Life in the Fast Lane

WHAT A WILD WEEK.

I am currently sitting at the airport in Minneapolis, waiting for my flight home. My anxiety is high because of the meetings I have tomorrow–yeah, I have meetings! Can’t really tell ya anymore about that, but I’m pretty stoked about it. But after five days in the car, seeing both the most boring and most beautiful sights across the western half of the United States, I’m ready for anything.

Let me walk you through–or should I say drive you through–my week…

Monday

Amy, my favorite adventuring buddy, moved out of her apartment in SLO (forever!!) and drove down to Burbank to meet me. We went to Universal Studios for a very successful half day of movie magic excursions. Really all we wanted to see was Harry Potter World and the studio tour, but we walked around a lot and did a few other things. Overall, it was fun, and a great start to our road trip.

Tuesday

At a reasonable morning hour, Amy and I set out for Utah. It was going to be a fairly long drive, but I was ready for it. It was crazy that the only traffic we hit was in Las Vegas, when usually, I feel like I’m always in traffic in LA. But this drive was no LA, just lots and lots of land.

We didn’t stop in Vegas because of the traffic (and a dust storm we saw on the other side of the freeway), so we powered through to a bit outside the city, where we stopped for lunch. With one more stop a bit closer to our destination for food and gas, we finally made it our first stop: Zion National Park!

I’d never been to Utah before, so I was excited to check another state off my list. Plus, I got to see some amazing views while I was there. We didn’t do much that first evening except check out the gift shop and get dinner, but I could already tell what a beautiful morning we were going to have the next day. The view from our room alone was pretty great.

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Even though it was a million and ten degrees and not much cooler at night, it was a nice evening. We drank a bit of wine and watched the stars. You could see so many out there! Which wasn’t surprising, but still awesome. There were so many deer out on the lawn too. There was also the bit of adrenaline that comes with starting a new adventure in my bones.

Wednesday

We had an early start so we could hike a bit and then get on the road at a reasonable hour. The Emerald Pools hike was recommended to us by Amy’s mom, by the guidebook, and by my friend Lauren who also happened to be in Zion at the same time as us, so we decided that was our best bet.

Luckily, it was more of a walk to the lower and middle pools, which was great. It was going to be a hundred degree day, so a minimal effort trail was perfect. We also got splashed a bit from the waterfall, and that made all the difference.

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The upper pool was pretty close, but it was a bit more uphill. We had time, though, so we thought, “Why not?” Well, let me tell you, it was not what I was expecting. It was rocky with a decently steep incline. And it was hot. Unlike the leisurely walk we had just done, this was like hiking Bishop Peak in SLO–essentially large rocky stairs. But it was only .3 miles according to the sign, we told ourselves. I am panting just thinking about how long it actually seemed. I thought we would never make it, but alas, there it was! It was pretty crowded, though, so we hung back in the shade, where we could sit on the rocks and just relax for a bit.

The view on the way there and back though? Now that was awesome. It looked like a painting. I couldn’t believe that a river formed those red rock mountains. So vast and beautiful. Just…wow. I definitely want to go back and check out more trails–but I will go more prepared next time. And maybe not during the summer.

We were on the road by one and off to the next place: Grand Junction, CO. We made it in time to have a late dinner at a cute diner, where we got free pie! And there was a pool and hot tub, which was the most needed thing after our hike. What. A. Day.

Thursday

This day was mostly a driving day. Our destination was Cheyenne, WY, which, as cute as it was, was just…not a destination. But I’ll get to that in a bit.

We left pretty early, and soon we were in the Rocky Mountains, something I’ve definitely always wanted to see up close. Let me tell you, it was pretty wild! They were gorgeous, and I couldn’t believe how green they were. Anything green outside of the months of March through early May seems fake to me, a Southern California native. But wow.

