I am learning how to know my damn worth (my greatest lesson)

It's been 3 1/2 months in London already, and holy freakin cow, how does time fly by so quickly?

In the span of 3 1/2 months I moved here, found a place to live, now live with a great flatmate and cute dog, started dating a cute Italian, called it off with Italian last week (mutual and mature break up), and am fully living life as best I can.

London is a different feel from when I last lived here 6 years ago. I was a grad student then. I could have adventurous late nights and my hangovers didn't kill me then. I'm in my mid-thirties now (eek!) and I don't desire super late nights, nor do I desire copious amounts of alcohol. One of my worries about moving back here was that my change in lifestyle might affect my view of the city. Happy to report that while things feel different in London this time, they still feel so, so good. This is a multi-faceted city with no shortage of places to roam and amazing things to do. I'm now fully getting in the swing of things, making this a home again.

Everything I've been going through the last 3 months is about knowing my worth. Maybe that's been the point of my entire life journey and I'm just now awakening to it. Here are the things I've demanded the best from, because I am so DAMN worth it:

My Home Life: I didn't settle for a quick living arrangement out of fear. I waited to find the best fit for me, and have a flatmate on a similar life journey to me (with the cutest dog in the world, who brings waggy tails and happiness to me daily).

My Dating Life: This is the first time in my life I've been so open romantically. I jumped into dating a month into living here, and I met a great guy by leaping into the deep end. I'm so proud of myself for giving my all to the Italian. I'm also so proud of calling it off (last week!) when we realized timing was mismatched for our respective paths.

I miss the guy, but part of growing up is knowing that missing someone doesn't mean you should run back to that person. I am learning the hard lesson: loving myself is more important than running back.

So we'll move on, parallel to each other, and maybe someday those paths will cross again if it's right. Now comes the work of opening myself up to love again, whilst simultaneously closing a chapter with someone. It's a tricky, messy business and I am allowing myself to cry over this person and the hopes of what it could have been. No matter how short the relationship, he left a mark on me. I love that everyone we meet, everyone we let into our lives become a beautiful lesson that strengthens the core of who we are, and brings us back to loving ourselves. I have no anger towards him, and that might be one of the worst kind of break ups--where you think that person is so damn lovely, you simply can't hate them, but you just don't fit together at this point in time, and so you say a tearful goodbye.

My Workout Life: This is something I am about to embark on. I have never invested in workout classes before, but here I go! This is about me taking care of my mid-thirties body, which no longer sheds pounds simply by walking (darn). This is about less Nutella, and more endorphins of the sweaty variety.

My Biggest Obstacle: The biggest hurdle looming over me is my work visa, which is underway right now. In September, I fly back to the States to apply for my visa and make this all official. This is scary for me for multiple reasons. I'm leaving all of this up to fate, and I'm not going to entertain all the possible outcomes in this blog post. I know what's meant to be is meant to be, and that's what I am rolling with.

I added this to the list because I am not going to let uncertainty make me question my worth and my path. There will always be things that make us an anxious mess, but I am learning to trust the process, and to remember how strong and capable I am to make great things happen.

And there you have it. All of these life changes, all of the things mentioned above are helping me truly love myself for the first fucking time in my life. I'm not kidding, man. It was sometime back in October/November I finally realized I didn't like myself much. I was settling for a lesser life. I may have been brave moving from city to city, but I often retreated into my shell because I wasn't believing in my worth. I'd dabble in dating, then decide to abstain for months on end because I feared putting myself out there in a vulnerable way.

Well here I am, life! I am open hearted, and I am sometimes a crying mess from being so open hearted. I am knowing my worth. I am believing in the goodness of life despite shortfalls.

I am living, guys. I'm really doing this thing. And I am so incredibly proud of myself. I'm so, so worth it.


The Shedding of Old Ashleys

I'm in in the process of stripping away all the old Ashleys I no longer want to carry. London has been helping me with this. Maybe only London can help me with this.

By old Ashleys, I mean all the parts of me that no longer serve me. They brought me here, but they bring me no more value. There was deeply depressed and neurotic Ashley in New York City. And restricted and freezing Ashley in Boston. In all cities, there is the Ashley that constantly chases and obsesses over unavailable men. And my whole life, the Ashley that thinks she's perfectly happy being eternally single and independent, but secretly wants some real love in her life. This new Ashley is saying out loud how she wants deeper connection, and to be held, and to be valued.

