For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a thug. Not a for real thug but the kind of person who was not easily bothered by just anything. I’ve wanted to be the kind of person who could have life happen and be able to maintain an emotional distance to what’s happening. I used to watch movies like The Godfather when I was growing up, fascinated by the conflicted nature of the characters and their abilities to be tender in one moment and completely heartless in the next moment. I always wanted to emulate that duality to a certain extent in my own dealings, but alas…that’s not how I’m built.
One of the biggest parts of this whole growing up thing is becoming comfortable with how my life does not fit into those prescribed lines. Whereas at one point my life looked like the coloring book where all the colors were perfectly maintained within the lines, my life now looks like a coloring page would look if I gave my one year niece some crayons. I’m not talking about what life has necessarily thrown at me; I’m speaking more to how I’ve reacted to life. I’ve discovered that it was way easier for me to make the “right” decision when I was on a tight leash or under the close and watchful eyes of my parents.
And that’s one of my biggest issues right now. There has been a tremendous amount of shame that has accompanied my development from the girl who was obsessed with doing the right thing to the woman who has truly struggled with the limits of humanity and the limits of her “righteousness”. “Making up in your mind to do the right thing” is not hard when people are clocking your every move and there are restrictions placed on you so much so that doing the right thing isn’t even a choice. But I’ve struggled immensely with where I was and where I now find myself and I question how I got here often.
In recent conversations I’ve had with friends, I’ve been slowly sharing more about what my life looks like behind closed doors. For as much as people feel like I share, I am fiercely guarded. So it’s been amazing that as I have become more open, people have opened up with me about their own experiences. I don’t think I ever realized how much being that sanitized version of Ashley kept me from really getting to know people on a deeper level.
With all of the internal drama I’ve had in trying to figure out who I am OK with being, one reminder from some close friends has stuck out in my mind lately. And that reminder is that: it is OK to recognize who you are and who you are not, despite what everyone else is doing. That sounds like an elementary principle to grasp but it’s amazing how many of us adults still struggle with this. I see it in the most subtle of ways. I feel it within myself.
But it’s perfectly fine to remind yourself “…that’s not you though” not as a tool of self-shame or to force you back into the box of people’s expectations but as a reminder to be content with who you are and how you are evolving. Who you are and who you are becoming is part of the journey and will be a large part of your purpose and destiny.
I may never be a Michael Corleone but I’m learning to be alright with being Ashley Burton. Her complexity drives her beauty and that’s who I am.