticity of my real self finally show through. I loved the things I loved with childlike abandon. I stopped apologizing so much for the things I should never have apologized for in the first place. I opened up to the things worth letting into my life, & finally said no to the things that stopped serving me, or never had in the first place. I stopped feeling so guilty about doing what I needed to do, especially when I saw people weren’t as disappointed by my lack of participation as I’d always thought they would be. I learned that happiness was my choice alone, & that it was separate from my circumstances.

 

Most of all, I opened up & let the Universe change me, I let it show me beauty, I let it show me awe, I let it show me pure joy. & I let myself feel those things, finally, deeply, lovingly. The Universe always had my back. It was always sitting there, hidden in the back row but cheering the loudest of all. It was always rooting for me even when I was afraid that I was in the wrong place at the wrong time doing the wrong thing. Just when I thought all the lights had gone out, the Universe always showed up holding candles, slipping a crumpled piece of paper into my hand which contained a clue for what I should do next.

 

I was never alone in this.

 

& when I set out on adventures that months before I never could have began to fathom, I found myself. I found myself on the pier at sunset. I found myself in the deep night of the Everglades. I found myself in the ocean swimming with the loose shark. I found myself in the photo of pure joy I saw in my own face as I reached out to touch the animals. I found myself in the perseverance it took to push past my comfort zone & repeatedly triumph. I found myself in drive along the bridge trying to get to where I would sleep, & in the arms of beaches, quiet Atlantic waves lapping my feet at sunset. I found myself in hotel rooms, sleeping in cars, hiking the trails; in the explorations, the tribulations, the challenges, the pain, the fear, the uncertainty, the moments of sacred profoundness. I found myself in a room of people who believed they deserved better, & in the seats of concert halls as familiar music played. I found myself on the airplane, in the music I heard there, in the jazz night in the city, in the gardens, in my own courage of getting myself there, somewhere new, & back home safe. & I found myself on the hill watching the headlights go by on the highway at night, under the full moon while people skipped in time with pure, alive radiance contained in music.

 

2017 in Review: I'm On My Way

 

& I finally learned to be happy. Alone on that dark sacred highway at night, as I drove under the warm yellow streetlights illuminating the smooth dark highway, with the jazz playing deep & quiet & ineffable in the background. & the feeling bubbled up inside me, it frightened me because it was so strong & so sudden, the pure vibrating eternal radiance of the sincerest relieved joy. In that moment I learned a new emotion; spontaneous laughter sung out from my lungs in euphoria; I could not help but laugh at how beautiful everything around me was. I found myself on that drive home on the pitch-dark highway as I trusted in the golden radiance & recorded the exact color of moonlight on my arm. The moon shone down around me on the sacred fields & the tiny farmhouse & the sleeping cattle, quiet & smiling & deeply nurturing in the pale blue sacred light.

 

2017 ended up being the year of OPPORTUNITIES. Where I learned how to see opportunities where I only saw dust before; to have the courage to pursue them when I found them; to open myself up to the vulnerable faith that everything really was going to be okay & let the magic change me.

 

At the end of 2016, I summarized the year with the phrase,

 

“I did my best.”

 

But 2017 was bookended by a much more optimistic phrase:

 

“I am on my way.”

 

Because I truly feel like now, I am.

 

2018, I know you’re going to be amazing. The seeds I have sown in 2017 are going to blossom into things that will nurture me. They will blossom into big beautiful trees & the brightest neon flowers. Now I know how to make, to design, to build, to manifest an amazing year, & now I know who I am & who I’m going to be, I know that all good things are available to me.

 

& so 2018, I say this deep & from the bottom of my heart:

 

I trust you.

Goals for 2017 (& 2016 Accomplishments)!

Colorful fireworks new years celebration

Wow, 2016 was a year filled with so many changes. There were a reasonable number of not-so-good things that happened, & a number of really good things that happened for me (you can read my poetic essay about the year here). I’ll choose to focus on the awesome things.

For last year’s posts, see 2016 Goals & Reflections on 2015. It’s pretty interesting reading them now!

Before I get started telling you what I plan on doing in 2017, here’s a quick overview of what I achieved in 2016:

★ Officially launched the publishing company I’d been dreaming about for years, Freedom Meadow Media. Starting a company was a little bit challenging, but very rewarding.

★ Published 4 books (A Beautiful Question of Where & When; So Long, Lonesome Place101 Ways to Love Yourself; & Owls), as well as 6 zines (Flowers, One; & issues 9, 10, 11, 12, & 13 of Assemblage)!

Started an online store (!!!!!!!), where I curate a collection of awesome, funky, adorable, & colorful things. I’ve sold more stuff than I thought I would so far (mostly on the eBay listings for my products), which is very exciting!

★ Re-released my debut album, Fields of Destiny, via CD Baby, therefore making it available for purchase on Amazon, iTunes, & a whole host of other online music retailers. PEOPLE CAN ACTUALLY BUY IT NOW.

