Dear Stevo…

This time last year, I was struggling really hard to figure out what to write. I would start writing and press delete. I have a folder labelled ‘Homeless’ for all my half-written documents that don’t have a place on this page yet. Anne Lamott, wrote that whenever she struggled with writer’s block, she would open a new document and write a letter to her brother called Stevo. Just addressing your words to one person can make all the difference, so I tried writing a letter to Stevo as well.

I’ve attached my letter below because a) reading back, I think it’s funny and b) for the aspiring writers that follow me, I think it’s important to reveal that the writing process isn’t linear or pretty. We often need a guy called Stevo to prompt us into action. This letter eventually turned into this official post about my birthday last year.

Whether you’re a writer, student, or it’s the first time you’ve come across my words, I hope you’re inspired to start writing letters, and that you know you are so worth celebrating.

Dear Stevo,

I’m struggling to write the words on the page because I don’t know what to write about. That’s a lie – I do know what I want to write about, but the words aren’t flowing. Anne Lamott told me to write a letter to you whenever I’m stuck, so here we are.

Perfectionism is my big thing. I’m still not sure what my voice is. And I still have to scroll through the words of someone else to get my inspiration. I wonder if I’m really going to make it and if this will be worth it. But damm it- I have to try!

There are two pieces I want to write for this week. One is for the girl who doesn’t feel like she’s worth being celebrated. Who doesn’t feel like she’s worth people rallying around her and celebrating her. Why does she feel that way? Probably because people didn’t really show up for her in the past. Or maybe birthday’s weren’t a big thing in the family. Plus she doesn’t believe very good things about herself. What I would say to her is that her birthday is special, irrespective of who is or isn’t showing up. It’s the day she came into the world with fists raised, ready to leave a mark on the world. On the day she opened her eyes, lives changed. I would tell her that there are some years that may not feel like a big deal- like at 15. You’ll wait in anticipation for the big ones like 18 or 21 only to wonder why nothing special is happening. But some years you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

You don’t need the big party to feel loved. I woke up on my 21st wishing I had my community around me. But the flat pulled through for you. The night ended and you’ll learn that things pull together at the last minute. The right people will pull through.

I’d tell her that every inch of her is worth celebrating. That even if it feels like the world doesn’t care she’s still worth celebrating. There are years where it’ll feel eventful and everyone is gathered round waiting for the glitz, glam and sparkle. And there’ll be years where you’ll have to be the sparkle. You’ll have to be your own cheerleader and learn to celebrate yourself. You’re going to have to figure out how to love on and celebrate yourself before you can invite anyone else to do it for you.

I remember when people didn’t want to make the effort to show up. I remember when people showed up and made the day about them. Irrespective of who does or doesn’t show up, it doesn’t lower your capacity to be celebrated.

A year ago, in the days leading up to 21, Slumpy took up residence in my heart and telling me that there wouldn’t be anything special this year either, and left me feeling heavy. I was miles away from my community back home, we were caught up in the rush to submit assignments, forgotten.  21 is placed on a pedestal yet nothing felt special.

You’re allowed to be sentimental on your birthday and be all up in your feelings like a Drake song.

The flat pulled together to rally around me at the last minute. The guys made an emergency trip to Tesco to buy a decadent cake topped with Maltesers. We used cigarette lighters as makeshift candles, and a single balloon found at the bottom of a show bag was inflated to celebrate the first year into my 20s. Afterwards, we caught the bus into the city where I rode my first mechanic bull and danced the night away as fake snow rained down on our heads.  It was a rushed, last minute, affair, but it was enough. 

All this to say that if a single shred of you has ever wondered whether you are worthy of being celebrated, hear me when I say you are, you are, you are.

Notes On Nostalgia

I studied Psychology briefly while I was in high school.

 There, I learnt how our brain stores memories like jigsaw puzzles dumped on the floor. Every time we try to remember something, our brain searches for the relevant pieces and binds them together to form a memory.

