Beautiful Life

Happy Tuesday, my loves. I got soooo much love on my last post, and I just wanted to say thank you and that I feel very blessed to have all you wonderful people in my life.

I’m sitting here on my “porch” and watching the sun set on this beautiful day–there’s a car that has taken about 4 minutes to park in this one spot, and Tori and I are laughing about it. It was incredibly hot today, but right now the temperature is perfect for some porch sitting and homework. Of course, I am blogging, but I will get right to homework as soon as I’m finished!

Greek Week kicked off today, which means I have a week full of events and fun things to do. The first big event was a play on TEDtalks called Greek^y (please read the y as an exponent–I’m sure there’s a way I could do that, but I’m technologically challenged). It consisted of about a dozen students, all from different organizations, giving a talk about how Greek life has impacted them in some way. A girl talked about how her experience with Type 1 diabetes inspired her to join Alpha Gamma Delta. A guy explained how Greek life made him a more humble and better person. My friend Dani told us about how, at first, Greek life was not what she expected and therefore felt alone and out of place–of course, now she loves and is incredibly grateful for it (Hey, Dani, we love you a lot too!!!). It was all very inspiring and agreement snaps echoed throughout the auditorium. Greek Week never fails to bring all the organizations together. I mean, yes, everyone is out to win and the competition can get intense, but we all do it for a great cause. We all want to do it for a great cause.

The Greek^y event really reminded me of how much Greek life has affected me. College was supposed to be my real fresh start, like how I thought high school might be. And since high school worked out soooo well for my mental health, I was worried it would be a sickening rollercoaster 2.0.

I knew I wanted to rush from the beginning. Even if I didn’t love it, I still put myself out there and tried it out. Of course, the actual putting myself out there part was more than daunting. I had so much anxiety about it all, and thought about not doing it. I could try it again next year. But after a really wonderful (and wildly exhausting) orientation week, where I felt truly at home for the first time, I knew I had to follow through, nerves or not.

So I did it, and I’ve never had a single regret.

At first, though, I did feel kind of like an outcast. I didn’t drink, and I thought people would be judgmental about that. I thought it might affect any friendship I tried to make. And yes, people were judgmental, they didn’t really get it, but it didn’t matter. I still went out with my friends, I made incredible memories, and I fell in love with my life. While I didn’t hang out much with the girls in my sorority until sophomore year, I owe so much of my confidence and boosted self-esteem to Greek Life.

I walked into Cal Poly a scared and anxious girl, and I have turned into a strong and outgoing woman. I mean, I still have anxiety, I don’t know if that will ever change. But I don’t let it rule my life anymore, and I do things despite that anxiety. I take risks that I am afraid of, and conquering that fear is good for me. Heights, sharks, and spiders? Those I’m still terrified of. But talking to boys, participating in class, and working in retail? I fight those fears every day. I welcome them.

Okay, okay, maybe not the talking to boys part–I still really suck at that–but I refuse to let my lack of participation bring my grades down (because that’s a thing in my major).

I look back at my high school self. I wore pajamas to school and stayed home a lot of times when my friends wanted to hang out. I claimed I was just lazy or had other things to do, but it was really because I just didn’t care. I didn’t care about my appearance (in terms of the clothes I wore–we all know how much I care(d) about what my body looks like), and I didn’t need to go hang out with people who made me feel like I would never be a long-term part of their lives. Sure I tried sometimes, but most of the time I just didn’t–couldn’t–see the point. That’s not say I didn’t have any good memories in those four years. I have a lot, and though I didn’t really talk to any of those poeple after graduation, I talk to them now. I always try to get lunch with or see them when I am home on breaks. I can’t be bitter about things that weren’t their fault, and I’ve learned to forgive a lot of people.

Coming to college and joining Greek life was such a game-changer for me. I’ve branched out and met so many remarkable people–not just in my organization–that I thank God for every day. I am lucky to have found that kind of support and unconditional love here.

So with Greek Week up and running, midterms are popping up and my stress levels are rising. But I got this. I can handle it. And I am fully prepared to take back the title of “A O Winners!!” this Greek Week.

I’ll try to be less sappy next time. Stay tuned.

-Ash

Down Goes Another One

Back in action today on the blog to tell y’all a bit about what’s been going down in the Rat Trap the last couple of weeks. It’s Dead Week here, and that means stress levels are high, junk food is being consumed, and finals are about to hit us all like a bus.