I am confronting all the old ladies, and letting them know they can pack up their things now. Because here we are, back in the city that started my transformation. And here we are, back to continue that lovely, difficult, amazing transformation process.

It's funny that a place considered so stuffy and repressed is the one place that allows me to be free. I connect with London because I, too, was once stuffy and repressed. (Just to say, London is not that stuffy, it's just an introverted city, which is probably why I love it).

Being an expat pushes me in ways that no other experience is able to. It's pushing me towards the Ashley I want to be. The one who fully and openly acknowledges what she truly wants is deep, vulnerable, reciprocal community. She wants love of all sorts--romantic love, friend love, all love--she wants to be BRIMMING FULL of love.

Through crying, and healing practices, and inner child work, and taking the time everyday to make space for love (most of all, learning to love myself), new Ashley is starting to become a regular around here, and I'm pretty overjoyed about that.


Becoming an Expat, Again (It's not as glamorous as you think)

Cherry blossoms in Kew Gardens. Should I make an obvious metaphor for my life right now? 

I've been back in London for 2 weeks, and there have already been ups and downs. I've been overwhelmed by a range of emotions coming back, and it's the usual cocktail of fear and anxiety: I am reminded that moving continents is never an easy jump, no matter how familiar you are with the place you're moving to.

The last time I moved to London was about 6 years(!) ago. A lot has happened in 6 years! I am back in the city where I feel most alive, most at peace, and most myself. Therefore, in moving back I am confronted with myself in a very harsh and heavy way, including the bad habits I picked up over my lost years. I am now in the thick of my healing process (which began in Boston). I feel naked and alone with my thoughts--the healing is being fast tracked now.

I suppose this post seems a little dark, but that's because the process of bettering yourself involves shedding a lot of facades, lies, heartache, and energy that does not serve you. I'm so proud of myself for doing this work, for moving back, and for acknowledging and admitting that this is hard. I'm rebuilding my life again, and it's going to be a bit clunky at first.

I could slap a filter on this experience and brag about how well I'm doing, how you should be jealous, and oh, look at me! I'm so worldly and amazing! I've got it all together!

Instead, I want you to look at me: a woman who is scared but brave. One who is not certain she is always making the right decisions, but is following her soul's instructions, anyway. One who misses her parents and feels guilt over leaving them in San Diego, but knows this path is true and right.

This is the start of my journey of being an expat, again. I am thrilled and scared. I am so alive. 


Leaving Boston, Choosing Adventure

One thing I pride myself in is I always say yes to the adventure. There's no use sitting in that chair, staying safe and warm under that blanket if you're also bored out of your fucking mind.

Boston was a good city for me to unwind from New York, but also remind me that I need more, I crave more beyond this country and beyond these borders.

Adventures come in all shapes and forms, and are not only restricted to moving cities, but also include:

  • learning how to be completely vulnerable with other humans
  • unlearning the necessity to be cool, instead realizing that love and kindness are more important than status
  • really understanding how to love yourself completely and fully, so that you know your worth and are able to demand respect out of every relationship 
  • but also, moving cities when the wind whispers it in your ear

What has been whispered in my ear the past 5 years since the day I left? London. 

Sometimes you just know when a place is right for your soul. That place could be with a person, or a movement, or a spiritual practice. My place is an actual place, and it's been calling to me to come back. 

Well, I'm on my way. It's not all set in stone, but the pieces are coming together so beautifully that I believe it's going to work out. There are visa processes to follow, and crossing fingers, and hoping for everything to be approved. And you know what? I know it's going to work out. 

I choose adventure. I'm coming back to you London. 


In My Feelings

I’m going through a rather intense transformation right now. It’s that kind of transformation where you pull all your insides out and search for the cancerous bits to cut away. I don’t remember the last time I’ve examined myself this closely, this ruthlessly. 

There's been many tears in the last month and they've been all good tears. I realize I'm putting the work in towards bettering myself, and that's a real painful process. Our society offers so many ways to numb ourselves, it's unreal. We, in turn, become unreal: some sort of doped up, Netflix addicted, feeling-avoidant cyborg who pretends to have it all together but is really falling apart inside. Good thing they have a pill for everything, right? 