We stopped in Vail, CO, and I could tell immediately when getting out of the car how dehydrated I was. I didn’t drink too much water so that we wouldn’t have to stop too many times, but it really hit me when we got to a town where the elevation was over 8,000 feet. I was winded going up one flight of stairs in the parking lot! But the village was so cute and I loved seeing it. All the shops were so Northern European, and it reminded me a bit of Solvang (tiny village near SLO). We hit a few gift shops and sat by the river, but ultimately it was just a pit stop on the way. Worth it, though.

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Eventually, we made it to Cheyenne, which is the largest city in Wyoming. I use the term “city” lightly because it was really more of a town. It had a cute downtown and a depot by the train station, but nearly everything was closed by 6–a bummer considering we got there at 6:30. But still, Amy and I managed to have a really good time, thanks to our slightly obnoxious, dry humor. In good heart, we did make fun of it a little, but truly it was a cute place. Not a destination (unless you went for Frontier Days, a huge rodeo/state faire-esque event), but it was for sure a very cute stop. Top of the list of places I didn’t think I would like at all but actually really enjoyed. I just have to go a but earlier in the day, ya know? So I can catch all the antique stores before they close.

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Friday

And it was off to South Dakota! We left pretty early for the drive to the Black Hills, and by early afternoon, we were looking at the stone faces of four of our great presidents. I’ve always wanted to see Mount Rushmore–especially because the National Treasure movies are some of my biggest guilty pleasures.

We arrived under slightly-overcast skies and had no problems finding a front of the crowd spot at the viewpoint. Dang, it was pretty cool. We walked around what was open of the President’s Trail, which got us right up to the bottom of the mountain. I could see right up Washington’s nose! I love history, so it was pretty awesome to see such a big piece of it–and to make many National Treasure jokes, of course.

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We ate a nice lunch on site and hit the gift shop. Then we drove the few miles into Keystone to check into our hotel and figure out our next move. We stopped at a row of stores to check out the goofy tourist gear they had there, and that was pretty fun. We also went mini golfing, which I love! It was a pretty small course, and we were doing a good-ish job……..and then it rained. At first, it was okay, we could manage, but after about ten minutes, it became a downpour, and neither of us had hoods or umbrellas. We didn’t finish the course, but we could through three-quarters of it, which I would say was a success enough.

The hot tub called to us then, so we indulged. Since it was indoor, the room was incredibly humid, and we certainly didn’t last very long. The heat calmed our cramped muscles but didn’t do much for our dehydrated bodies and increasing hunger. So we headed out for dinner and found a cute, trendy-looking former-diner called the Front Porch. Unlike the Cal Poly coffee place of the same name, this place did not give out free coffee. It did, however, have cheap glasses of wine and heaping plates of pasta. Amy and I should have split it, since we got the exact same thing, but we didn’t realize just how much we’d be getting. As soon as the waitress set our plates down, Amy said, “Oh yeah, I forgot we’re in the Midwest now.” Since we had a fridge and a microwave in our room, we saved what we couldn’t eat, but per the usual, it was thrown away in the end.

The best part about our fun outing was the double rainbow that came out toward the end of the meal. One of the waitresses ran outside and ran back in to announce it–there were only a couple other parties in the restaurant at the time, so we all just walked out to the little boardwalk to see it. It was the brightest I’ve ever encountered! Usually, they’re faded and the colors blur together, but this one was clear and beautiful. I was in awe. It was the perfect end to a pretty good day.

Saturday

This was the day we woke up and left the earliest. It was the longest and last day of driving. We had two semi-planned stops along the way, but we knew they would be short ones, and any other stops would be for food only. It was time for the home stretch.

We made a stop at the famous Wall Drug store in South Dakota, which they start advertising before you even reach the state line. It was a huge store with a cafe, a restaurant, and about four or five different gift shops. It was very western themed. A bathroom break, a quick soda purchase, and a lap through the store was really all we did. The daunting drive ahead made us not want to be anywhere long. Also, the store was…a lot. If you ever find yourself driving through South Dakota, though, and you need a pit stop? This one is pretty good.

Our second non-food stop was at the “World’s Only Corn Palace,” also in South Dakota. It’s a big building made of corn–sort of. The outside is lined with corn kernels and husks and whatnot. The inside is a museum/arena kind of place. They do concerts there. We only went inside to use the bathroom again–I did a lot of that. But it was a nice stop to stretch our legs a bit.