The rain has stopped for a bit in SLO, and it has been beautiful. And warm. And hot. Temperatures are getting up into the eighties, and it’s both been wonderful and awful. Three months in Europe plus three months of rain in California has made me a wimp in the heat. I’ll adjust, of course, but I’ve been sweating a lot and it’s not the best feeling. But ya know, we are supposed to get some rain next week, right in time for the most stressful week of the quarter. Great! I mean, it could be worse. It could be blizzarding like it is in New England.

My roommates and I have discovered California Fresh Market, which is the closest grocery store, other than the Whole Foods-esque one which I don’t want to spend my money at. They have a salad bar, soups, and chicken wings, along with a bunch of orderable food. I would be lying if I said I haven’t been going there once a week to get a salad. Trying to eat healthy, ya feel? Especially since I’ve gone through two rounds of Girl Scout cookies. They also have baby pies and Halo Top ice cream (which has a lot less calories than Ben & Jerry’s, though I still think Ben & Jerry’s is superior), which was perfect for my solo pie day festivities. The market has been a bit of a savior for us in the last few weeks.

Why, you ask?

Well, because we have carpet beetles!!

Yup, those fun little guys have taken refuge in our apartment (along with a couple of others in our complex) and have us itching and cleaning and worrying–perfect for this time of the year. They don’t bite, which is good, but they shed little hairs that cause irritation and itching. I feel like I’ve got them all over my body. And I spent $15+ dollars at the laundromat to clean everything I own, and it was so rough. It is rough.

So this my step-by-step process of how to get rid of carpet beetles:

  1. Get text while at work that we have carpet beetles.
  2. Panic.
  3. Go home to find everything you and your roommates own is in trashbags in the living room.
  4. Vacuum.
  5. Put flea killer all over the floor (room by room, not all at once).
  6. Wait 30 minutes.
  7. Vacuum and pray it worked.
  8. Go to the laundromat with all your clothes, sheets, and blankets. If it’s machine washable, it goes.
  9. Get $5 worth of quarters out (in addition to the once you already have).
  10. Run out of quarters because you need two machines and they both cost $5.50 a load.
  11. Get more quarters.
  12. Internally scream that this is happening to you right before Dead Week.
  13. Get a slurpee and a snack at 7/11.
  14. Wait.
  15. Put everything into two dryers.
  16. Get more quarters.
  17. Wait and eat aforementioned snacks.
  18. Get stuff from the dryer when it’s done.
  19. It’s not dry yet, so you have to get more quarters.
  20. Wait and eat some more.
  21. FINALLY, things are ready, and you can go home.
  22. Try not to cry because everything is still in your living room.
  23. Make your bed.
  24. Keep everything off the floor.
  25. Treat the carpet in the hallway and living room.
  26. Drink a glass of wine.
  27. Have a nice, deep talk with your roommates.
  28. Go to bed.
  29. Find a beetle in the windowsill in the morning.
  30. Set traps.
  31. More or less repeat steps 4 and 26-30 until exterminators come.
  32. They assess, and then tell you they will come back soon. They’ll let you know when, but there is no set date.
  33. Wait to hear from exterminators and start to not be afraid of the ground (for 3 days)
  34. Get text while in class that one of your roommates found a carpet beetle on her pillow.
  35. Panic. Because you still don’t know when the exterminators are coming.

Aaaaaaand that’s where we are at the moment. Having to deal with this and studying for finals is a less-than-ideal situation. None of us want to deal with it, but it’s not like we can leave it be. I just hope this can all be resolved by the time we leave for spring break.

This quarter has both been the shortest and the longest of my life. I have been home for about as long as I was abroad, and it feels like another lifetime away. At the same time, I feel like I just got back a few weeks ago. Time is a funny thing.

Looks like I’ll just have to focus on how awesome the sky has been looking the last few nights. We’ve got a pretty good view of the sunset from the Rat Trap, so that’s a plus. Does it balance out the carpet beetles, though? I’ll have to get back to you on that one. Stay tuned. Go listen to Ed Sheeran’s new album while I’m gone. It’s amazing.

I’ve got a super long post coming at you in the next couple of days. Don’t worry, it’s just a writing piece I wrote for my fiction class–the only class I’ve ever been sad to leave on the last day.

Catch ya on the flip side. It’s been real, Winter Quarter.