What’s fascinating is how our memories don’t stay fixed forever. Instead, each time a memory reassembles, we inadvertently start to alter them. Since we can’t possibly remember every single, tiny detail of our past, our brain fills in the gaps by borrowing pieces from our imagination and our emotions until suddenly, you end up with a slightly skewed version of events.  It’s why you and your best friend can experience the same event and remember vastly different things. Or why eyewitness testimonies often contradict each other.

This psych lesson floated back into my mind recently when a reader asked me to write about loss and nostalgia. As someone who spends a lot of time thinking about the past, I understand the longing we feel when memories of old friends and relationships resurface.

All of us have experienced the loss of friends, estranged family members, and people who no longer fit into our lives. But, thanks to social media, we’re still connected to every single one of them. We see their updates pop up on our feed. We can type their name into the search bar and get lost scrolling through the highlight of their lives. After a while, we may even begin to wonder: what if they were still in my life?

Last year, memories of a past relationship would occasionally crop up during random, quiet moments. I would sit down at my desk to work only to wonder what they’d think about how much I’ve grown. If I ever visited places that we used to hang out, I would think back to the times we spent together or the stories we used to share. Dozens of questions would swirl around my mind. Did they ever think about me? Would we have lasted if we’d been better people? What would I ever say if I saw them again?

You’d think I was talking about someone I’d known for years. In reality, it was a short-lived fling and ended like most of my previous dalliances: crashing and burning.

That’s the funny thing about nostalgia. It’s like those filters on Snapchat that gives you flawless skin and makes you look lit from within; a picture of perfection you wish you could emulate every day. Every time I recalled those memories, I continued to add the filter over and over again. While my brain was reconstructing the pieces, I inadvertently wove in details I wished had happened. I repressed the cringey moments and glossed over the crashing and burning. I focused on the emotionally high parts of our relationship blurred out the lows. Before I knew it, my glossy, filtered version of events became the new memory and I started to feel the longing for those ‘good old days.’

When I confided these thoughts to someone else, they challenged me to remember the event exactly as it transpired; no filter added. Without the gloss, the reality was bleak, cringey and made me remember why we never worked in the first place. I had been longing for a fantasy that never actually existed.

My favourite author describes it like this: “I’m in awe of the way we romanticise the things we willingly left behind when the present moment starts testing us.”

I think that’s the most accurate depiction of how we operate. When things start to get hard, we seek solace in our memories by adding a filter and creating a picture-perfect past.  

Be honest, how often have you thought back to an ex while you were in the thick of singleness?

Or, how about when you start to miss your old job because your new boss is turning up the pressure?

Perhaps you’ve thought about going back to old friends because the loneliness of the present moment is just too stifling.

Suddenly, we believe we were better off settling for the things we left behind.

I’ve definitely been guilty of letting my memories of the past hurt my ability to be present. I’ve let the ‘what if’s’ distract me from my current blessings and feel anxious from discontentment.

I think we have to be careful how much nostalgia we feel over the people and events in our past. When we’re the ones who walked away, we have to draw a balance between forgiving people who’ve hurt us and recognising there’s a reason they aren’t in our lives anymore. If we’re not careful, we may force open doors that God intended to stay close.

Don’t get me wrong; you’re allowed to look back at your past and marvel over how much you’ve grown. You can recall old memories and reminisce about the relationships that were near and dear to you. You can wonder how people are and wish them well no matter what they did to you.

But, at the end of the day, we have to be careful how much weight we put on our memories. We can either spend your days caught up in a fantasy or we can say ‘I’m going to make the most out of the present.’

Encouraging you always,

Ash x

The Comeback

It’s been more than a hot minute since I’ve showed up in your inbox or on your screen.

When I first started publishing my words, I made a huge promise that I wasn’t going to flake out and ghost this corner of the internet. But life has a way of interrupting and tossing aside our best laid plans.

A break that was intended to only last a week turned into two. Two weeks turned into two months, and soon, I wasn’t even thinking about writing for myself anymore.   

