Month #3: Peace Corps Eastern Caribbean Reflection

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This has been a substantial month with many highs and lows, many realizations and conversations, and countless A-ha moments.

I’ve been living in Grenada now for two months, and initially when I first arrived and the following weeks, I felt like a tourist who was so caught up in trying to figure out my new norm that I was missing the whole point of my early transition and integration stages in a new culture. Through writing and honest conversations, I was able to identify some of my shortcomings and rectify them as this was a whole new avenue I had never been down.

I understood better that adapting and integrating while still holding onto the core of who you are isn’t a walk in a park; it challenges you in ways you never knew possible. 

I was hard on myself for that reason; I wanted to know and do it all right away, but I’m only human and things take time. Now two months later, I see the beauty in easing in and making genuine and authentic relationships and connections with those around me. 

At the beginning of September, I began working at a local Roman Catholic school in Grenada. On the fourth, I was officially sworn in as Peace Corps Volunteer by our Program Manager and the Ambassador of the Eastern Caribbean, Linda Swartz Taglialatela. All the training we had done for the last two and a half months in St. Lucia and Grenada was now worth it because we could be do actual meaningful work in our schools and around our communities. 

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The hands on learning in the Grenadian classroom from the kids and with other teachers has been so vital in my adjustment process. Yes, I’m here to help wherever I’m needed, to be a human resource and promote sustainable practices. I’m here to co-educate and share my knowledge, but the truth is, I am learning more everyday from these kids, fellow teachers, and community members.

I’ve gained an even greater appreciation for education, learning and sparking kid’s interest in gaining knowledge in all aspects of life.

The teachers I work with are so resourceful and creative, and I admire all that they bring to the table. I love sharing ideas and collaborating as we have great conversations about implementing new strategies, games, activities, standards, and classroom management.

I’ve started to explore my community more and take myself on walks (even though sidewalks are very scarce and these twisty rainforest roads make my heart drop). I greet every passing face with a smile, and often times, they already know me as Ms. DeBoer or Teacher Ashley. I talk to the baker about her baking tips and the shop owner about his saltfish bakes. There are a lot of side stands where people cook/ grill out and sell all kinds of BBQ food or Oildown, and I am constantly making new friends because I love food, but hate cooking. God bless, WhatsApp to stay connected. 

This life has required a new version of myself— one that speaks up, says hello first, leaves fear at the door, and steps miles outside of an ever expanding comfort zone.  

As a PCV, there are internal struggles you endure. You are no longer the person you were when you boarded the plane, bright eyed to take on this endeavor, and said goodbye to your loved ones. It can be very isolating at times to undergo so much self-realization and self-actualization that put your convictions and beliefs through the ringer. You’re stripped of your masks and comforts, and you have to face the person you are at the core. While I’ve been unpacking my own upheavals and fallibilities, I am learning to be kinder to myself and more appreciative of this journey. 

Month 3 has been a whirlwind where I’m actually in the school and living on my own, making lifelong connections with host country nationals and other Peace Corps Volunteers. I’m reminded that making human connections that are sincere and genuine is what life is all about! Thank you for following along my Peace Corps experience because it’s a goal to share Grenada’s culture and beauty with you all too. 

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**these thoughts and opinions are my own, and do not reflect the thoughts of the US government or Peace Corps**
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Being Single In Your Twenties

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Everywhere you look, especially on social media, countless people have found their one in a billion, their happily ever after. They’re cozied up with the one they want to share their life with, and those love bugs are following their feelings to the alter, into long term commitment, and forevers. You see couples kissing, taking cutesy pictures, exploring the world together, cheering each other on during the highs and the lows. 

I understand that comparison is the thief of joy, and I don’t believe the green is greener on the other side of the fence, but somedays, it’d be nice to have that one person that make you smile when you want to cry, that one person who makes you feel giddy when they walk into a room, that one person who is there for you rain or shine.

But I don’t have that. And that’s okay.

When you’re single in your twenties, it doesn’t mean you are not enough or worth it. It doesn’t mean you are going to be alone forever or that you are unlovable; it doesn’t mean you are behind in life. It can feel as though are, when your friends are bringing their boyfriends/girlfriends around, moving in together, doing all that jazz but you’re just chillin and third wheeling. 

Your life doesn’t start or become meaningful because you’ve met someone to share it with. Your life is meaningful if you give it meaning and purpose, when you know your essence and cherish your heart. You don’t need another soul to validate you or give you worth. You are worthy without the words to affirm it. 