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After one more gas/bathroom break, we were finally in Minneapolis! And when we parked at Amy’s house, I was ready to never get in a car again. We ordered pizza and watched National Treasure because that was the mood for the evening. Calm and easy with no impending long drives in sight.

Sunday

HARRY STYLES.

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That’s all I have to say about that.

Wait, wait, Kacey Musgraves was fabulous, too. I love her.

Monday

Just a trip to one of the 10,000 (or closer to 15,000 as Amy has told me) and a walk around the Mall of America. Nothing too exciting, but the lake sure was pretty.

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Having a low key day was the perfect ending to a long trip. I had such an amazing time. I got to visit a whopping five states I’d never been to before, experience a couple of fantastic landmarks, and see one of my favorite musicians at the end of it. It may not have been a crazy post-grad trip to Europe like quite a few people I know, but it was perfect for me.

Onto the next thing!

Ash

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Closing Time

Well, guys…I DID IT. I graduated.

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I’ve been AWOL from the blog the last couple of weeks partly due to working my butt off to finish my projects and papers and partly because I was trying to process the loss of a few famous names to suicide.

I have a lot to say about the latter, but I’ll leave it at this for now: depression sucks. Sometimes it’s too powerful for us to take, so we let it take us. You can be angry and hurt and scared, but it doesn’t change that mental illness can be stronger than us and we can’t fight it anymore, regardless of how much money and fame and “happiness” we have. So be there for every single person you know. Be kind. Don’t force phone numbers down their throats–chances are high that they have it saved already. And know that when someone is open with you, it means they trust you enough to share this darkness–and you might not be their best friend. In fact, you might just be an acquaintance, someone they’ve had a class or two with. And when that person is lively and energetic, remember that the darkness isn’t gone. Because I’m so very open with my depression, but only two or three people check in on me ever. Don’t just say you’ll be there. Actually be there. But know that we don’t always want help. It’s a tricky situation, I know, but be patient. Be patient, be there, be kind.

ANYWAY.

I graduated yesterday!! After slipping back into my depression this year in such a major way, I cannot believe I did it! College was a rough ride, to say the least, but I made it through, thanks to my parents, my friends, (a few of) my professors, coffee, snacks, Netflix, and Ally Carter.

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My apartment is a mess and I very badly need to pack, but I also feel like I deserve to just sit back for a bit and watch The West Wing and read for fun. Oh my, am I going to be doing a lot of that now!

But I really couldn’t have done it alone, as much as I would like to say otherwise. There were a lot of times when I thought–and was stubbornly adamant about it–that I could do everything on my own. It took a long time for me to accept that I needed help, this year especially.

I did it though!

I’ve loved my four years at Cal Poly. I’ve really grown up and become a whole new person. I was naive and inexperienced when I came to this school at nineteen. And while I’m not totally mature and experienced now, I can say that I have blossomed and learned more than I ever expected. I still have flaws and there is still so much more I need to learn, but I’m not so afraid of that anymore.

Even though I’m moving back home, I am trying to accept that and to make the best of it. I have a couple of job opportunities there, and I hope that those will give me some kind of motivation and determination. Still looking for jobs, internships, and so on elsewhere, but I have to work with what I’ve got for now. I won’t have to pay rent when I go home and I can mooch a bit off the groceries my mom stocks up with. I’m incredibly grateful to be able to do such a thing, and I definitely won’t miss stretching meals because I don’t have the time or money to go grocery shopping every week. I’m happy I don’t have to completely adult yet.

Like I said, I still have a lot of growing up to do, and part of that is getting back the confidence I had when I went off to college in the first place. I didn’t expect to every move back home, and I am a bit disappointed that I am. I got discouraged when all the jobs I applied for didn’t work out. That happens, I know, but it didn’t make me feel any better to know that I wasn’t as grown up and ready for the real world as I thought. I thought it would be easier, and I certainly didn’t expect my anxiety to get so in the way of that. I just need to regroup and get back in the game–not that I’ve gone out yet, just took a breather on the bench for a bit.

