The Unknown: Thoughts During A Global Pandemic

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Written 3/18/20 — on day 6 of quarantine

The madness, we feel it, but we are in the dark, unsure of the depth of terror that will ensue.

Are we safe? 

Are we living in the now? 

Are we borrowing precious time?

In the darkness, we find the light, the love that we should have had all along. 

The care, the compassion, the consideration — in the way we talk to one another and in the way that we regard. 

The ‘i love yous’ linger longer than before, but some refuse to face reality, thinking they are immune to the depth of despair. They are different because these fears are deemed too excessive, but if life and death situations don’t scare you, what does?

There’s so much unknown, 

so much uncertainty 

and the emotions are running away from me.

Everyone is heightened, but some just don’t see—

there’s more than the superficial agenda to fulfill; 

there’s more important things than a do-to list that’s meaningless if you’re spreading a virus to the ones you love. 

It’s crazy times we live in, and quite frankly, it feels surreal. 

I can’t help but ache for the children who can’t go to school, the families that can’t take the financial hit, the dwindling small businesses, the ones fighting for their lives, and the healthcare professionals giving their all. My heart goes out to the ones impacted and the ones who are scared and alone. 

In a time of despair, I want to remind you that you are loved and valued, cared for and known. In a time of despair, we can choose kindness. 

It’s Time To Turn Another Dreaded “Sorry, You’re Not It” Email Into Fuel

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Throughout my life, I have worked towards various goals and made plans along the way by accepting different jobs, going off to college, and making decisions to go outside of my comfort zone, but there’s a story that I, along with many others, don’t share so openly. There’s a story of triumph, tears, let downs, and ultimately rejection; there’s a story of no’s and not yet’s.

At 23, I feel like my story of no’s has been more extensive than I’ve ever led on because I have this mentality of continuous improvement so I shoot my shot for my dream ideals, which comes with a lot of big fat “sorry, you’re not it” letters.

Since coming home from Peace Corps, I realized for the first time in my life, I wasn’t in the rat race of society anymore. I was coming home, jobless and to live with my parents (first time since I was 17). I was coming home, broken hearted and decided to spend the next two months dedicated to healing and growing through therapy.

Now, I write this, saying I am thriving because my mind and spirit are allowing me to be, to trust in myself and my abilities, and to know that this is all part of the plan, but then, as my mind became healthier and more supportive. . .

this happened . . .

I had spent an entire month, waiting to hear back from a certain job that I had deemed “perfect” for me. I got an interview, spent time with the organization, and really showed who I was to the team, and thought that I was a no-brainer hire.

So, I waited.

And I waited.

I prayed, and I hoped.

Still, somewhere along the way, I found myself telling people about it as if my worth was equated with a title, with a job, with what I could produce or achieve.

So I waited a little more.

Then, I got the email and my heart dropped when I got into the car, realizing I had put all my eggs in this basket.

It read: “Thank you Ashley for taking the time to meet all of us and interview, but we have decided to go with someone else.”

My heart sunk, and tears overwhelmed me. So I cried so hard for two minutes– I couldn’t find my voice, and my heart raced through my chest; I let my world crash down around me and my mind dragged me through the mud for a few minutes as I dried my tears.

Now for the first time ever, I had no plans and I wasn’t waiting on anything, and that hit me in that moment. I felt like a failure.

As I sat in my car, a little numb and sad, I started to marry logic and emotion (thanks David for that reminder).

There was a reason why this job wasn’t the right fit for me and there was a reason why this no had to come; I am being groomed for something better.

I flipped down my driver’s mirror and looked at myself, makeup smeared and eyes puffy, and said to myself:

“You are a strong, capable leader.”

“You are destined to love, to be loved, to be depth.”

“Your light doesn’t diminish because someone’s inability to see it.”

That last affirmation stuck with me, and reminded me that this is all part of the plan. I look back at life and see that there were things I wanted so desperately, but now know that greater has come and gone since then. I am stronger, more transparent and well because of the no’s I’ve taken on.