I love to think of every single one of you as my friends. People that I’d love to have coffee with, shake off the façade, and just talk about anything and everything. So, for new and old readers, it’s only fair I give you a brief life update.

In the time I’ve been away, I’ve become one half of a couple and am still learning to get used to the title of ‘girlfriend.’

I interned at an amazing creative agency which solidified my desire to continue working in the creative world.

I learnt how to be a better copywriter and manage a group of creative freelancers.

But in all the hustle and excitement, my creativity was suffering.

As much as I love writing about how we should kick fear’s butt or just keep going, I find it incredibly hard to listen to my own advice.

Every time I sat in front of a blank page and tried to write, fear would wrap his icy grip around my heart and tell me to stop.

 Mental blocks would come crashing down any time I tried to string two sentences together.

I stressed that people found it annoying whenever I spoke about my writing on social media.

I started to feel ‘silly’ whenever I thought about prospective employers or clients reading my work.  

I’m willing to bet that maybe you’ve felt this way too. Like, nothing you do will ever be as good as you want it to be. Like, maybe it’s pointless to keep sharing your craft with the world. Or perhaps your voice isn’t strong enough to cut through the noise.

***

I saw one of my favourite artist-writers in the flesh six months ago.

My creativity was at an all-time low. I could barely stand to look at a blank page or even think about what to write next, let alone show up on a weekly basis.

So, when this Brooklyn artist posted that he was giving a talk on my side of the world, I bucked up, scraped together the money for admission, and went off in pursuit of inspiration.

His talk was even better than I’d imagined.

Beneath his inappropriate jokes and crazy anecdotes, was a guy who truly understood what it meant to create. That it wasn’t necessarily about validation or being the best but doing it because we can. In this day and age, we have the power to express ourselves however we want and we shouldn’t waste it.

I realised I had been creating content solely to please other people and live up to their expectations of me. I’d let the fear of other people’s opinions dictate how I was writing and whether I chose to share it with the world.  Playing by other people’s rules may push you forward in the short term. But doing things for yourself because it truly brings you joy? Now that’s the golden ticket, babe.

After 90 minutes of dropping convicting truth bombs, the artist ended with this: “You are a tool, so you better get to work.”

It slammed into me and reminded me that I had been gifted with this platform. I’d been gifted an affinity to string words together and tell stories in a way only I can. And what a pity it would be if I let it all stay buried under my fear and insecurity of not being good enough.

So now, I’m passing this pep talk onto you, sweet reader.

You can either worry about what people are saying, or you can put your head down and create anyway.

You can either stress about the lack of inspiration, or you can try to find it in the people you meet, the movies you watch, or the books you read.

You can either be anxious about the fact that not everyone will like the things you create, or you can realise that there’s a unique group of people who need your talents.

You are a tool, so focus on your craft and just keep on going.

You never know who needs your gifts…


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Success and All His ‘Friends’

I watched Bohemian Rhapsody last week.

When I first saw the trailer, I remember swearing that I wouldn’t pay money to see it because it didn’t seem like my type of movie. But then life, with its funny sense of humour, dropped 4 free tickets into my inbox to see it at the Open-Air Cinema. Side note: I ended up loving the movie so much I watched it again the very next night.

As we curled up on a picnic blanket and watched Freddie Mecury transition from baggage handler at Heathrow to the lead singer of Queen, I remember wondering, ‘When is the drama going to start?’ The first 30 minutes felt like a montage of him reaching milestone after milestone. He became lead singer, got the girl, landed an international tour and become world renowned, all within 5 years.

Even though Freddie and Queen were pursuing a vastly different goals than I was, I couldn’t help but feel little aches and twinges inside as I wondered why certain things hadn’t unfolded just as easily or quickly for me. Anyone with lofty dreams and big goals knows that having high aspirations comes with conditions attached. Namely, the self-doubt and anxiety that asks: Why aren’t things happening quickly for me? Why am I not there? How come I’m not as successful yet?

