"When I realized how lucky I was to be alive...
Hello! I'm so thrilled you've stumbled across my site and that you're here to learn a little bit about me. Whatever you do, make sure to say hello! I love to connect with new people!
But first... let me start by saying this. I tell all. I'm an open book. People know a lot about me, and well, I've done a lot! But I'm super humble and still often in awe. Sometimes I look at my life and think... this isn't me! But it is... that's what I've learned! I've learned who I am and who I was supposed to be. I struggled for years, but it was for a bigger reason - to be stronger, more determined, and more able and eager to achieve my greatest goals and dreams.
One day, I was blessed with a life-changing gift - gratitude. I was so overwhelmed. Everything became so clear to me. I had to let go, do more, and live more. That moment changed my life...
Here's my story... (ish)
At the age of 20, my world had fallen apart. I had just come out of a 2-year abusive relationship. After a violent attack, I left the courthouse without a friend in the world, without a place to go, and without a penny in my pocket. Even though I'd "survived," I had a lot to recover from. Over the course of those two years, I lived in danger and fear. I was isolated and manipulated. I'd dropped out of college. I was homeless and living out of my car! My life savings were depleted and my family wanted nothing to do with me. They'd even kicked me out on the streets with a guy they thought was harming me. I'd spent two years feeling defeated, like I was supposed to be a victim. I felt hopeless.
However, something happened when I left the courthouse that day... I sat in a car I'd borrowed and looked at the empty seat next to me. It was the first time in two years that I didn't have someone sitting next to me, dictating my every choice, telling me what to do. I felt immense relief, and incredibly, an excitement that I could suddenly do whatever I wanted to. I thought, "I haven't done anything for myself in two years..."
But then it suddenly hit me... "I haven't done anything for myself my entire life." Not only did my abuser control my life for two years, I'd been dealing with other forces my whole life. The domestic violence wasn't the first 'worst thing' to happen to me. When I was 14, I was raped by my first boyfriend, repeatedly. I grew depressed and suicidal. I was self-medicating and self-harming at 15. I hated who I was and developed eating disorders. I was bullied and tormented by my entire school.
What I realized in the car.... was that none of it was ever my fault. Worse, my fears, insecurities, things I hated about myself, I suddenly realized stemmed from someone or something planting harm in my life. It all became so clear.. and that very moment, I decided to let go, to stop caring, to dream big for ME, and everything changed... Changing my mindset changed my life.
I made the choice that day to be positive. I knew I had a choice to either remain a victim or become a survivor. I started by telling my story.... I told the police, then my family, and then, complete strangers! I started volunteering, was given the chance to speak, and then received requests to speak more. I joined local women's committees, and helped chair big community events dealing with the many issues I had faced. I became Miss New Bedford and devoted my year to talking about domestic violence. I launched a young women's leadership development program, and became a mentor for girls. I worked, leased my own little apartment, saved... and eventually, I went back to school. I was so determined to defy the odds, to make up for lost time, to redeem myself, that I studied tirelessly, graduated as Valedictorian, and spoke before my entire graduating class.
Positivity changes everything. Wanting more changes everything. Most of all, gratitude changes everything. I live big and have found success because I am grateful. I appreciate time, life, and opportunity.
In 2014, I was challenged once again. I lost my mother. Even then, I remembered the great lesson I've learned. I often wonder if all of it, all of the pain and hardship, were to prepare me for this. I'm not sure how I'd have coped otherwise. True to form, I chose to be positive. Without any experience, I produced a musical just weeks after my mother passed. We performed in her memory and donated our proceeds to the Alzheimer's Association to benefit research for the disease that took her young life. Today, that has grown into a nonprofit theatre company that benefits a different charity, every single show. We donate more than $10,000 each year!
My message is this - choose positive and incredible things happen. See disadvantage as an advantage. Hardship equips you with strength and determination. It provides you with a chance to build UP and a desire to do more.
I love sharing my story and the lessons I've learned. I am perpetually amazed and humbled by the response - from students disclosing their own rapes to others saying one small thing I said changed how they live their life.
Some fun 'other' facts about Ashley!