Got my first-ever acting role, as Audrey in Ken Ludwig’s play Leading Ladies, & a second acting role in the play Shakespeare in Hollywood as Puck.

★ My first article to be published by a website other than my own was published by Thought Catalog!

Got pet guinea pigs, which is something I’ve wanted since I was nine or ten years old.

★ Bought a Smart Car! Ever since I was sixteen I always wanted one, because they’re both very safe & very gas efficient. This is something I manifested for myself, after test driving a lot of shitty, cheap cars. I decided I wasn’t going to settle for one of the aforementioned cars I test drove, figured out a way to make the Smart Car happen, & voila! I have a Smart Car, & I love it. It’s even more awesome than I thought it would be.

★ Edited & re-published the second edition of Shipwrecked, in addition to a lot more of my books through my publishing company, Freedom Meadow Media.

★ Got my driver’s license! After a long seven months of learning how to drive, I finally got my licence. This was one of the most influential things that happened to me, because now I have the ability to go wherever I want & make things happen for myself. I’m no longer limited in this aspect.

★ Touched a crocodile (at a local Earth Day event). It was cool being able to touch such a powerful animal, & the scales on his back were unlike anything I’ve ever touched.

★ Got a Nutribullet-esque blender for making healthy smoothies. It’s not THE Nutribullet, but my dad got it for me & I love it. I made a really great smoothie with it the other day involving blood oranges, English cucumber, & a salad with pea shoots. This was something on last year’s list.

★ I actually wrote down five things that happened to me each day, EVERY SINGLE DAY, for the past year! In years prior I’ve always been bummed out about not having a written record of the year. I’ve never been disciplined enough to actually do this, but now, thanks to the Document Your Life journal that I wrote & published, I actually achieved this, & I’m proud of myself!

★ Felt like I’m getting a much better idea of who I am + what I want out to life.

Landscape with hills & trees

Goals for 2017

As for all of the awesome things I’m going to do in 2017, I have a few new ideas for planning these goals. The first school of thought which I think sounds intriguing is picking one big goal to accomplish each month. I forgot where I heard this, but I like the idea. If I do this, I’ll stay on track for all the big goals I have for the year. No matter what else happens, I will accomplish 12 big things this year, & the idea of that is really exciting. Provided I accomplish the big goal for each month, I can then achieve as many small goals each month too, without having to worry about not achieving the big things.

The second idea is inspired by two ideas. The first – multiple things James Altucher has written where he discusses picking themes for your life instead of goals. The second – what Gretchen Rubin discusses in The Happiness Project, about how Ben Franklin picked thirteen virtues to rate & measure his performance in. I thought, “Why not combine the ideas & pick some themes that I want to work on cultivating this year, in addition to the big goals?” Both lists of alternate goal are still things I’m working on.

In the mean time, here are some things I plan to accomplish in the upcoming year:

★ Direct a film. By film, I mean a real film starring actors other than myself, & a variety of locations, & a script. I have several ideas & haven’t picked one yet, but this is one of the things I’m most excited about doing.

★ Run in a 5k. As it is now, I’m in reasonable shape but can’t run for more than a few minutes in a row. I bought myself some running shoes & a stop watch so that when I’m able to start training, it will be easy.

★ Continue growing my online store. I have a TON of plans for things I want to start selling, & products I’m working on designing. SHOP Ashlee Craft will soon be home to t-shirts, a whole bunch of stickers, & hopefully some new exclusive pins, all designed by me. I also think it would be awesome to design magnets, window clings, & journals.

★ Get a paid acting gig. Acting is lots of fun, & I’m glad that I took the leap & started pursuing it in this previous year.

★ Republish out-of-print books that I love under my publishing company. There are loads of great things – books, music, films, images, etc – which are great, but people don’t know about them anymore. They should, & I want to be the one to help these works of art be brought into the light again.

★ Read a lot more. For most of 2016, I sadly didn’t read very much at all. Towards the end of the year I bought a lot of great books (Choose Yourself & What To Do When It’s Your Turn are two that stand out) & actually started reading them. Then I realized how much I missed reading. This year, I’m actually going to track every book I read, & I’m going to read as many as possible.

★ Record more cover songs. I LOVED recording my cover of David Bowie’s Changes. I have a whole list of other songs I would love to cover, so I’m going to work on this a lot more soon. Before the end of the year, I will also release another album of original compositions.

★ Start investing in companies. I’ve already picked out a few good prospects I will buy stock in soon.

★ Write more books. This is always a goal of mine, because there are always so many books to write. Currently in my book release plans are the novel I’ve been working on for two years, a children’s storybook about owls, a children’s series about a mouse, another motivational book, a book of personal essays, more issues of Assemblage, & more zines. A lot of the books I’ve already published are also going to be republished under Freedom Meadow Media.

★ Release an app.

★ Travel. I would love to travel to three different places. Somewhere in my state, a different state, & a different country.