Ash

Bring it Back – Returning to reality and pseudo-adulthood

Day Twenty-Seven. Kreutzberg. Song of the moment: “Only the Strong Survive” by McFly. Level of saddness on a scale from one to ten: seven and a half.

Before I say anything else, I have to say this: I am so grateful for the wonderful and talented Ed Sheeran. After an Ed-less 2016, seeing this tweet fired me up like no other. “Shape of You” is the jammest of the jams. “Castle on the Hill” has me in tears every time I listen to it, and it reminds me so much of England. With these songs (and the track list!! Major heart eye emojis about it) on repeat, I was ready to take on my first day back at Cal Poly.

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The “study” part of “study abroad” is used very loosely. Yes, I went to class, and yes I had a few papers to write, but the schooling itself was nowhere near the kind of stuff I was doing at Cal Poly: late nights in the library, middle of the night SloDoCo runs, coffee for days. Abroad it was more: museums trips as class, let me write this paper in an hour, no schoolwork on the weekends because I was traveling. And I still did well in my classes.

In short, going back to the fast-paced quarter system was going to be a rude awakening. Lucky for me, I have a spooky set of friends to get me through it.

Cue the badass, early 2000s girl power band intro music for the infamous Frat Rats’ first weekend back together. I am incredibly happy to be living with Tori, Kristin, and Mads this year. They got me through the rollercoaster that was sophomore year. Mad Dog was the real MVP whenever I got upset while I was in England. Now we live together in our cute little apartment (though it is rather cluttered at the moment) and are ready to re-establish ourselves in the Cal Poly social scene–fur included.

And in even luckier circumstances, most of the Abroad Squad happens to be here, as well. I missed them every day that I was home, and I cannot wait to be reunited with them–and with Jaci in spirit. Very thankful that I have them.

This first week back in real school was a bit of a whirlwind. This quarter, I thankfully got enrolled into all of the classes I wanted–no waitlist for me! Not having to worry about whether or not I was going to be in any of my classes was a sweet moment. It was made even sweeter when Tori walked into my astronomy class. I have a roomie to get me through it. I have a friend in my history class (about the witch hunts in Europe–so stoked), and I know a few people in my english class (small majors for the win). I don’t really know anyone in my fiction writing class, but at the rate I have been making sassy side comments, I will be okay. Plus, I have a new gym routine. Monday: Zumba, Tuesday: Barre, Wednesday: Spin, Thursday: free day, Friday: Spin. All of these are work-permitting, of course, since I am back at the lovely little lingerie store Victoria’s Secret.

I know, I know, I am setting high standards for myself, but I don’t think I have ever been this motivated. I always start the quarter and tell myself all of the great things I will do over the next ten weeks, but I never follow through. I don’t even really get close enough to make a dent in these resolutions. But this quarter, I have gym buddies that will make sure I go, study buddies for my classes, and good friends to keep me sane.

Setting these bars is right on track with all those “New Year, New Me” mantras. While that wasn’t really my intention, I guess it makes sense to follow that kind of path–and stick to it. Because, coincidentally to the new year, I truly have become a new person over the last few months. Bet you can’t guess why!

I am ready to take this new and improved Ashley and throw her back into SLO. One week down, and I think she is doing pretty well! I am happy and thriving. I miss London every day, and whenever someone asks me if I am happy to be back, I reply with a simple, “No.” It kind of takes people aback. Yes, it is good to be back, but I long for my London days. It snowed there a few days ago, and I cried. But I am determined to get into a good groove here and shed minimal tears about my wonderful abroad experience. So far, so good.

The Frat Rats made their big debut into the new year this weekend. We are back in action! Starting off with a bang, we went to a Disney-themed party as the Cheetah Girls. Fur and animal print is very in for us. Tori and I went on a hike to Serenity Swing the next morning with Alex and one of her friends. It was not easy. I mean, it was okay for the ninety percent of the way up, but the last ten percent really was a challenge. We were basically perpendicular to ground, and I wish I could say I am exaggerating. But the view? WORTH IT! And the descent was much better. I did ruin my shoes a little bit, but like I said, it was worth it.

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And with all that fun comes serious stuff, too, I promise. I am getting down to business with my schoolwork and whatnot. I am writing my papers for my abroad finals (yup, their term isn’t over until next month so I still have homework) and reading for my english and history classes. I am cooking more, rather than snacking or going out, so that’s exciting. And I have been writing a lot lately.