Nobody wants to get rejected, and honestly, nobody even wants to talk about it. I let my circle know that it didn’t work out how I intended, but by using my network, other things, better things have transpired since then. BETTER. FULLER.

I can see that the job I deemed ideal had red flags that wouldn’t have served either one of us. I can see that I have a heart to serve, but it has to be healthy and logical.

I felt very compelled to share this because there’s so much societal pressure to preform, to achieve, and to have all the yeses.

That’s not reality though, especially when you are designing a life you truly love, one that inspires you.

I am here to say that I’m not settling, I’m not discouraged, and I’m not becoming small out of fear and you shouldn’t either.

Rejection is part of the process— so feel the emotion, harness it, and become stronger from it.

Stay Tuned, I will be sharing more of my views on rejection and my mindset on David Essel’s radio show live on March 26th at 5pm.

How I Grew When Life’s Game Plan Changed

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A chapter in my life closed, abruptly, before I really knew how to process my reality and the emotions that would follow a faint goodbye. A month has passed since I moved back to Florida after believing I’d be gone for nearly 2 years.

Plans changed. My roadmap of what my life was SUPPOSE to look like shifted. Being able to write and share that it’ll all work out has given me peace within this chaos of grieving and starting over.

When I chose to go into Peace Corps almost a year ago now, I thought I had found my calling and I knew exactly what I was suppose to do; I was going to be of service to others. I had a glow in me for months before I left, a glow that is hard to describe to this day. Then, one day, I woke up and that spark in me was gone. It faded slowly over time until I didn’t recognize myself, my habits, or my new day to day behaviors. I was going against my intuition at so many turns, and my heart and mind weren’t on the same page. My heart wanted to stay, to serve, to love, to give, to be, but my rational fears were greater. So I broke my own heart, in order to follow what I knew to be right for me. I see now, no one was benefiting from that. 

Sometimes, it’s hard for me to talk about my Peace Corps experience in its entirety because although I left, it doesn’t mean I don’t wonder. I wonder about the people, the work I did, my school, and my kids. I wonder if anything I did stuck or mattered. I wonder if I was of service. I wonder if things could have been different had I spoken up sooner. I’m human and I wonder, a lot. I spend nights awake, hoping that I’m moving in the right direction, hoping that I am taking care of myself.

But as my mind runs wild, I try to calm it.

Knowing that the ‘what if’ game is torture to every inch of me.

What have I learned from starting over again?

I’ve learned, I need to trust my intuition and protect my well-being.

I can be strong by being vulnerable, asking for help, and accepting that sometimes I need a hand to hold onto.

I don’t need to justify my reasons or prove myself to anyone. I know my truths. 

My self-worth is not equated with my accomplishments, titles, or roles. I’m enough, worthy, and loved for just being me. I am enough and I’m free of the burdens to be something I’m not.

This is not a failure for me, this was part of the plan. I did something I had always wanted to do and I did my very best, but there were factors out of my own control, ones I couldn’t live with. So instead of having to justify anything or belittling my time away, I’ve learned to love my experience for all that it was. I even love the parts that left me a little bruised and fragile because it’s allowed me to rebuild stronger, fuller and better than before.

I don’t know what’s next or what tomorrow holds, but I do know that I am stronger now because I am choosing to just be. I do know that it’s dark before the dawn, and this life really is sweet, even when it’s heavy.

How I Found Self-Love and Respect By Advocating For Myself

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Before Peace Corps, there were many instances where I sold myself short, took less than I worked for, bent until I broke, and became a designated floor mat. I would shrink in situations that made me uncomfortable and gravitated towards being a peace keeper instead of being true to my core and exigencies. By being a peace keeper and labelling myself level-minded and conscious, I sold off bits of who I am to appease others and now as I sit in a small room in a country far away, I see how desperately I needed those pieces I so freely gave away. It became essential to me to rebuild my fortitude.