Being single during my early twenties has taught me how to be vulnerable in who I am and what I want out of life. I’ve learned how to be independent, how to prioritize myself, my future, and my plans, how to walk into a room and know I belong without a familiar face in sight. I’ve learned the importance of being present in the moment, and understanding and controlling my feelings. I’ve found calmness in my own presence, and released the need to control what I can not. 

Going solo in my twenties and throughout college has taught me how to date, how to stand my ground, and stand up for myself. I’ve been able to find my voice, and not allow a voice to talk over mine. I will not make myself small for anyone. I figured out what career path I wanted to go on, took countless opportunities, and shaped my life the way my heart and mind desired. I didn’t have to compromise in monumental stages of my growth. 

Through my single years, I’ve learned valuable lessons like you can’t love people into loving you, you outgrow people who stay stagnant, and you should never, ever settle when it comes to love.

When you dream big and you’re a go-getter, you’ll scare people who don’t see the vision or can’t stand the heat. Thank them for the memories, but let them hit the road before they weigh you down. Attraction is essential, but if it’s not deeper than the surface, what’s the point?

A few side notes to it all—

Rebounds don’t work, but time does heal wounds. 

Forgiveness is your friend.

If you like someone, tell them. Show them.  

Jealousy is a waste of energy. No one is you, and that’s your power.

Don’t let your pride get in the way.

Understanding is the way to someone’s heart.

Love yourself and others will too. 

Trust the timing of things because you can’t rush something, you want to last forever. Enjoy the single season of your life because it won’t be like this forever. You have mountains to move and places to go. Have an open, receptive heart because you’re lovable, worthy, and deserving of a love as deep as the ocean. 

Cheers to being single in our twenties! 

The Art of Letting Go in the New Year

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It’s an art, without a doubt— the art of releasing what is no longer serving your soul, letting go of what is toxic and draining. 

I am a hopeless romantic, and believe I’m destined for a beautiful, captivating love and I have yet to adore someone to the depth of my core like I desire and know awaits me. I make things bigger than they are because I believe this life is meant to be full and consuming and healing.

We don’t have to be who we’ve always been.

We can grow, become more of who we are really meant to be— the conscious being who desires to understand one’s essence. With that in mind, I look for the good in others and when someone is broken and their mind is off in wonderland, my heart swoons to their aid. I want to know their aches, their pain, their perceptions, their desires, their heart. 

I want to be a healer. I want them to be on the same level as I am, so we can be together. There’s only a few instances where this has happened for me because I’ve had the hardest time learning to let people go when they need to be set free.

I try to love them into loving me, and that can not happen. People are who they are and who they decide to be, and when they ask you to let them go, do it. 

There are billions of people in this world, but deep connections don’t happen everyday, and for me, I have created amazing friendship connections, but the love draw is almost non-existent at times. So I hold onto comfort for a moment, even when it no longer serves me and continuously gives me an assorted platter of disappointment.

That’s only because I had expectations, ones I knew they’d never meet. 

I made that choice to hold onto something that I created in my head, one sided, and through writing and communicating, I’ve learned that I create walls and barriers to keep people out who want to adore me and I for a long time took on the mission of wanting energies who didn’t want me because I couldn’t accept it.

I was vulnerable and felt unwanted, but someone who doesn’t love themselves can’t love you. My mind was becoming toxic to me and through these experiences I’ve learned, there is no question if I’m good enough— I am and always will be, but God knows those souls weren’t right with mine and this life isn’t a race.  

When I started trusting in myself and my gut, I truly learned how to be genuine in my release. To look myself in the mirror, and smile, knowing I’m being true to my heart and my vision.

Nothing beautiful in this life is forced, prodded, and skewed. When you’re free of the burdens, you see clearly without resentment or questions, knowing you’re serving your soul now. Happiness comes dancing across your chest when you don’t simmer in the hurt and questions— you can fly free when you let go of what is holding you down. 

Travel Guide: Puerto Rico & Wedding Recap….

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I’ve been to a lot of beautiful places like Punta Cana, Cancun, Playa del Carmen, St. Marteen, St. Kitts, and all over the Florida Keys. I’ve seen countless sunsets and played in the sand of many beaches, but nothing was as beautiful as Isabel, Puerto Rico. My mom got married this past weekend there and the photos don’t even do it justice.  

The happiness and care free vibes of the locals were contagious, and it was a blissful time. We stayed at Villa Montaña Beach Resort and had an amazing trip. Instead of staying in a single house or at a hotel/condo style, we had our own individual villas. We were all next to one another, but still had our space to recoup and relax.

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Trip Advisor Review of VMBR

We were only there for a weekend and my 22nd, but we spent the two days laying out by the water, swimming in the pools, walking the beach, and devouring delicious food at the restaurant, The Eclipse. It had the cutest boho vibe, and amazing service. They even hooked us up with a bonfire to end my 22nd with s’mores.