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As I pack my life up into boxes again, I’m excited for the future–for my future. I have a Bachelor’s degree from a great university, and I have a great support system. I also have at least twenty textbooks I don’t know what to do with yet, but that’s a problem for another hour.

Thank you, Cal Poly, for giving me wonderful friends, fantastic weather (mostly), and a great education. I’ve met some of the most amazing people in the world and had the most incredible adventures.

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Onto the next thing…

Ash

Downside of Growing Up

So I wrote down all the assignments I have left to turn in this quarter, and the list is so short I CANNOT HANDLE IT. Graduation is so close, and I can’t believe it.

Not having a job lined up post-grad is probably one of the worst feelings for me. I know, I know, I shouldn’t be freaking out because not everyone finds a job. I still have so much time. Yeah, people who keep telling me that: you’re not helping!! Partly because most of the people that say that have a job lined up, so they don’t really know the feeling.

I’m afraid of moving home and getting comfortable and then being afraid to leave, to put myself out there again. As someone with incredibly low self-esteem (and as someone who is terrible at interviews because of anxiety), every job or internship I look at, I decide I’m unqualified for because I have no real experience in the field I would like to be in. Because helping non-writer engineers look like they know how to write a simple essay isn’t actually worth anything. But even when I convince myself that wait, I can do the things this job requires of me, I apply. Great! Progress! And it leads to nothing, which happens but it’s disheartening.

The problem with the job market today is that next to nobody is willing to give you a chance to prove yourself. So that, plus there being a relatively small pool of jobs and internships that I am sort of qualified for, means that my odds are terrible. So I’m still jobless. And my morale is low–only getting lower.

I know that’s a terrible way to look at it. I should keep trying! I will find a good fit for me! There are so many options! …Uh, yeah, there’s only so much pep in my step right now.

Writing this post really upset me. I hate to admit my failure defeat. Tears welled up in my eyes, and I couldn’t stop them. I’ve been having a really hard time with that this year, holding back my tears. I don’t know how I can feel better about this right now.

In my head, everything has always been figured out. Tied up neatly in a perfect little bow. That’s where being a storyteller and needing to escape into my head has gotten me into trouble. Because things never happen like how I make them up in my mind. I thought I would have published a book by now and been able to support myself. I thought I would have a cool internship that would teach me all about the industry. I thought I’d be happier.

But I’m…moving home. That is the last thing I ever wanted to do. And everything feels kind of hopeless.

Stop being so negative, Ashley.

Okay, yeah, I know, but for once I feel like I can’t just look on the bright side. I feel like I need to just wallow in defeat for a bit to win back some motivation. Because I really feel like I have none at this point. I will have it back eventually, and fairly soon, but right now? Right now I’ve lost. I’ve disappointed Younger Me on so many levels.

Like everything, I’ll bounce back. And thanks to my wild mood swings, right now I can see that happening–whereas I didn’t yesterday when I started this post. Maybe because now I’m hanging out with Tori, trying cold brew red wine, working on my senior project, and watching the glorious Hannah Montana: the Movie.

It’s the little things, ya know?

So before I get all negative again, I’m going to end it there and get back to senior project things. Still stressed, very worried, not okay with entering the real world.

Ash

[Played] it Again – 13 Reasons Why Round 2

Now that it’s out in the world and I finished binging it this week, I have some comments about the second season of 13 Reasons Why. I know you have all be anxiously awaiting my thoughts (lol, right), so here they are, live and in stereo.

Get it? Yeah, I thought not.

Anyway, when I watched the first season, I had a lot of thoughts about it. Mostly good ones, I didn’t really mention anything I didn’t like about it other than saying the suicide scene was risky. I stand by it being a bold move, but the producers were very clear about the gravity of the shows content and how graphic this scene was specifically. They did the same, if not more, for this second season.