When going through pain I've been learning (finally) to not avoid it, but to really feel it. Let it burn with the fire of 1,000 suns until it's shooting out of your fingertips. Let anxiety and sadness take their hold on you because, goddammit, you're human and this is what's it all about! Instead of ordering myself to (wo)man up, I've been paying homage to these feelings and figuring out what's caused them, and why I feel that way. I need less validation from situations/people that have hurt me; instead, I just need validation from myself to feel the feels. 


Okay, so it's not like I'm some guru who is so enlightened and never turns to red, red wine when emotional. But I think it's about not turning to red, red wine all the time. To leave some days for being brutally honest with yourself. I'm learning to do more of that, and I'm liking the woman I'm seeing emerge from it. I'm really, really liking her. 


Writing Makes It So I Don't Lose Myself

This morning I didn't allow myself to hop straight onto instagram. They make that little app as addictive as can be, goddammit, and sometimes I default to looking at it first thing. *

Instead, I let my mind do its own wandering. I immediately had a flashback to when I was 19.

I was enrolled in Creative Writing 101, the kind of class that makes you write cringe worthy poems and short stories (all of mine were TERRIBLE). However, one assignment stood out from the rest: create a blog and write every damn day to get some good practice in.

That's how this blog came to fruition. It was the first time I made myself write every day, and I fucking loved it. I'd wake up in my sorority house, and after grabbing coffee downstairs, I'd survey my surroundings to see that no one else was awake (hard to come by in a house of 22)--it was time to write. My fingers were BRIMMING with thoughts and stories I had to let out. There were days I would publish 2 or 3 posts because I couldn't contain myself!

Today, remembering 19-year-old Ashley furiously typing away on her desktop computer first thing in the morning put a MAJOR smile on my face. It reminded me of the natural creative flow that still resides in me, that still resides in all of us.

The question I pose to you and to myself is: how are you blocking that flow? What would you do first thing in the morning if nothing was distracting you? If you didn't have obligations and busy lives to fill up your day, so much so that you feel suffocated and thus retreat to easy outlets like instagram and podcasts? Yes, there is a place for both, but are you also leaving a place for yourself?

Writing makes it so I don't lose myself. I remembered that today.

*This is not the first time I've brought up instagram, and as you can see, I have a complicated relationship with that app. I'm aware of the addiction, and the way it both inspires me/cages me. I'm trying to make a place for my own thoughts again, without the sneaky advertising that social media apps implant in us, which is so very dangerous. 


I just can't let go of this blog

In the height of blogdom, maybe around 2009 (give or take a few years) we were living the life. The blog communities were vast and rich, and there was this real feeling of making something. Some of us were wannabe writers, or wannabe photographers, or even wannabe moguls. But we were really making something, even if just for each other.

Somewhere along the way instagram took over and was more, well, instant. It was easier to post in the palm of your hand, and blogs started to die.

Although I'm on instagram a lot (man, it was an addiction for awhile) it's hard to deny that there's just something missing when it comes to the insta life. Instagram started in pure place, but has mostly become about advertising. This is not to say that blogs didn't do the same thing, but they didn't do it so drastically.

All this to say, I still have this space, and I'm hardly on it anymore, but I also can't let it go.

There's a feeling I miss about blogging. Maybe it's the time taken to create and write and edit a post that gives me a sense of calm. Maybe it's the feeling of ownership. As my friend Linda (whom I met through blogging) told me, "instagram is rented space, but you own your blog."

And that's just it. This is my little corner of the internet, and it's been an honest, embarrassing, amazing catalog of my life, starting from the first post in 2005. It can't be stolen, and it doesn't need hashtags. Honestly, there's never been another social media to truly replace blogs. And so the littleturkishgirl remains, forever a part of me, and forever a part of the internet.


The Answer Could Be Yes

This past week I did a big thing in my professional life. While I can't spill the beans on what it is just yet, I can tell you it involved me asking my boss a question I had been wanting to ask for years.

It's funny, when you hold onto words for that long, those words become a part of your body somehow. As I mustered up the strength to ask my boss the big question, I started welling up with tears--my body was having an emotional reaction to these words being spoken out loud, as if I was going through an amputation. 