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Now to get to the good stuff….

THE WEDDING!

All I have to say, with the ease of the wedding and the guidance of Ashley Wright for putting on the most beautiful ceremony at sunset, a destination wedding is the way to go. So I’ve put together a few of my favorite photos from the day because a picture says a thousand words and I love all the love in these shots….

 

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From drinking Carlos’s coconut water to splashing in the water at the end, everything was perfect. We are all over the moon happy for Mom and Mark!

#destinationwedding #weddinginspiration

 

 

When You Begin to Understand Your Worth

When You Begin to Understand Your Worth

 

The days became shorter, as the moments fluttered with urgency and I no longer got lost in the wonderment of dissatisfaction.

I walk through each door as if I own the room and I belong, but I had spent so many years putting my head down and weaving in and out of crowds I couldn’t face, filled with jealousy that they had a place and I was an outsider. Now, years later, I know the truth— I belong in each moment, each pathway because I choose to, not because anyone makes me feel welcomed.

This world, this life is a mindset, you can have the victim mentality or you can be the hero of your own story, you’ll never be completely free until you can look yourself in the mirror and know you’re worthy and lovable. I would look at my reflection outside and behind closed doors and worry, question, and fear that I was not good enough, that I am not worthy of blessings, that I am lacking when others are more put together, little did I know, everyone is a basket case, but not a single soul is a lost cause. I am not a lost cause. Some say people never change, that who they are is engrained on the walls of their body, but I believe the patterns morph and transform into who that person is meant to be— I’m morphing into who I am meant to be.

If we stayed the same, if nothing ever changed in our hearts, our world would be stagnant.

Our first love would be our only love and our hatreds would last a lifetime, and we know that’s not our reality, we fall in and out of love like it’s going out of style and I can’t keep a grudge for the life of me, but that’s because I realize that life is precious, moments should be valued and that genuine love should be at the root of every interaction.

Things are learned, patience is accrued and time is something you can never get back. One word: special, rings in the back of my head— it screams as I look for a once in a lifetime love, a one in billion personality, a heart of gold. I don’t even waste my time on the questionable when my feelings are on the edge, ready to flee and jump into the unknown to avoid to the mediocrity that surrounds me.

I can feel it draining my contagious energy when it’s not full, and I run. I don’t run because I am scared of commitment or love, I run because I am scared of settling and lack there of. Waking up one morning consumed with “what if’s” and “whys” is my greatest fear and I use it as fuel to be better, to love greater, and require more because I refuse to be “content” or have just enough when it comes to my life and future.

With a world as wide and full, I know there is room for me to achieve greatness and sculpt the map of my heart to endure hardships and remain resilient, optimistic.

Along the way, I’ve been given a purpose and know myself well enough to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, to not fitting in, to standing out. So, I take each moment and spin it at my will, knowing these days are good, but it’s only going to get better, it’s only going up from here, my heart promises so.

A Key To A Happier You: Forgiveness

A Key To A Happier You: Forgiveness

This past week I was in Chicago for the holidays and somehow, Chicago has a way of inspiring me to produce my best work. So here are some of my recent thoughts on forgiveness and self-love.

The city evokes my curiosity, the wonderment of the unknown, uncertainty, and largeness of the masses. As I grow older and have new experiences under my belt, I begin to wonder, could I find sanctuary in the chaos? I don’t say home because home, for me, is more of feeling and less of a residency— home never quite felt like home and love from just family never felt quite whole, so I searched for a substitute for what I lacked my whole life.

I came up empty, filled with resentment, anger, and even jealousy to those who had what I did not.

Now, my heart understands and my mind is on the same page— disappointment runs in my veins because I create these expectations in my head about how people should be, act, and care for me when the reality is, most things don’t revolve around me and their inconsiderate manner is just part of their universe.

I can’t change them, especially when my resentment covers me like a silent plaque, until I am no longer accepting their existence. I go ghost into my own world, uninviting and shrill to their ideology, because no matter how they cling to me, I act as though it’s never enough, and that is entirely on me. My skin screams to be touched, to be hugged, and to be loved, but their presence only lingers in the back of the room, refusing to put forth effort I desperately crave.

For a long time, this one undeniable thought laid prominent in the center of my mind through all my acts, “I’ll never be enough for you.”

But through the years, it’s not that I am not enough for them, but actually the opposite begins to ring true. That I know, and how is that fair for me to be so judgmental and act as though I am superior? When I am not, nobody in this world is.

So I chase it back to the source—

I take a look at who I am and what my needs are, and focus on some of my truths.