I want to pause and say that I know the producers probably didn’t have time to show all the initial striving and disappointments in Queen’s first five years. And surely it wasn’t as easy as I’ve described. But sometimes I think that’s all we see when we look at other people’s lives. At a distance, we only get to watch the highlight reel of someone else’s life and a surface level indication of the challenges they’ve faced. As a result, it can be really easy to doubt our capabilities and wonder if good things are only reserved for others.

From the outside, life really looked like it was coming together for Freddie Mercury.

Until it all fell apart.

The drama erupted halfway through the film when Freddie had to wrestle with the choices he’d made and his identity. I don’t want to ruin the plot, but anyone who’s aware of his life knows there was a point where everything came crashing down.

I heard someone say that becoming ‘successful’ opens you up to more vulnerabilities. That behind all the glitz and glamour, you have to deal with the side-effects of being in the public eye or having more responsibilities. The higher you climb, the further you fall. The bigger you get, the more public opinion you’ll inevitably attract. You’ll wonder if certain friends are genuine or just wanting a slice of the pie, and you’ll clash with people who don’t have the same vision as you.

Hearing that and watching Freddie’s character fall apart on the screen got me thinking that maybe I’m not ‘there’ yet because my character needs to be developed first. A lot of us fantasise about what it’d be like once we become successful, but we don’t stop to ask if the person we are today can handle the consequences of getting everything we want.

Obtaining the dream doesn’t transform us into someone different. We’re still the same person with the same insecurities and flaws. If we can’t handle rejection now, we won’t magically be able to handle it once we’ve made it. If we attach our worth to what people think of us, it’ll only magnify once we reach our version of success.

Getting somewhere too fast, too soon can attract a bunch of gate-crashers to a party with poor security. Left unchecked, Depression can slip in and drain your energy. Anxiety invites all his other friends, like Imposter Syndrome. They can squash you and your good intentions so you can’t remember why you started in the first place.  

While it can be easy for me to get trapped in my feelings and get salty about why I’m not where I want to be, I also know that I don’t want to be someone who crashes and burns once I reach my goals. Maybe all the waiting and the lengthy distance between our goals is so we can be ready to handle the ‘consequences’ come attached with my success. Because the good and the bad always come as a package deal. Above all, I want to be faithful with the little I have now before I ask for more.

It’s a hard sentence to process when someone says, ‘maybe you’re not ready yet.’ I’d be lying if I said I handle that thought with grace and poise. In reality, I throw mini temper tantrums because it feels like everything I’m doing isn’t enough.

Someone is probably going to read this and ask, ‘But when will I be ready?’ And the truth is, I don’t know. No one else will be able to know but you. You’ll most likely hate this answer, because I did when someone else said the same thing to me two days ago. But it’s true.

Being ready isn’t a destination you arrive at. No one hands you a certificate that says ‘You Made It.’ There’s no map that marks X as the spot and the trail you use to get there. A map implies that there’s a chance you’ll go the wrong direction. But no matter how long or slow it takes, or what path you choose, everything that’s happening is refining you into the person you’re supposed to be when things do fall into place.

It’s easy to discount the places where we feel like we’re moving backwards or are stagnant. I remember having dinner with a friend last year who told me there was a time where it felt like absolutely nothing was happening for her.

“A few months ago, I landed this job, then aced this comp, and figured out what I wanted to do. And now I feel like nothing’s happening and I’m not moving forward. I just want to go back to those months where I was kicking goal after goal and winning at life,” she told me.

What I wished I’d said back then was that it’s easy to desire this idea of always jumping from one mountaintop to the other. It’s easy to crave the cheap thrill of a victory over and over again. But it doesn’t work like that. We eventually have to come down from the mountaintop and live our life in the valley in-between. Because it’s in our everyday life that we get to encounter all the things that’s going to prepare and equip us for the next victory we’re about to have. Your valley may be teaching you how to be patient with people or how to handle your finances. It may give you the opportunity to be a follower so you’ll know how to be an effective leader. And what a pity it would be if you missed all that gold because you were too busy chasing after accolades and validation.

