I heard the television while I was hiding in the dark kitchen. The growl of the crowd was audible from the tv speakers but my thoughts were so chaotic that I was able to slightly tune out the noise. I lifted my left arm above my face and with my right hand nearing my left armpit, I waved up and down, up and down, ushering air to cool me off. My body twitched, stomach bubbled. The hairs on my arm were like magnets reaching out for the magnetic space beside me. The suspense was too much for me to watch. I didn’t even want to listen. I brought my hands up to my ears, plugged my fingers inside and started humming. All I heard was my alto voice shaking out some random melody until I was interrupted by a screech from the nearby living room. “Eeeeeeek. Y’all won!” I didn’t believe her. But she meant it. And she even sounded excited. Gloria didn’t care for Texas but she told me that she would be an honorary Longhorn for the night. She ended up being my eyes in the last minute or so of the game. When I heard her shouting, I went into the living room, gliding on the slick tile as I tried to gather my thoughts. I regretted ever going into the kitchen.
I grabbed the TiVo remote and pushed hastily on the rewind button. “Fourth and five, the National Championship on the Line.” The time on the clock ticks down from twenty-six seconds. Vince Young jogs into the endzone, untouched.
Whatever it was that I felt is almost impossible to describe. I know that I felt my body shutter, as if I had just stepped outside of it. Or maybe, the Ashleys in several other dimensions were celebrating the same moment, that same play, and the dimensions had all lined up and transferred the energy that each of those Ashleys experienced. The touchdown that changed my life. Before that touchdown, I had never been able to feel pride, satisfaction, dreams, spirit, drama, and passion all at the same time.
Sometimes, people find it silly that I tell them that the Rose Bowl win is my most cherished memory in my entire life. “It’s just a game,” some say. And If I wouldn’t have left the house that night it is possible that I might agree. But I did leave.
The second I left my house I felt electricity in every inch of the ground, every molecule of the air in Austin, Texas. The electricity seemed like it traveled from car to car. People celebrating with musical car horn honks, radios playing “The Eyes of Texas” on repeat, throwing their hands out of the window- all fingers in a fist, except the pinky and finger, red lights meaning it was time to stick our heads out of our sun roofs and shout “HOOK ‘EM!” to the heavens!
It was this way the entire night, from my place in south Austin all the way to the 40 acres. The most exciting traffic jam ever. Screaming random “hook ‘ems” to fellow classmates through my Civic windows, everyone clad in burnt orange, painted faces with longhorn stickers on their cheeks, classmates I would never know by name, but would always know in spirit.
We were all going to the same place, drawn to it with such magnetic energy, without even really thinking about where we were going. We just knew. When I had the opportunity, I parked my car, lifted my head up high into the air- and there it was. Majestic, towering, burnt orange with a line of windows lit in the shape of the number one.
I am a monster who hides behind a smile. I imitate and mock but my facade is weak. Some see through it yet I do not unveil the mask. They know, a smile covers up a frown but the eyes cannot be disguised.
A frail moment of truth could slip my veil, expose monstrosity. ”Hide, ugly creature, to save the fright! Hide to save a nasty discovery!”
The stares and suspicion will not uncover me! I am the only individual capable of exposing such horror.
“Stay strong, use might! Surrender to no one!”
Though I shout encouragement, thoughts of doubt crowd my head. They swarm like bees and sting all courage. I feel a tear behind my head. The tie slips, slides, the mask has fallen.
He who hesitates is lost -proverb
The trick is to know the difference between using hesitation as a strength and using hesitation as a weakness. Knowing the difference between the two is what it takes to find your destination.
Hesitation is a strength when facing confrontation. It is a strength when you are weighing the choices you encounter and the roads they lead to. It is a strength when it prevents physical harm.
Hesitation is not a strength when it causes failure. It is not a strength when it causes lasting fear. It is not a strength when it turns your soul timid or frail.
Hesitate your unruly forces but do not hesitate if it prevents you from even a glimmer of happiness.
You’ll find yourself lost when hesitation is an excuse preventing you from exploring. But in order to explore, you must use your internal compass, and that is your heart.
No sleep tonight …not when I close my eyes and feel his warmth radiating on my cold skin. Hot breath warms my forehead. His wet lip momentarily touches my eyebrow. My head slowly moves up and down, up and down with his chest …his breath is for me. With me. His whiskers prickle and jab my cheek. Just enough to turn my cheek pink. I feel his hard chest muscles beneath my chin yet I’d prefer it over any pillow. I crave for his arm to squeeze me tighter. Not too tender, I like his power. I give him full authority over my body tonight. I will let him own me. When he grips me, he is my shield. His steel legs lay firmly beneath my thigh. He’s tangled in my leg grip. I own him with lust but also with the tenderness a woman possesses. He moves and I glide with him. There’s no leaving my side. I’m fastened to him so tightly that he has no choice. He’s mine and I am his. For 7 more hours we are a part of each other. Entangled in each other’s limbs, sweating despite the glacial temperature in the room. I fear the rising of the sun because I know that shortly after we will separate our bodies. His body makes me feel like a woman. It makes me tremble, but a tremble so good that I embrace the unease it causes. I yearn it. I need it. If only he was real.
I am a penny. I’m dirtied, smashed and lodged in dark places. I am kicked on the ground and washed away by the storms. I am ugly, ignored and told I’m worth nothing. I’m thrown away or put in a place where I wait to be used.
I seek a place where I’m appreciated. But I’m just passed on from hand to hand, usually when there are no others to take my place. I am a forgotten thing, only recognized in times of great desperation.
Take heed: you do not find what you do not seek. - English Proverb
What do you seek? Many would say happiness but of course that’s the most vague of responses. How do you seek it? It’s an answer we all wish to know.
When seeking answers to such a heavy question, what is the first step you take to fulfill that yearning to know? We answer these questions differently throughout our lives or base the response on our attitudes in the moment it is sought.
When you answer this question today, realize that the answer is never final. Realize that it is worthy of deep thought because what you seek in life becomes who you are and who you will be.
Seek greatness. Seek compassion. Seek happiness, but know exactly what that happiness should come from. Make sure you seek something that is realistic and true to your character but make it a goal to achieve, not an answer you believe you can settle for. Don’t make a goal that is unworthy of work. Seek a challenge so that you can evaluate yourself throughout the journey.
It’s been said time and time again, the journey is the best part. But why? Because it’s a lifetime of lessons. Why are lessons important? Because the lessons are the best way of getting to know yourself in your form now but also adapting to the inevitable change you encounter.
If this is true, it means that you will probably never know yourself. Being a stranger to yourself is a horrifying thought. But not knowing who you are because of the changing world should not be scary. It is enlightening. Ironic? Yes! But it’s something we should embrace to avoid boredom or discontent. If you are always a creature of change, know that this is what makes you human. Being a person in this sense means you are capable of more immediate change. You are capable of things you don’t even know you are capable of. This IS because you don’t ever really know you. What a beautiful concept.
So what you should seek is not yourself. Seek the self you want to be and not who you are now. Because if you seek the you at this moment, you are doomed to life of past, a life of regret, a life of disappointment. When you seek who you should be, you can’t ever disappoint yourself. If you are seeking who you should be, you will find it easier to hope. You will allow yourself to know that you are not a failure. You are always a work in progress!