I was content with the first run of the show. I love the idea of a dozen episode series based on a book because it tells so much more than a stand-alone movie can and there isn’t the opportunity to completely take on new storylines as a multiple-season series can (@ Pretty Little Liars–even though I was loyal all seven years the show ran). So when it was announced that 13 Reasons Why was getting a second season, I was uneasy–I would almost say I was displeased. I wondered why they couldn’t just let a good thing be. This is also how I felt when a Big Little Lies second season was announced, but you can bet your ass I’m going to watch that too.

So I was walking into this season with caution. Hannah’s story was over, so I wondered what would happen for the next round of episodes, and what kind of issues they were going to deal with. Since they had fleshed out the other characters so much, I knew there would be more of their stories and the fallout of the tapes. I can honestly say that what happened this season was not what I expected. Prepare for spoilers.

If I hadn’t read the book, and been so connected to it, I would have really enjoyed this season. Not that I didn’t enjoy it regardless, but I wouldn’t have had the critiques of it that I do now.

I applaud the show for wanting to deal with so many different issues over these thirteen episodes. It delved deeper into the topics of rape, complicity, bullying, addiction, violence, etc that the first season touched on. For the most part, these things were handled well. There were just a few things that I felt needed commenting on.

The biggest thing I tried to figure out was Tyler’s character. His testimony was first, and I thought it showed good insight to his side of his tape. He told his truth, which showed a positive side of Hannah, which the prosecution was trying to hide. I really felt sympathy for his character in the first season, and this season even more so, because he was really the only one (save Bryce and Mr. Porter) who didn’t find solace in the group of people on the tapes. They still ostracized him and pushed him out of importance. The exception is Alex, which I really appreciated, but still no one fought for him.

I was excited when he befriended Cyrus and Mackenzie because it seemed they were helping him deal with feeling outcasted by the others on the tapes. I could see from the beginning that Tyler wasn’t going to have a happy ending this season, partly because of the kinds of ideas Cyrus inadvertently put in his head, and that was rough to watch since I was rooting for him. While the other characters (in the first season, really) had tried to deny the things Hannah said about them and invalidate her reasons, I felt that he took some responsibility. He really changed because of what happened, and he tried to be better. Which ended up with him targeting the school and the system that hurt him.

I understand that his character was the easy target for his kind of development in the season, what with his mental health, the bullying, and his inability to healthily deal with those things. And I know that the producers were setting up something for a potential third season, but I still feel like I can’t get on board with the decision for a school shooting. Tyler had made so much progress when he went away, and I was proud of that. And I understand that Montgomery is one of the worse bullies, but his graphic and disgusting assault of Tyler in the bathroom didn’t feel right to me. I know its purpose: to provoke Tyler and to show just how bad bullying can get, that some people have no remorse. But it didn’t make sense that Tyler would be Montgomery’s target after his conversation with Bryce. Those things don’t add up to me.

That plot device didn’t sit well.

Another thing I didn’t think was the best idea was the constant presence of Hannah to Clay. Yes, I think it’s totally logical for him, who cared about and loved her so much, who still doesn’t know how to process her death, would “see” her. He would talk to her. He would ask her questions. But the strength of her presence and how she would respond to everything as if she was still alive was what I didn’t love. Because she’s not alive anymore, so she can’t give him anything he doesn’t already have. The occasional glimpse, a cryptic answer, sure, but she had more screen time than other characters of whom I think we could have seen more.

Usually, having a “ghost” character can be a great plot device to help another character get over their death or to deal with grief, but in this case I think it just went a tad too far. In the end, it ended up being Skye who gave Clay the tools to move forward, as heard in Clay’s eulogy. Instead of Hannah (though I love Katherine Langford, and thought she was an awesome Hannah), I think we as an audience could have benefited from Skye’s character having a larger presence.