“I want to be virtuous and live with integrity,” I said many times before. “I want to empower other women and inspire those around me,” I said more times than I can count. Yet, I was passive and behaved in a way that didn’t align with my essence and the goals I had for the woman I was creating. I’d apologize when I didn’t need to and frankly, I got tired of hearing the word ‘sorry’ come out of my mouth when it wasn’t called for. It took me so long to get on board with the idea, not all relationships, friendships, and connections can or should be salvaged and restored. I had to release the desire to control what was out of my grasp, and work on areas of my life that would bring me peace and self-respect.


I wanted to empower women to be their best self and to be go-getters and dreamers and doers, yet, I was staying small and keeping my voice to a whisper in the background. It’s taken months of reflection, conscious writings, and deliberate changes to my behavior to understand my place in this world and where my soul feels most alive, but it’s here and now. As I write, I see more clearly. My journey in Peace Corps has forced me to break away from the shell I gladly hid behind; I saw that my voice and perspective is meant to be shared and adds values to the conversation. By advocating for myself and my ideas, I have a greater respect for my truth and capabilities.


It happened gradually, then one day, I looked around me and everything in my world was different. I wasn’t content with mediocrity or lack of consideration. I wasn’t content with ‘this is the way things are done’. I began to question power, procedures, and my new norms, and by having open and honest conversations while being cognizant of other’s perceptions and realities, I witnessed a pragmatic shift in my interactions, my confidence, and my relationships.


I was no longer searching for validation or affirmation. I gave myself the endorsement to go after what I want, to speak up when I am uncomfortable or have an idea for the betterment of a system, and to know that I am capable, valuable, and  decisive. By advocating for myself, I created the self-worth that I had always dreamed of having. It’s not easy getting to a place where you feel comfortable sending query emails, raising your hand, interjecting into conversations, sharing a different point of view or belief, but it’s so worth it. I spent so many years biting my tongue, but I want to walk the walk and talk the talk that I preach. I am so ready to take on 2020 with a focus on self-love, self-respect, and leaving everything I touch better than I found it.

6 Life-Changing Realizations I’ve Had During 2019

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There’s only a month left of 2019, and my 23rd birthday is quickly approaching. I’ve had a lot of revelations this year because I am living outside of my comfort zone and experiencing so many differing perspectives. This year, I graduated college, joined Peace Corps, and moved to a Caribbean island. I now know that I don’t have to be who I’ve always been, and I can heal wounds, forgive myself, and move forward. So here are big realizations I’ve had this year:


  1. An eye for an eye (revenge) is not how I’m going to live my lifeWhen someone does me wrong or I get my feelings hurt, I remind myself that it’s not personal; people’s decisions, opinions, and actions are often a reflection of how they feel about themselves or are formed by baggage that they carry. {Whether we choose to be transparent or not, we all have our own hurts, pains, insecurities, and shortcomings that we can either fall victim to or work through and heal; I’m choosing the latter.} When I can forgive and repair, I do it willingly, but there are times when it’s best to forgive, move on, and release the burdensome pressure. I’ve learned it’s best not to have long-term resentment, aggression, or anger towards others, it just hurts more as time passes. All in all, I believe in people and we’re all just doing the best we can, but when we know better, we must choose to do better. When it’s said and done, I know I have the power to remove myself from toxic situations and relationships.

  2. Letting go of things/people that I’ve outgrown has allowed me to spread my wings and recenter my thinking. When I set my mind to something, I invest wholeheartedly, but sometimes, the reality doesn’t match the truth inside my head. I’ve had to spend a lot of time working, growing, and learning about false realities I wanted and created to get to the root of my ideologies and beliefs. When I let go of the delusional of all the what if’s or could be’s, I started to have a clearer picture of my reality and the more positive direction I wanted to move towards. I realized I didn’t have to stay in the same state of mind I’ve always been in.