I would never be happy in a small town with small minds and small endeavors with the social norm being to marry young and have babies to carry on the name to raise up to be football jocks and record breaking stars. I would never be happy to work for someone day in and day out with little growth, no new knowledge, no experience that leaves me feeling fulfilled and enlightened. I would never be happy, if I chose to stay instead of leaving for my next adventure, but with choices comes opportunity costs and trade offs.

In order to take on a new adventure, I had to say goodbye to the only house I ever knew, goodbye to the closeness of my father, goodbye to my best friends who have been by my side almost every hour of every day.

I had to embrace the loneliness of the newness in hopes of finding what my soul needed most; Fear lingered, but I never allowed it to make me back down. See, I have no problem engulfing myself in new passions and desires, but when I try to free my heart of the restraints of sadness I’ve endured, I refuse.

I refuse to start new with the ones I love most— I refuse to truly forgive and let down my walls I’ve built up to keep them out, but that’s the start of my journey to self-love.

In order to love myself, I must be free from my burdens, relinquish any hate festering in my soul, any and all unsettlements to my soul and I’m starting with taking responsibility for my soul actions and acknowledging my imperfections, bruises, and lackings in a vulnerable way to heal and repair what I view as broken.

Who I am— is what my soul exudes. I have the choice to be a better, more loving version of myself, who honors effort and has faith in mankind, who understands most people are just doing the best they can. People love differently, handle stress differently, communicate differently— not wrong, just because it’s different than what I choose to do. I’m aware that love needs to be at the center of all interactions, and people deserve second, even third and fourth chances, without having burdens held over their head.

Forgiveness for yourself, forgiveness for others will be the one thing that will restore your faith in unconditional love.

I’ve linked one of my favorite articles below, so check that out!

Forgive… And Feel Happier

You’ve got this,

Ash

 

 

 

Some Inspiration When Applying for Internships and Jobs

Some Inspiration When Applying for Internships and Jobs

Is there a science to getting your dream job or internship? The answer is sadly NO, and life would be too easy if that were the case. I read articles on Linedkin and blogs from business professionals, who do the hiring and what they look for, (one of my favorites is: Intern Queen )which is extremely helpful, but sometimes, all I can think is, ‘I’m applying online, with a resume I have spent two years revising, updating, and altering and get to answer a few mediocre questions about different things I’ve accomplished or done in my collegiate years, but my accomplishments and job history don’t exactly signify who I am, my level of dedication, or others qualities that may pull me ahead of all the competition.’

Well, I am here to say, don’t get discouraged and aim small.

You are going to get a lot of NO’s,

I’ve had my fair share of emails that say, “Thank you for your interest, but unfortunately……” Plenty, and I continuously do, but here’s the thing: I am shooting my shot, and applying for things that interest me, and I could see myself benefiting from, and as cliche as it sounds, every no is one step closer to that YES.

When applying for jobs and internships, you can’t forget that you want a position that is a good fit for you, too.

Not only do you want to be an asset for a company, but you also want to be in a spot to obtain new knowledge, grow, and benefit from your time there. It needs to be mutually beneficial, so don’t sell yourself short and take a job that doesn’t feel right for you.

Although my intentions are to work for myself when I graduate, I don’t have all the information necessary, just from my marketing 101, intermediate price theory class, etc.

I need to have real life experience— where I can figure out what my strengths and weaknesses are, so I can become well-rounded, and a generalist, with some wonderful specializations to be competitive and insightful.

I look at myself as a brand, and I continuously ask myself, “What do I bring to the table?” You find that out at internships, it’s great.

About a year ago, I took an internship with the Boston Red Sox and 47’ Brand, and I was honest, genuine, and real throughout the interview process, and luckily, it was one of my favorite YESes to date. My boss took me under her wing, and in the process of being a merchandising intern, I learned everything from buying, processing, inventory, accountability, time management, handling money, and visuals. I lived in the moment with this internship, taking it all in and aware that I did not know it all, and wanted to learn all there was. One internship turned into the next and I spent the summer in Boston, seeing the large scaled operations, and loved it. I added to my resume and skillset, and again this spring, I will be working for them.

With that little short account of my internships, I want to say it’s important to trust your gut and do what you think will add value to your life and skillset. I had never expected to do something in merchandising, but things work out exactly the way it’s meant to. So you too will have a company take a chance on you, and that’s where you need to shine.

So in the process of finding who you are and what you want, keep advising that resume, taking leadership roles on campus, raising that GPA, and applying for things that seem to be out of your league because it will all pay off soon enough.

You’ve got this, and you will get there soon!

xo,

Thoughtful Blonde