Dear 20’s Ashley,
Oh, how fast time has passed. I remember waking up and thinking “Wow you’re 20! This means your life as an adult starts now. Must get your life figured out”. Now, at 33 I can confidently say that no matter what age you are, you will always be figuring things out. There is no shame in that. There will be days where you will be so in love with your life that you can’t ever believe you will feel down again because your life is so beautiful and blessed. Then, the next moment you find yourself in a dark and lonely place. These are the highs and lows in life. However, as time goes you find yourself stronger in each darker moment. You learn to love all those moments.
“I Know Looking Back How Strong I Was, I Can’t Believe That I Didn’t Think I Was”
I want to say I am proud of how far you have come. In your early 20’s you felt so far behind from everyone else. Everyone was running off to college and finding love. You were still at home glued to some anime and pajamas with some cute animals printed on them. You felt you were not good enough for anyone and wanted to get lost in worlds where nobody became somebody. However, as time went on you grew out of your shell. I am proud of you for that. You pushed yourself out of your comfort zone and took a risk to move to Hawaii for a new adventure. You forced yourself outside your “comfort zoned” life that wasn’t going anywhere. During this time, you were going through one of the hardest challenges you have faced in this life. It was a hard choice to make. A choice that would haunt you many years after. Mom was sick and it wasn’t looking good on her living for much longer than a year. However, at that moment you made a choice that would be a deciding factor for the rest of your life. Follow your heart and Soul. I am thankful for your bravery in that choice many years ago.
“A CHOICE I MADE OVER 10 YEARS AGO LED ME TO THIS ROAD I AM ON TODAY.”
It took you many years to feel that your choice was right, and mom loved you for that bravery to take a chance on yourself. When I think about all the many moments in my life that brought me to where I am today, I know that this moment is the one that had the biggest impact on my life. From this choice I found that I am braver than I thought, I found my passion to teach and as anyone knows me, my newfound passion to live someday in Korea. As I write this, I am at a coffee shop in Cheongju, South Korea. A choice I made over 10 years ago led me to this road I am on today. Even though you were dealing with the pain of leaving home, and when mom passed on you felt you let everyone down on not being strong enough. You pushed through and grew from it all. In your 20’s you don’t know how strong you are because so many moments are still so new to you. I know looking back now how strong I was, I can’t believe that I didn’t think I was. Your early 20’s were not easy, but you found a new you. You sought adventure and began to say yes to more. Thank you for everything you gave to me now.
“IT TOOK YOU MANY YEARS TO FEEL THAT YOUR CHOICE WAS RIGHT, AND MOM LOVED YOU FOR THAT BRAVERY TO TAKE A CHANCE ON YOURSELF.”
Your mid 20’s was a different adventure. You found yourself back in Colorado. Trying to go back to school and deal with the loss of your mother and the feeling of abandoning her when she was in need. Many lessons were learned during this time. This is the era of mistakes. However, these mistakes will allow you to grow in so many ways that they outweigh the shame. You might still wake up in your 30’s and think about them and groan at the thought. But there was a lesson that needed to be taught and learned. I am thankful for you for taking those chances that sometimes led to mistakes. Or maybe not call them mistakes but moments of enlightenment. “Mistakes” seem too harsh for something I am happy for now (well maybe there are a few I could have done without). Many of your moments of “enlightenment” dealt with friends and relationships. During this time having connections to anyone meant everything. Friendship at this time only meant the people who invited me out or gave me attention. During this time, you found what you stand for and how much pain you will allow someone to inflict on you. It took many moments of enlightenment, but you no longer deal with someone who makes you feel less of yourself for very long. I will admit though, you are still bad at this at times, but it no longer takes you years to figure out, but weeks. Thanks for all the moments of enlightenment. You made many, which made you who you are today.
“BUT WHEN IT GOT TOO BAD YOU FOUND THE LITTLE STRENGTH YOU HAD LEFT AND FOUND MEANING.”
Your late 20’s was a lot of fun! But also, some of the darkest moments of your life. I thought I found love, twice. One, you left on your own. The other, they left you. You were sexually assaulted by a friend of your ex and was told you were a whore. You told yourself you were strong and kept moving forward without talking about it. However, your body won’t let you forget. During this time, you were fighting so hard to stay alive. I am thankful that you believed in living. I am so happy that you found the strength to keep pushing forward. It wasn’t easy, some days were okay and other days felt that nothing was worth living for. But when it got too bad you found the little strength you had left and found meaning.
I remember that moment of clarity, and that will to live was there. You made changes in your life and pushed to be better. You went back to school, started to work out again, rode your bicycle more (you always felt more freedom on your bicycle) and you learned to love yourself again. You pushed for your dreams again. So, thank you for finding the strength to keep going.
I love you with all my heart. There are many times I wish I could go back in time and whisper words of encouragement to you in your darkest moments. However, know I am forever thankful for your strength, courage, and love of life. You made me who I am today.
In my early 20’s I learned to always seek adventure when you can.
My mid 20’s I learned that moments of enlightenment don’t define you, but they make you become a better you.
And my late 20’s reminding me I am stronger than I ever thought and you can always find the will to keep going.
Thank you for everything. In life, you can always grow and learn if you let it. Dance more, laugh every chance you get, take days for yourself, find love within yourself, and know no matter what, you can make it through.
You’re 30 something self-Ashley