All good things, all good things. Yes, my level of saddness about London is still close to ten, but I am also very happy to be back in the happiness city in America.

Ash

I Must Be Dreaming

One month down. Two more to go. Time is moving far too quickly, and like always, I wish it would slow down a little bit. Sure, I have done a lot of exciting and fun things, but there is so much more I want to do than what I have time for. Can’t forget about the school part of this, can I?

Nope. Which is why I have spent a lot of my time tapping my way through Dracula and brainstorming ideas for my final project for my screenwriting class. And why I hate have to get up to blow my nose every five minutes. Really, being sick within the first month of moving to a new country is not the business. Good thing Vitamin C tablets and tea are a thing here. I would be thriving far less without those two things in particular.

The “Honeymoon Phase” is still upon me, fortunately, though, the “sickness” part of the “Homesickness Phase” has hit me. It has probably been because, even though I have been through two full weeks of school, I have not stopped jumping from adventure to adventure. Whether it’s a night playing Ride the Bus at the Coronet or taking the train to Brighton for the day, there is always something stopping me from sitting in my bed all day. Of course, that is exactly what I have done today, but I am trying to catch up on homework and such. My mom would be proud. Probably.

So what have I been up to since you last heard from me? Loads.

A Day Trip to Brighton

I met Amy and her friend Jac at King’s Cross/St. Pancras (not “pancreas,” as I keep referring to it as), and we were off on a few hour train ride to Brighton! We knew it was supposed to rain, but I wanted an adventure. I thought about studying in Brighton (and was quite set on it for a while) before applying to study in London. Let me just say, this place it so cute. It reminds me of SLO, in a way, as a small coastal town.

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The three of us walked down to the beach–which was very different from California, starting with the fact that it’s not a sandy beach. It’s all rocks. No, not rocky sand. Stones, pebbles, actual rocks. It was much more difficult to walk around in than sand, for sure. And it was louder.

We took a stroll on the pier, which was very Santa Monica-esque. There was a big arcade, carnival rides and games, and donuts. You will be disappointed to hear that I did not indulge in my favorite dessert. I know, I know, but it just wouldn’t be right when I know I would be overpaying for something incomparable to SloDoCo. But the search for worth donuts (or the Krispy Kreme I know is around here somewhere) continues…

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A late lunch and a little window shopping followed. The Lanes is chalk-full of little restaurants, shops, and people. We didn’t go into a lot of stores, but we hit a few cute ones with fun trinkets inside. There was an abundance of jewelry stores, and I was mesmorized by them. I decided against going inside, though, since I had just bought a new Pandora ring on Regent Street, and I know I was already going to go back for a new charm for my bracelet. Another time, though…

We ended our little trip with gelato on the beach in the rain–I got to break in my new umbrella!–and tea at the Blueburd Tea Co. I got one called Pandalicious Liquorice, and it was boooooomb. And magical. I felt like I was cured of my sickness right away. You think they deliver to California?

Wicked

Speaking of magical things, Becca, Jaci, and I got Wicked tickets for only twenty pounds. Twenty! I have seen the show twice before–once when I was ten or eleven and then senior year of high school in Nashville–but this was by far the best. I got to enjoy it with two of my favorite people and just soak in all of its glory.

Rachel Tucker as Elphaba was absolutely wonderful. I cried during “Defying Gravity.” As soon as it started, the tears came. Her voice is fabulous and I love her. I hadn’t realized that she was in the cast still (I thought she was in the run before–also didn’t know she was British…), so when I saw her name up there, I squealed. The excitement was so real.

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We are still talking about how great it was.

(And if you were wondering just how fab Rachel Tucker is, check this out. Featuring Aaron Tveit, the love of my life)

A long day of seeing Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and Oxford

And when I say a long day, I mean it. Twelve hours, most spent on a bus. We were off at nine to check out the Queen’s favorite castle–she was there when we were! No, we didn’t see her, sadly, but…actually, I really don’t have a “but” to that. We did not see the Queen, and I was very sad about it (though not surprised).

I wish we could have stayed longer so we could walk around the town. It was too cute! I wanted to spend more time at the castle, as well. I feel like I didn’t really enjoy it as much as I should have. I hope I have time to go back before I return to the US.