Instead of wondering why we aren’t there yet, we have to appreciate the valley we’re in and trust it’s preparing us for the next level. So for the people who are going to read this then go back to scrolling and feeling discouraged, know that your mountaintop moment will come again soon and you’re exactly where you need to be.

THE WEDNESDAY CLUB

Hey you,

I see you struggling to get through Humpday. It’s this dreaded, in-between, mess of a day where time slows to a crawl and your weekend is delayed. Let’s be honest- nothing exciting ever happens to anyone on a Wednesday…

Except if you’re part of the Wednesday Club!

In just a click, you can look forward to me showing up in your inbox with a sprinkle of confetti and encouragement to make Humpday fly by so you’re closer to dancing on the weekends. 

I won’t be like your flaky Tinder date. I’ll show up on time, every time, with insightful conversation, fun stories & a mission to leave you feeling inspired.

So what are you waiting for? Subscribe below and I’ll see you in your inbox next Wednesday!

Enter your email to receive confetti and encouragement in your inbox every Humpday!

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Signed, Sealed, Delivered:: A note on Valentine’s Day

The tradition began in 2017.

I used to work for a global flower company, so I know just how crazy the world can get over Valentine’s Day. Nearly every industry hops in to capitalise on your emotions and convince you that you aren’t doing enough. It’s hard to escape from the reminders about LOVE and incredibly easy to feel overlooked. No matter how many times you tell yourself ‘it’s just another day,’ it can be hard to bury the feelings of loneliness and longing that threaten to rise up.

So two years ago I visited an indie stationary shop to find the pun-iest cards I could and scribbled a love letter to the friends who may be feeling overlooked. I licked stamps and posted it snail-mail style to their homes so they would have something special to wake up to on the 14th.

Sending out cards with handcrafted messages and knowing that someone was going to feel seen, encouraged and loved, has surprisingly become my favourite tradition of the year. If I could, I’d write every lonely heart that stumbles onto my page a handwritten letter that lets you know how utterly brilliant and significant I think you are. But all the stationary in the world wouldn’t be able to do it justice.

So here’s my digital letter to you.  


Hey you,

Firstly, you’re allowed to feel like punching the person who patronises you for being sad about your singleness. All of a sudden it feels like everyone becomes an expert when it comes to why you don’t have a partner. “Read more books,” someone once told me, as if the answers to my singleness could be found by flipping through endless pages. Although they carry good intentions, people can inadvertently say the wrong things when you open up about your dating struggles. They’ll question and pull apart everything about you such as whether you’re searching too much, if you’re putting yourself out there enough or if your relationship is right with God. Soon all you end up with is a laundry list full of inadequacies and all the ways you don’t measure up.

Be hyper-intentional about who you choose to be vulnerable with. Limit it to the people who know what to say to make you feel better and politely ignore the ones who hold out measuring sticks and point out why you aren’t enough. If you’re the type of person that needs a permission slip, let this be it: You’re allowed to feel sad, you’re allowed to feel lonely, you’re enough as you are. Your relationship status is not a reflection on you or whatever faith you hold.

I know how tempting it is to break out the spreadsheets and analyse why you haven’t been lucky yet or why someone who you secretly think isn’t as great as you are, managed to find their person first. But doing so will only drive you crazy and fuel the lie that good things are reserved for everyone else but you.

When I first moved into my new house, everything looked brand-spanking new from the outside and my friends gushed over how lucky I was to live in such a beautiful place.

“This house is such goals,” a friend squealed as I gave her a tour.

But upon closer inspection, we realised the builders had left behind some pretty significant flaws. Small ones at first, like a badly done paint job and a few missing tiles. But soon they were bigger issues, like misaligned kitchen cabinets and a horrifically constructed fence.

In the same way, it was really easy for me to assume that everyone’s relationship was perfect when I was scrolling through their Insta feed or looking from afar. But once I became privy to the intimate details of the relationship and found out what was really happening behind the scenes, I quickly learned that the reality didn’t quite match the picture-perfect version that was being portrayed online. All that to say, you have no idea what’s happening beneath the surface of someone else’s relationship or their life. You have no idea if the couples you’re admiring are in it for the long run or dating for dating’s sake. Although other people’s stories may be happening right now, hold onto the hope that soon, so will yours.

