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Fierce Forward | A lifestyle brand by Ashley Johns

What 36 Has Taught Me

Thirty-seven years on earth. I remember 21 like it was yesterday. I was an artsy, bohemian girl in college who acted, had a passion for creating and loved her friends. As confusing as some of my 20’s felt, they were pretty easy. Turning 30, I had an amazing group of friends, a mixed family that got along brilliantly together and I had turned my passion into my work. Life was sweet.

This year, things are very different for me. All the things I used to know for so long have changed and morphed into something different. Everything has changed in such a short period of time.

Similar to age.

Sometimes it feels like the hardest thing to see my face change slightly, to feel my energy wane quicker than it used to, to make the decision if I’ll have kids or not because time is ticking. Change is the only constant.

This past year was the most difficult year I’ve ever had. In one year, we moved three times and lived in three different states. I had super big highs thinking we found our place and that the leap of my husband leaving his job and us courageously going out on our own would pay off. And I’ve had super big lows as we tried to find our way through the time after time we crashed and burned and I wasn’t sure we did the right thing by ever leaving in the first place. I didn’t want to have regrets by not going but I started to because we couldn’t find our landing.

In so many ways, I felt like not only was I lost but I kept losing more: possessions, relationships were shifting, money, my zest for life because of the stress, my belief that things could be better for us and a happy, strong marriage that was stressed.

The instability and loss of so many things at once made me question everything. My values, my beliefs and how I lived my life. I thought if we took this big leap…if we followed our heart…it would all work out.

And we struggled…a lot. Financially and emotionally.

It was this ripple effect that left an impact on us as individuals, on what we thought our direction was. In one decision to change our lives, that’s exactly what we did, we just thought it would change for the best.

Everything that felt so certain before, and stale at the same time, became uncertain and very alive. And the truth of the uncertainty and what we got ourselves into was a rawness of life and how it can change in one small or big decision.

We traded a life of certainty for one of uncertainty. And being uncertain for a long period of time tested us like never before.

Not only as individuals moving through a challenging time but as a couple too.

I felt like I was standing naked in the middle of a road and there was nothing else there but me. We were stripped down bare and it was up to each of us to choose how we would walk through it.

This was the most difficult thing through all of it, choosing to be strong, to keep rising up and to never give up.

So many times I would be weak and need Mark and he couldn’t be the strength because he too was working through the difficulty of it. We joke now that we couldn’t be each other’s rock because we were both a pebble.

But through all of this, we didn’t just find our way, we made our way.

The strength we had to find within ourselves to rise up every single day and keep pushing forward, has made it all worth it. And I mean, every single hard piece, was worth it because of what I gained.

I can see now.

What didn’t turn out the way I thought it should have taught me to trust the path. To have faith in the waiting, in the uncertainty and in the time’s nothing is happening. To go back to what really matters and stand firm in faith.

When I stood there with nothing happening, feeling baren and beaten down looking at everything I wasn’t getting…this feeling of helplessness and lack taught me that it’s not about what you get in life, but what you can give. I learned how important it is to focus on what you can do and to give the world what you wish you yourself had. If you want to feel loved, give love. If you want to feel abundant, give gratitude in everything you do.

And now I can look back and see that it’s not that it didn’t work, it’s that it didn’t work the way I wanted it to work at the time. Two very different things.

What felt like my weakness to handle the fight was actually my strength forging its way through, teaching me that I’m so much stronger than I ever gave myself credit for.

I had to go through this so that I could really see myself.

Sitting here in our little bungalow in Indianapolis, the sun shining through the curtains and I understand now that things not working the way I want them to isn’t a failure or the end of the world, but magic.

The things that don’t feel like they’re working are actually the things working for us, to put us in the right direction. Even though it’s the last thing that you can see when you’re “in it.” Most things that feel hard are the things that are going to make us stronger if we keep walking forward in that difficulty. And if you can start to see difficult times as a path to propel yourself into vs. run away from, you’re gonna be able to move through it quicker and faster than before. The difficulty you feel is the magic sprinkling her dust on you so you know that she’s here. Then to embrace her, turn your courage on and walk forward fiercely with faith and strength on your side.

It’s been really cool to watch myself grow through this past year.

I realized the place I was looking for wasn’t in a location or in other’s opinions about me or in my work but in my Self.

There’s always so much to be grateful for, even when it feels like your world is shattering. Life will always be everything: difficult, clear, certain, uncertain, amazing, stressful, painful, rewarding. We as humans will always be everything: certain, uncertain, strong, weak, stressed, free, vast and deep. Life is the rainbow, the earth, the trees, the storm that uproots the tree, the sky, the Phoenix, my baby Axel sitting next to me, you, me…it is all of this and always will be. I see now that the more I can accept life for everything it is, the easier it will be to move with and through it.

I love that we sat under the stars in Africa, turned to each other and had the courage to speak our truth that we wanted to go out and explore. And from that seed of a desire within us, sparked a journey that showed me so many incredible life lessons I wouldn’t have learned had I not followed that desire. What earlier in the year made me question my core belief that following your heart will lead you forward in your right path, I now believe even more wholly in. I came full circle this year and from here, there is no limit!

As I move into this new year, I see that no matter what happens in my life or doesn’t, the most important job I have is to honor and love myself. Because when I can do that, I can do anything.

I’m ready for you 37.

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    Amazing post as always!!!!