The last thing I had a slight problem with was in the final episode where Jessica and Justin act on their feelings for each other. I think it’s wonderful that Jessica can finally feel comfortable in her body and that she is strong–I love that, I do. I just wish they hadn’t already set up her and Alex as rekindling a relationship. Call me a monogamist (because that’s not incorrect) but I’m all about fidelity in relationships, so I just didn’t like that she validated Alex at the reception at Monet’s, went to dance with him, and then ended up with Justin without even seemingly thinking about Alex. It rubbed me the wrong way a bit. But again, proud of Jessica’s character for taking that part of her back.

Other than those things, I did like the show. I thought it handled so many of the subjects accurately and well. I loved Chlöe’s character and how frustrating she was because I saw truth in it. Jessica’s process of coping with her rape was strong and well portrayed. Miles Heizer played Alex’s intense and heartbreaking pain beautifully. Mr. Porter’s one-eighty was wonderful to watch: his attempt to right wrongs and his admittance of his fault.

Watching the season, I was uneasy about it, about whether or not I liked it. To be completely honest, throughout my binge, I was bordering on displeased. But after finishing it and reflecting on it, I did actually enjoy it for the most part. I had bigger issues with this season than the one prior, and I’m not totally stoked on the fact that there will probably be another season, but I do think it was well done. I think the writers and producers worked hard to create a cohesive set of story strands and it was a success.

As for those commenting on the glorification of these topics, I have to disagree to an extent. Yes it was graphic, yes it was intense, yes it was triggering, but I stand by the idea that you cannot tell an accurate story without being unapologetically honest. Without being graphic. Because then it’s not the truth–or as close to the truth as a TV show can get. It’s how I felt watching To the Bone, which showed some very triggering scenes. If you really want to start a conversation and bring these darker subjects to light, you can’t sugarcoat them.

If it is going to trigger you, then do not watch it–I promise you, the creators and producers will not take offense.

And that’s all I have to say about that, I guess. For now.

What Do I Know? – A short reflection on impending adulthood

I’m back! Sort of…

It’s taken me a while to come up with something that isn’t “Things are terrible, my mental health is in the drain, and I’m refraining from all social activity until I graduate.” Because that certainly wouldn’t be a pleasant update. But that is kind of how my life is going.

I mean, I can’t say that it’s the schoolwork that has me this way because I purposely gave myself an easy quarter. I dropped my minor and put myself through hell the last two quarters so that I could take it easy this Spring. So school is fine for me.

But people? People are not fine for me. A particular few are certainly fine, but as a whole? Well, let’s just say I’d rather stay at home with a good book. I just don’t have the patience anymore to fake wanting to go downtown and be in large social settings. Sometimes, yes, those things can be fun for me, like last weekend, but it’s so hard to be excited about them anymore. I want to be involved, since we’re leaving so soon, it’s just difficult to talk to people when I’d rather be alone in my head.

That’s an unhealthy thing to say, isn’t it?

In one month, I will be a Cal Poly graduate. That’s what is scary to me. I thought I would have so much more figured out by now. Nothing in my life has turned out how little, ten year-old me expected it to. I’m still trying to be okay with that.

I guess this isn’t much of an update…since I’m saying all of the same things I have been.

I’m just trying to make sense of the way things are turning out to be. I wish I had all the answers because the pressure to have them is far too high. I feel like I’m floundering around. A fish out of water. And I’m afraid.

It doesn’t help that my anxiety is through the roof lately. The only reason I can give for that is graduation. It kind of feels like life is going to stop after the ceremony is over.

The bright side is that I do get to get away this weekend. I get to escape the college bubble I’ve been sucked into (albeit voluntarily). And I’ll be happy to be with real world people doing some real world things–not surrounded by so-to-be college grads stressing about midterms, jobs, or moving out. Those things will be waiting for me when I get back, obviously, but some time away from it all will do me good.

Plus, my grad photos turned out FLAWLESS, and sometimes that’s enough to ease my anxiety. I don’t even have body image anxiety about them! Well…much. Not enough to really bother me.

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So that’s my little check-in for you. That’s really all I have right now. Things are not great but they’re also not terrible? I started writing this post when I was in a bad mental place, but now I’m remembering that I can be optimistic. Guess I need to get my mind in order…

Til next time.

Ash