To my delight, and my years of wondering and worrying and waiting, my boss's answer to the question was "Yes."

Yes? Did she say yes? Did I hear that right?

The next day she brought my question to the CEO and he said "Yes."

Words have a lot a power, but I didn't know my words had so much power. In speaking my truth, my secret, my innermost desire, I was met with a yes from my boss and the universe.

I still have hurdles to jump over before I reveal the big question, but my confidence is high that I can clear said hurdles. The purpose of this post is to simply say that the biggest hurdle was myself. Finally speaking those words gave me freedom. Even if the answer ended up being no, I still would have felt the same sweet freedom simply by speaking the truth.

So a lesson to you, dear reader: go for the big thing. Say the scary words. Free yourself from the weight of self-doubt, and keeping your inner most desires hidden. Free yourself from the fear of hearing a no. You might be so utterly wrong, because the answer could be yes.



Because You're F*cking Brave

Hey you. You're sitting there, often feeling so very tiny, but why?

It's time to remember who you are

YOU are the woman who takes the big chances even if you're scared shitless. You could be trembling in fear and you do the big thing anyway. 

You jump off the ledge. 
You pledge your feelings despite the sting of rejection. 
You venture into darkness because there might be an adventure somewhere in there. 
You switch cities even though it's terrifying
You live your heart's desires.  


And that’s it, my dear. The thing you haven’t said out loud to yourself. So congratulate yourself with it. Bathe in it. Adorn yourself with this word, because it is yours. Wear your many gold bracelets of bravery, standing tall as a goddamn warrior princess with your spear (it's a new vision of myself, and I'm feeling it). 

Keep on being so damn brave, for you know deep down your only real fear is regret.


Returning to the Simple Life in the South of France

I cannot tell you how nice it is to be soaking up the sun in the South of France after coming out of winter in Boston. I felt like this winter was one of the worst, and the corners of my mind were wintery indeed.

I'm shaking off the icicles here and letting the sun and wine heal me good.

Of course, it goes beyond sunbathing--between hopping on trains and catching new flights I have little time for anxiety because I'm too busy living.

What is it about the everyday grind that gets us down so low that we forget how to appreciate the small things?

Part of it is the extent that social media plays in our lives and the extent to which we compare ourselves to others. I've definitely been posting on social media while traveling, but I haven't been checking it constantly. It's more that I've been posting things as an after thought.

We're slowly dying in front of our smart phones and forgetting how great it is to just bite into a strawberry or drink a cappuccino for the joy of it, rather than to later post it to instagram to get the most likes. The sad part is I still participate in this circus sometimes, and if I get caught up in it too much, I'm just another freak show act like everyone else.

I miss the days of traveling and then blogging two weeks later, when blogs were in their golden age and the best form of social media--a place to share deep thoughts, full stories, and accompanying pictures. Bloggers will always be the best internet friends I have, and I'm glad we haven't let this art form die completely.

I'm hopping into a lot a topics here, but I think what I'm trying to get at is what we're all trying to get at: how to enjoy life more, how to stress less, and how to balance it all with these newfangled gadgets getting in the way.

I always remember how to live the simple life while I'm traveling, and then forget most of it again upon returning home. Of course, I'm exaggerating, as writers do.

What's not an exaggeration is the need to love life while we still have it.

(Thus concludes my South of France post in where I ponder the meaning of life amongst these colorful window shutters, amazing cheese, and even better wine). 


Still Learning How

Being a restless soul I need daily reminders to appreciate the little things and embrace life. Of course I'm on a high right now because I'm about to embark on a month long trip to the UK and France. Travel, my favorite drug. 

Learning how to travel in everyday life is something I really want to master. I haven't done it yet. 

I'm restless because I'm constantly and astutely aware of death, every minute of every day. Exhausting, right? I'm always thinking to myself, could this day have been better? Did I appreciate it enough? Did I present the best Ashley? Did I give enough? Was I grumpy and a pain in the ass to others? 

I'm 33 and I'm not sure I've figured much out since I was 19 and started this blog. I mean, I know I have figured out a little. But. 

I'm still learning how to do life. 

Saturday, travel will fill my veins again, and I'll be embracing every single second like it was my last. Now to carry that on in non-travel periods. That is the ultimate task for the extreme wanderluster.