Tuesday, October 5, 2010

directionless dreamer

directionless dreamer
finding inspiration in my bff jill

during my freshmen year of high school, i met a woman who would change my life forever. it was several weeks prior to the start of school and the summer sun was still freckling my skin as i prepared for tryouts. with my braces freshly off and my nearly blind eyes now corrected by contacts, i walked into cheerleading tryouts confidently. sure- i had no actual experience, nor did i have a passion for cheering...but i liked smiling and waving my arms around wildly, so it seemed an appropriate fit.

i learned very quickly that i didn't fit in with the rest of the girls trying out. still three years away from puberty, my body was anything but womanly. my thighs were soft and rounder than the other girls. my hair was long and pulled back with no discernible style. as more girls walked in my confidence faded. they were mesmerizingly beautiful and had been cheering for years, there was no way i could be part of this elite club- i was too awkward and weird...then she walked in.

jill beth hannes was an ivory skinned, strikingly beautiful 14 year old. her face, like her eyes, were peppered with freckles. standing still she was the definition of grace and pose. walking, i soon found out, was another story. jill owned two, very narrow, extremely flat feet. this made balance a challenge for her. she came stumbling into tryouts and my life, narrowly missing a face plant on the cafeteria floor. it was clear to me that this gangily, stumbling creature would be my greatest friend.

we both made the squad and from then on did everything together. cheerleading, theater, yearbook, stealing shopping carts/repainting them/riding them around the neighborhood; we took high school by storm. my awkwardness and anxious nature had finally found their counterpart. she made me feel closer to normal (which in those crucial years, is very much needed).

after high school jill moved to san francisco to follow her dreams of becoming a photographer for vogue. upon finishing school she sold nearly all she owned and bought a one way ticket to new york city. i remember her telling me that all of her internships had fallen through just before she officially moved into the big apple. as someone who thrives on the stability of set plans, i was very concerned for her. "so, you don't have a job or any internships? aren't you scared? how will you survive?"

the truth is she was probably scared shittless but she gave herself no option but success. with her back against the wall she was relentless in her search for work. several months after her move she now has a job and two internships, one of which with the famed nylon magazine. jill continues to climb the ladder of success and will no doubt rise to the heights she's been dreaming of all her life.

i can't help but be a bit jealous- not of her successes, but of how clearly she sees her dreams. i yearn for that clarity. while i've been successful in my current line of work, i feel as if i'm marching tirelessly on a path with no end in sight. i have no definitive end goal and it's driving me crazy. i have nothing worth selling all i own in pursuit of.

i've tried to compile lists of my strengths, as well as things that bring me happiness in hopes of figuring out where it is i should steer my ship. but s.s.ashley is still riding the waves of a path i set out on years ago. and while i'm closer than ever to figuring out what i want out of life, all this introspection is starting to drive me crazy.

with time i'm certain i'll figure it out...that's how things generally happen, right? i've always felt like my purpose was to connect with the disconnected and to make people smile. someday i'll find a job that utilizes all of my strengths and talents. i just wish i knew what that job was so i could drop everything in pursuit of it. all i can do now is continue to move forward in work and life and hope that i find my dreams along the way.


  1. I'm right there with you! You're not alone :)

  2. ...sheds a little tear as i remember those young girls and their years in high school... very nicely written for a very special relationship...

  3. There are so many of is in our little boats right beside you Ashley. Somedays I get very anxious and overwhelmed just knowing that at the moment I'm simply treading water, just wating to see what might happen. I know that things wont happen if I don't make them, but I'm just not certain how to make that first step, where to go, what to do.
    If I don't know exactly what I want to be, how do I move towards anything? And the goals that I do have for my life, well I don't know just how to reach them just yet..

  4. Oh my gosh I relate to this -- I've always envied people who know where they want to wind up...

  5. Knowing where you want to wind up is only half the battle. Your friend is so courageous to go out to New York City with nothing waiting there for her and attack her dreams.

    You will figure it out. Have you looked into nonprofit work?

  6. I've always admired people like that, those who really can just shut their eyes and leap. I wish life came with a big, big, "DON'T PANIC!" button.

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