When I get really caught up in my feelings, I like to cave in to the belief that I’m too messy for anybody great to handle. It’s taken a lot of good friends to show me that this was another one of those bullshit lies our mind likes to offer up sometimes. We all think that we’re messy or too much or not enough to ever find someone who could fit us. But show me someone who is too much of a mess, and I’ll show you someone who dared to take in a chance in Life.

Years ago, I read someone say that they would rather have their heart cut and bleeding over the floor after daring to take a risk, than have it standing perfectly cold and pristine in the corner. I clung onto this so tightly and it’s become my favourite encouragement to give to anyone who’s wondering if the pain will ever go away. The messy ones are the ones that are warm, and brave and dared to put their heart on their sleeve. They are the ones to be admired. So don’t go adding it to the list of reasons why you’re not enough.

The person you are now is not the person you were two years ago, last month or even yesterday. You are forever growing and transforming, and so is your person.

As someone who used to be a secret writer of various YA fiction, I know that my most well-received stories are the ones where the protagonist has undergone great character development. Where they’ve experienced hardships or encountered obstacles that ultimately prepare them for the story line that’s about to unfold.

And I like to think that’s how each of our stories will pan out. Everything we’re doing, and everything that’s happening to us, is ultimately refining us into the person we’re supposed to be when we meet our significant other. I don’t have a timeline for you but when they come, you’ll be in your element, and he’ll be in his.

Above all, I know that there’s a well of untapped love and affection inside of you that you’re waiting to lavish on the right person. I used to hoard the amount of love I had, as if there was only a limited quantity I could offer the world. I’d go about my day and think about all the crazy date ideas and gifts I would get my person when he finally graced my doorstep, and I’d keep it all to myself just waiting and waiting.  

It was a long time before I realised that this was a scarcity mentality. You are not a squirrel that has to store nuts to survive in the Winter, and who has to bare your teeth at anyone who comes near your stash of love. You are a human being that’s been designed with an overwhelming capacity to love others.

The best thing I’ve ever done for myself on this romantic holiday & even on regular days, was to pour the love I’d reserved for my person, onto others. It was deciding that although they hadn’t come into my life yet, I wasn’t going to sit around and let my compassion for people wither away and grow bitter in the dark. Instead, I was going to show up and love others the best way I could. And if words and feelings are the best way I can serve people, then so be it.

The reality is that we’re broken humans living in a broken world. There are people who need you to see them. Like really see them. Like get -down-in- the- mud-and-look-at-them-in the eye type of see them. And what a shame it would be if we missed the people who really need us, all because we believed our love was only worthy of the romantic kind.

Because here’s the kicker:

Your love is not reserved for your significant other.

Your love has the ability to mend wounds and spark hope.

It is capable of inspiring encouragement and reminding people to keep pressing forward.

So on a day where the pressure is on to have the best, most Instagrammable moment, let’s bring it back to love.

Encouraging you always,

Ash x

Know anyone feeling angsty about V-Day? Show them love and forward this letter to them x

THE WEDNESDAY CLUB

Everyone struggles to get through Humpday. It’s this dreaded, in-between, mess of a day where time slows to a crawl and your weekend is delayed. Let’s be honest- nothing exciting ever happens to anyone on a Wednesday…

Except if you’re part of the Wednesday Club!

In just a click, you can look forward to me showing up in your inbox with a sprinkle of confetti and encouragement to make Humpday fly by so you’re closer to dancing on the weekends. 

I won’t be like your flaky Tinder date. I’ll show up on time, every time, with insightful conversation, fun stories & a mission to leave you feeling inspired.

So what are you waiting for? Subscribe below and I’ll see you next Wednesday!

Enter your email to receive confetti and encouragement in your inbox every Humpday!

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