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Then it was back on the bus towards Stonehenge. I guess I did not have too high expectations for this one, but I definitely wanted to see it. I was not disappointed! The rocks were, well, rocks, but we took a bunch of group selfies and GoPro videos to capture it. Plus, it sparked conversation about conspiracy theories about how the Druids created the formation (aliens!). The whole landscape–gorgeous, green, and open–made the trip worth it.

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The final stop on the trip was Oxford. Our group walked around the campus and saw all the buildings. We got to see some filming spots for Harry Potter (!!!), which was very cool. While it started raining during our walk, it only made all the old buildings look more beautiful to me. Everyone talks about what a downer the rain is, but I have to say I love it so much.

The tour was short, so we got to do a little shopping. I didn’t buy anything, but we had tickets to see the Warner Brothers Studio Tour on Monday, so I would be back for my souvenirs. To be honest, I just liked being there. There is so much history in this country, and my little history-loving heart is so happy.

img_9499Beautiful, right?


I will spare you all from the even more massive photo dump that was the Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour–and if you follow me on Snapchat, you already know what a wonderful time that was. I won’t spoil it for the rest of you.

Each and every day I am more grateful for this experience and this opportunity I have in front of me. I am more than happy to take advantage of the fabulous humans and gorgeous city I am blessed with and jump from memory to memory. Sometimes I am too busy to take pictures, and while my mom and gramdmother are not too excited about that, I could not be happier. The best memories are the ones you make when your phone is put away.

((But the GoPro can definitely stay out, Jaci, don’t worry.))

xx Ashley

Taking Chances

Two more finals…two more finals, and it is all over. Winter Quarter 2016. I mean, I will tell you something: as much as the Quarter System is stressful and fast-paced, I think I prefer it to semesters. Granted, my only comparison to semesters is High School, which I hated, but I like being able to take three different sets of classes a year, even if I get out for summer later than my Semester System friends.

This quarter has kind of been a whirlwind. Part of me thinks it is going on forever, but the other part is wondering how it can already be March, when just yesterday I was a senior in high school. It is so strange to look back at my memories from last year and think that Mads, Tori, and Kristin were not a part of them. They were not with me during the great Pretty Little Roomies adventures, and they did not know what went on during roomie recap. They did not get to see me jump out of windows.

But they did get to see me through dancing on tables. We have spent many late nights in each other’s apartments doing nothing but laughing. There was a weekend in the sun over Valentine’s Day. Three days in a row at our favorite frat satellite. Of course, this quarter has been much more low key in terms of dancing on tables, but that does not mean it was any less fun and exciting.

I almost do not want this quarter to end. I have loved my classes and had great professors. (Shout out to you, Pat Fitzhenry!). I feel like I have really taken control of my life and taken better care of myself this quarter. Maybe sometimes I took too good care of myself.

This quarter, I went out much less than last. I did have a bit of a hard quarter mentally, and I wanted to make sure I did not push myself in a way that would send me downhill. A lot of weekends were spent in my room with my Netflix or a good book. Or homework–I tried really hard to do better in school. But part of me thinks I was just playing it safe, not getting out of my comfort zone. I had thought that a frat party was becoming a place I was not afraid of. Looking back, I am thinking that I was wrong.

Fall Quarter, I went out a lot, but I went to the same house nearly every time. This quarter, I did not see much, of at all, of that house, and I think the prospect of branching out and having to talk to boys I didn’t know and using the bathroom every one else had to made me uneasy.

To be honest, I am not sure I regret playing it safe. It is not that I am afraid of getting drugged by a frat boy or anything (the media paints Greek Life in such a negative way), but it is more that spreading my wings is still hard. I mean, I am bummed that I missed out on one of my friends insisting to the other that she was going to punch her in the face or that I slept in too late to go to Popeye’s in the morning. But instead, I got to write a lot. I got to sit quietly in my little room and read a few good books and write chapter upon chapter of Book 2. Still, though, I wish that a few times I pushed myself a little further and went out with my friends.

I am learning more and more about myself and about life. Staying in helped me with that, but I think I would have learned a lot is I had gone out too. Maybe Spring Quarter will turn out like Fall. I am almost hoping so. I miss dancing on coffee tables to Sam Hunt. I will try to find a better balance between going out and staying in.

I don’t expect to figure out life anytime soon, but I am having fun trying. I never thought I would love life so much, and a part of me hopes I never figure it out completely.

-Ash