  3. Saying ‘no’ is so powerful. Setting boundaries is refreshing, and serves so many purposes in my life. Going off into the Peace Corps this year has taught me the importance of setting boundaries early on while also voicing my opinion and considerations. It’s allowed to me to devote my time and energy to my passions and do away with time fillers and wasters. I am not beneficial to anyone when I am over extended or a scattered brain. By setting boundaries and using my voice, I have shown others that I value myself, my time, and the work I’m dedicated to.

  4. Trusting in the season of my life has allowed me to breathe and find peace in my now. There have been many times where I feel unsettled and restless, wanting to know what’s next or why x, y, or z hasn’t happened yet. I have many short-term and long-term goals for myself, and at times that gives me a false illusion like I know what my future holds or what the next stage holds. I’m in an amazing chapter of my life right now, and I’m learning to just enjoy the moments as they come. I still challenge and push myself, but I’ve given up trying to ‘play God’ and map out my entire life. It’s okay that I don’t know what’s next. It’s okay that I’m single. It’s okay that I’m in this season of my life in another country.

  5. Hard work always pays off, tenfold.  Growing up in Indiana, I had many factors in my life that taught me about being disciplined, having great work ethic, and the value of genuinely helping others, and eventually, I developed the work ethic I have now. While in college, I took on so many jobs, internships, and extra curricular activities. I loved being a part of things greater than myself, being a team player. By working hard, I have developed skills and a value adding mindset that I’ll carry with me no matter where I go, and I learned the value of communicating well, showing up, and always doing the best work I am capable of. So if you ever feel like your work is taking you in circles, recenter your thinking and know that being a smart worker is a valuable asset.

  6. In order to grow, I need to invest in myself. As a volunteer working in the education sector, I have fallen in love with learning again. I am gaining knowledge from the time I get up until I go to bed. I apply myself, and believe I am capable in all that I do. That belief has allowed me to get positions within Peace Corps that allow me to enhance my ability to write and edit, it’s allowed me to get accepted in an online MBA program, it’s allowed me to read more books in a month than I ever thought possible. When I invest in myself, sky really is the limit. I hope you invest in yourself too and see just how capable you are. 

 

 

These views are my own and do not reflect those of the US government or Peace Corps.

5 Books I’ve Read During Peace Corps & The Purpose They Serve

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I’ve done a lot of reading and writing over the last five months since joining Peace Corps, but these are the top 5 books that have shaped me and reiterated key moral values that I hold near and dear to my heart. I hope they positively impact your own personal development, like they’ve done to mine. 

 

  1. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl Unknown one of the most impactful books I’ve EVER read. This book gave me perspective and another way of looking at experiences throughout life. Dr. Frankl endured life in extreme hardships inside the walls of Auschwitz, and despite the meek and dehumanizing environment, his outlook and his views on life, one’s purpose, and the spirit of the human condition is one that inspires me in all that I do. His voice and actions brought light to some of the darkest  times in history, and he showed that believing in yourself and your meaning is vital. I’ve read it a couple times now because it’s so noteworthy and commendable, and you should too.

 

  1. Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates —  Unknown-1This book gave me guidance and reassurance that this life is meaningful, and you have to take baby steps before you can run. There’s so much I want to do, and see, and be a part of, and I have great respect for the Gates Foundation for their contributions to the betterment of life around the world and also willingness to learn to understand. I have always had been an advocate for education and being a lover of knowledge, and by Melinda Gates sharing other’s stories and experiences, it reminded me just how important it is to have school and education. In order to have education, there are many things to work on— health concerns, cultural norms, equality, etc. It’s a very eye-opening book that intertwines faith, triumph, and human connection. 

 

  1. The Alchemist by Paulo CoelhoUnknown-2This book gave me ease to trust in my journey and in myself. I was reminded that all twists and turns, ups and downs are all a part of the process and should be valued. It is not so much about the destination, but how we go about getting there. There are so many people we come across and connections we make along the way, and those are true gifts in this life. We grow throughout our journey, and the truest treasure isn’t things or places or even other people. You will find out what the truest treasure is.