★ Minimalism. This means excluding things – physical things, mental things, wasted time, unhappiness – to make more room for the things that really do feel good. I’m not trying to have as few things as possible, but as many things that make me happy with as few unnecessary things as possible. I really like this quote from this article I was reading earlier, titled Like Henry David Thoreau, but with Wi-Fi. “Everything in my life become my favorite thing.” I want to live my life like that.

★ Figure out what I really want. For now. Become more myself. Reinvent myself a hundred times this year, if that’s what it takes. Get to the place that I think I’m going. Be happier, for real.  Know what it feels like to finally have peace of mind. Explore & live in the world that is mine.

What are your goals for 2017? Let me know on the social media channel of your choice!

Hello, Beautiful 2017

Two sparklers

The moon last night looked like a Cheshire cat in the sky, smiling with golden good natured mischief & mystery. I listened to Alice Cooper’s “No More Mr. Nice Guy” & Hall & Oates’ “Rich Girl” loud in the car. My two favorite songs at the moment. I looked out at the streetlamps & the velvety cloak of darkness.

Just like last year, the transition of one year to the next occurs in the center of a sea of changes. Both this year & last year at this time, the sense of a major shift is pervasive. The kind of feeling where everything is changing; all the old ideas & beliefs & paradigms & personas & dynamics & status quos. Worlds open up – stars are born & die in front of you & then born again – everything circles around in the middle of a wind storm.

The seas are rough but able to be navigated. The rain falls hard but they water the flowers. The old things you used to be are slowly fading & shriveling & retreating back into the brush they came from.

Fears were created & fears were put to rest, & ultimately I still ended up with less of them, & more of them simultaneously. Uncertainty. The great fear still remains in the backdrop (happiness) but fears emerged to the front lines (breakdown). But the fears are all quieted in the warmth of humid nights, when it’s all wrapped up in a blanket.

Confidence was built. It was built in each hour I spent in front of those who would judge me & decide the turns my path would take, but I was still the one choosing to be there. Choosing to be judged, so that I may progress. It also showed its face when I actually started asking for what I wanted. I asked him & he said yes. I told them & they were supportive & encouraging. I announced it to them & they wanted to help me & didn’t care that I was turning away at the same time. I decided & they were there. I showed up, & spoke up, for the first time in years.

Showing up. That’s another thing. I watched as those around me were reluctant to take chances. To make choices. To put themselves out there somewhere they might fail. In most failures though, the failure itself is the only worst-case-scenario. If someone says no the world doesn’t stop spinning. & if you don’t try, there’s no way you can ever win. Showing up, in all ways, not just putting yourself out there but also showing up for your own decisions, owning them. Making choices & then making them happen.

I found a home & then it was gone. I reveled in my relief when I walked through your doors. Immediately you took me in. I found your embrace full of love & genuine connection & fun & it gave me something to do & I loved it. Knowing you made all the other things fade away. I thought that I would shrivel when you left me. I didn’t think I could do anything without you. You were like a drug. It was all about me depending on something other than myself & putting all my happiness in it & betting my whole existence on whether you liked me back. I need to stop doing that. When will I realize that happiness will never come from dependency on such anchors? It needs to be mine.

I found my people but then they left me. Slowly they walked out on me & the door closed. They never opened it again. I thought they were the ones that were supposed to make me feel the way I always wanted to feel. I thought the loneliness would go away. Sooner or later, one of us must know that I really did try to get close to you. I tried, & reached out further & more honestly than I ever had, & with deeper vulnerability. But despite finally putting myself out there & trying to make a connection, they turned their backs & went separate ways. I loved you but you didn’t love me back. & I will be okay with that. Somewhere out there I will find my friends.

Colorful whimsical ferris wheel

Also, there were beautiful things. That moment sitting in the golden light of afternoon in the restaurant smiling & feeling like I belonged somewhere for once. New love & new forms of happiness. The home, the memories, friendship – they all still meant something, frozen in time, even if they were no longer the same glowing realms they had been before.

It was a year when I really opened up my hands & reached out & created. I feel like 2016 was like a big educational seminar, teaching me how the world worked & how to ask the questions I needed to ask. A year which required me to make decisions about who I was & who I was going to be. I feel like I learned more this year that probably any other year in recent history.

2016: a year of making magic & of deepening belief in magic, & one where despite some of the painful & darkened challenges that I encountered, I still made it. I survived. It feels like it was a year of growing hope, a stepping stone year, vitally important to be completed & triumphed over before being able to move on to the next open doors.

Open, a concept I tie to authenticity. I want to make 2017 a year of authenticity, & honesty, & freedom. & I want all of those concepts to tie into happiness, to tie into a grander & more wonderful & much more happy + free version of myself.

& so, I open my arms up & my heart up & I make the new year feel comfortable & welcome. I open my heart to let in all the new light through mosaic windows, & open my hands to new creations that must be made. The hope has been built up into a big glowing ball of light, & the music is on, & I am dancing, & I turn now to face the Newness, radical potential, happiness, magic, freedom. I stand tall & proud, looking out at the star-filled sky & the Cheshire cat moon & later, cheerful rays of sunbeams painted across my floor, & I say,

“I’m ready.”