Listen To Where Life Is Trying To Take You
Life has a funny way of taking us places we never would have imagined. From my experience, if you listen and follow along, those places can be much better than what you originally planned. I sit here writing this story on the train from Madrid to Almeria, Spain which is my current home for 9 months.
If someone had told me “Ashley, in three years you will be living in Spain teaching English”, I would have laughed and argued a truth I thought was perceivably real at that time. Three years ago I was in my senior year at college, finishing a degree in Business and Apparel and had every intention of moving to New York to grab the bull by the horns with fashion. I had always been a goal setter, hard worker and determined person.
But in the fall of my senior year, my life changed. I was struggling horribly with a break-up from the guy I spent my college career dependently dating. I lost my identity in the process. I moved in with girls who were nice but I had never been friends with. All of this made me feel alone and unknown. It was during that time that memories of a previous traumatic experience came rushing forward and I started dealing with post-traumatic stress. The foundations in my life crumbled and I began to spiral into a deep depression. I was crying daily, and had no idea who I was anymore. I began to struggle with thoughts of suicide and didn’t see a clear path for what my future was.
But somehow within the mess of it all, I heard a voice that was telling me “Don’t let this current situation define your life. Rise above it.”
In high school I dreamt of living in Italy and decided that this was the time I could make that happen. Studying abroad was still an option for me and I was desperate to get away from my current situation. So the summer after my senior year, before having to get a “big girl job” I lived in Florence, Italy for three months. It was in Italy that I had the chance to start over, redefine who I was, make new friends etc. I got to see life from a new perspective, which was everything I needed– all the while drinking Tuscan wine, visiting world class art museums and eating the world’s best gelato. I loved the culture in Europe and I never wanted to leave. I cried the whole way to the airport when I had to return home.
But once I got home I knew it was time to use my degree, find a job and settle into adulthood. That’s when I began to work as a personal stylist at Nordstrom in Seattle and attempt to climb the corporate ladder. But it was in that experience I learned that climbing the corporate ladder in America wasn’t going to make me happy and selling someone a new pair of shoes wasn’t benefiting their life on a deeper level. I felt a compelling need to help people in a genuine way and I day dreamt of Italy, talking about it to any customer I could. I had to return to Europe. So 9 months into my potential career with an amazing Seattle based company, I quit my job to go back to Europe with teaching English as my vehicle for getting there. I went to school on the weekends to get a TEFL certificate (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) and began researching my options for moving back abroad.
After applying to over 30 jobs in Europe, and countless days of uncertainty with where I was going in life, I ended up with a teaching position in Spain. So many people thought I was running away from home to escape my problems; but in the year between working at Nordstrom and moving to Europe, I let go of the life that I thought I wanted and began living one that was truer to who I am. In that year, I started working for Women For One, a community whose mission is to help women globally, I strengthened my relationships with girlfriends, started volunteering as an ESL teacher in Seattle and met a genuine guy who supported me, my dreams and encouraged me to make them a reality (he’s now here in Spain too).
So here I am back in Europe learning new lessons that life has to throw my way. Three years ago this was never the life that I imagined for myself, its better. I truly believe that what you want to accomplish is possible with vision and effort. It may also look much different from what you originally planned. Knowing that I manifested this reality is such an empowering feeling and it’s something that is available to all of us. At any point, we have the power to change course in life and it doesn’t always require making a big move like I did. But if you listen to where life is trying to take you, you could be surprised on how things turn out.