 

 

  1. The Leadership Crisis by John AllisonUnknown-3.jpegThis book gave me confidence to trust in my own abilities and qualities. It reminded me that I can learn the technical objectives in a career, but there are already true qualities engrained in my character and being. John Allison is a libertarian, but even if you don’t agree with his ideologies or political stances, his book has great philosophies and strategies that hinge on honesty, transparency, team work, and personal responsibility. I recommend it to anyone in management or leadership roles, or anyone with an interest on taking on more personal responsibility. Great and challenging read!

 

  1. Four Agreements by Don Ruiz (also referred to as the wisdom book) Unknown-4.jpeg—  This book gave me tools to reflect on my own agreements, ideologies, and perceptions, and to be able to work through some of shortcomings. It’s a short read, but the book holds so much meaning to me and working towards my own personal freedom. You may have differing religious beliefs than Don Ruiz, but the 4 key concepts are virtues that I carry with me. These agreements have helped me be more loving, forgiving, and kind to myself. A must read!

 

 

 

For more recommendations, message me or comment below!

How Moving Abroad Reshapes Your Mind and Challenges Your Beliefs

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I left the US 4 months ago, and this is my month #4 reflection with the Peace Corps. Throughout the rest of September and the entirety of October, something special happened. 

To start— this month has been the most eye-opening and testing one yet. The reality of what I’ll be doing day to day has set in, and it can feel so daunting to accomplish and do all the things I’m meant to do here. It can feel overwhelming and isolating, but it’s also invigorating and I’ve found the purest joys here. This journey I’m on has called for the most advantageous version of myself; it’s required me to become more vocal, present, and understanding. It’s demanded that I listen to unravel the realities of other people and to leave any and all discernments at the door. I lived a more sheltered life growing up in small town USA; therefore, there are so many truths I’ve never been exposed to until now. 

You know that saying, you don’t know what it’s like for someone else until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes; Well, I don’t believe you can even truly understand then. You may have more compassion for them or can grapple with their candor, but when you can return their shoes after that mile trek and move out of that reality, it’s difficult to comprehend the longevity and lasting impact of their experiences. 

This month has been special because I’m beginning to truly grasp how little I know about the world around me, differing cultures and belief systems, and the people who occupy all the beautiful spaces around the globe. It’s inspired me to learn, to seek to understand, to hear, to observe, and to ask questions. 

Being inside of a classroom all day and teaching first graders, I’ve seen first hand the power of educating the upcoming generation. It’s been so exceptional for me because I’ve fallen in love with learning again, and that doesn’t mean in the formal sense of going to school to just learn during those specified hours. Any chance I get, I’m picking up a new book or finding a new topic I’m interested in or downloading a new podcast.

I want to learn more so I can understand more, and that’s what I’m working to teach the children I come in contact with. I want them to fall in love with learning and gaining knowledge, the way I have because education and the things they learn are something no one can ever take away from them. By learning, they are investing in themselves and that is the best investment they will make in this lifetime. 

So many of my kiddos tell about how they want to be teachers and doctors and police officers. They tell me about their dreams and their ideas because I ask them and keep pushing for them to expand. I never want them to lose their sense of wonder and creativity because those qualities will take them so far in life. Month #4 has reminded me that I am exactly where I am suppose to be with who I am meant to be here with. If you are ever contemplating moving to another country, do it, you’ll grow in unimaginable ways. 

It has been filled with adventures around Grenada, many beach days, and empty evenings filled with Netflix and writing, but nothing really compares to being in a place where I can share my heart and learn about others in such a vulnerable way. 

Thanks for following along my journey. I am always open to hearing other perceptions, truths, and beliefs, so feel free to reach out. 

*** disclaimer: all my views are my own, and do not reflect the views of the US government or Peace Corps ***