On To Adventure

The Southern Sun’s a Settin’ | On New Beginnings

It was one of those moments that stays with you for a lifetime. It was uncommonly early and  I hadn’t medicated myself with quite the right dose of coffee.

I needed to leave my warm bed before the sun rose. I had exactly 28 minutes to beat the sun to the beach; this, according to Jenny, my GPS. Once there, I needed to carry my blankets onto the sand, nestle myself beneath them, wait for the sun to make her appearance, and then I needed to believe that that year would be a sunrise in my own life. I needed to believe that everything would be all right.

I needed to believe this because I had just stepped away from my job and moved states away from my family and friends. I had no prospects lined up, other than an apartment and an acceptance letter to grad school; and not just any grad school, by the way: The Savannah College of Art and Design (or SCAD).

The first time I traveled the old cobblestone streets of Savannah, I fell in love with the city and in love with the school. SCAD had impressed itself upon my brain. It wasn’t always front and center, but it was always there, whispering to me, suggesting I give it a chance. After all, for a young dreamer like myself, art school seemed like an enchanted forest or Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. It was a place full of innumerable possibilities.

Years passed, but in parts of myself that I’d come to ignore, the dream factory called SCAD still remained. Then, one stormy June night, I stayed up late in the living room of our northern Kentucky apartment in a panicked rush to find myself. The person I’d become looked nothing like me. I needed a change and a big one. I needed to rebuild my life. I needed to tear out the walls, pre-conceptions, regrets, and failures. I need to tear out the termite-infested foundation of my personal and professional life and build my dream home; or, our dream home.

I didn’t know where to begin, so I asked myself what was making me unhappy that I could also control? My job jumped up and down in my mind like it was going to piss its pants if I didn’t start there. I knew I no longer wanted the job I had, but I was unsure of the job I wanted. In fact, I didn’t want a job. I wanted a career, and the only way for me to begin a career that I loved was by going to grad school. That’s what led to a late night M.A.-palooza on my faux leather couch.

Honestly, I had no idea what kind of program I wanted. I was looking for something that flashed like neon lights at my eyes and read, “Hey! I’m exactly what you’re looking for!”

That’s how it felt when the search engine returned a link to SCAD’s master’s programs. Needless to say, I was enamored. Right there, on my sofa, amid an intense summer storm, I wrote my application essay. I wrote it from the heart, too. I wrote about the journey I wanted to make and how I wanted to begin that journey at SCAD. I paid the application fee and sent e-mails to former professors begging for recommendations.

I never thought I’d actually be accepted. I was applying because it felt liberating. I was admitting to myself that I’d like to do something else and that I could do something else. It felt like a baby step toward happiness. Then, a few weeks later, I got an acceptance letter and a scholarship.

First Day of SCAD Classes

I had to go. I had no idea how I was going to go and make it work, but it was happening. It was a chance for me to break out of the mold of my unsatisfying life. I was young enough. I didn’t have any responsibilities. The only thing holding me back was my fears. And then I heard a quote by Keith Richards: “If you don’t make bold moves, you don’t get fuckin’ anywhere.”

I went for it. I chased the wave of a lifetime, which brings me back to the beach on that breezy, but beautiful January morning. I’d only been in Savannah for two days. The night before was New Year’s Eve. That night, I’d acted out of character and come home by 10:00 p.m. I replaced my stylish New Year’s attire with frumpy sweatpants and my little girls (dogs) sat beside me on the couch. I watched the ball drop like a boring person.  I spent my New Year’s like this because I wanted something more than a drunk New Years of memories past. I wanted to watch the sunrise on the shores of Tybee Island, so I traded a late night for an early morning.

Like I said, my trip to the beach felt like a necessity. I needed to believe that everything was going to be okay. I needed to believe that I hadn’t fucked myself over by walking away from the comfort and security of my Stepford life. I needed a sign from above that I was on the right path, and what better place to look for divinity than daybreak at the beach?

And that’s how it all happened. It was one of those moments of pure divinity, internally and externally. The orange sun began highlighting the horizon and reflecting itself upon the glistening waters. There, in that moment of impenetrable beauty, we felt it. We knew that everything would be okay. Life, Fate, God, Destiny, Karma, or whatever you’ll call it, was giving us a second chance.

More than a year later, I have to say that Savannah wasn’t easy. Savannah was one large obstacle course centering on personal and professional growth. I didn’t have much, but at the same time, I had everything. I struggled, but we didn’t give up. The best things really don’t come easy; if they did, they wouldn’t be worth it. It’s hard to believe my sun is now setting in Savannah and I’m off to new beginnings. 

I commonly think in metaphors. For me, life is a novel, where each person, place, and event is another character, setting, and chapter; every day, moment, and encounter is a possible storyline; and like good literature, the unplanned storylines often develop the richest narrative.

Savannah was a mostly unplanned chapter in my life, but it’ll always be one of the most important chapters. It’s the watershed chapter, the chapter that changes everything, the chapter that tells the reader, “Nothing is ever going to be the same again.”

Until next time, my sweet, southern muse, and thank you for making me . . . me.

Following a five-year stint in New York City, Ashley is now a Los Angeles transplant. Having grown up in rural Kentucky, Ashley is passionate to share self-care techniques used around the world and hopes to make them accessible to folks in rural communities. Ashley believes in gratitude, personal legends, and doing good. Aside from being a business leader in her professional life, Ashley is a novelist and freelance writer.

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