The Last Time

Senior year of college…it’s a pretty scary place to be. Exciting, sure. But still scary. Four years ago when I started my senior year of high school, I was beyond anxious to get through it and get out of there. I couldn’t wait to start life over in college. Now, I’m dreading June. I’ve had the time of my life in college, and moving on from this place and really putting myself out in the world is frightening.

I’m trying to think of a movie or TV show that prepared me for this moment and I’m coming up short. They all skip this part!

Maybe that’s a good thing. That way I can figure this out without any unrealistic expectations sprung on my by Zac Efron or Jennifer Lawrence, ya know?

So far, I’ve unsuccessfully crashed a class, successfully crashed two (one of which was bowling–I know, I know, but it’s fun and I need that), went through the grueling process of recruitment for the last time, and felt more like an old person because of my hips and back than ever before. But it’s been an experience.

My recruitment experiences have gone: freshman rushee, sophomore recruiter, junior traveler, and senior RC. I’m glad I got to experience it in so many different ways.

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Going through recruitment as a freshman was exhausting and exciting and a bit stressful. But I had a completely open mind, having known absolutely nothing about Greek life other than what I’d seen in film and TV, and ended up in an organization that I love with incredible people. Sophomore year was even more exhausting because I had to do the whole process again while walking up hills in sky-high heels. Okay, okay, they were wedges, but it was still tough! Long days with little sleep and minimal food. And girl-flirting. SO. MUCH. GIRL-FLIRTING. But it was still a fun experience and I got to bond a lot with my pledge class. I’m so much closer to them than I thought possible. My third year, I escaped the heat and sore feet by jet-setting to London. You all know how I don’t regret that one bit. It’s been a whole year since I first stepped in that wonderful city!! And since I’ve met four people that completely changed my life. Did I miss recruitment? Not a bit. Did I miss the bonding time? Definitely. Was it worth it? You know the answer to that.

This year I decided to be a recruitment counselor, which meant I got a group of rushees and coached them through this experience. It was cool to see the other houses recruitments, since it’d been so long since I’d last seen any of them, and to get to talk to my girls about their own thoughts. I didn’t get to see them too much throughout the day, since I was stationed at a specific house, but I loved getting to chat with them at the end of the night. To check in with them and see how they were feeling about everything. So many of them had such different views about it than I did, but I so much enjoyed getting to chat with them about that. They’re all such wonderful young women and I can’t wait to see how they grow in their new homes (and out of them, for the ones who withdrew from the process).

I also got to be a part of a group of RCs–blue is our color! At first, there was awkwardness, as there typically is in a new group, but after seeing each other every day during meetings, we started to grow closer. The second day of recruitment, when we were all stationed at a certain house for almost the whole day, we really sealed the bond as friends: we made a snapchat group! They are honestly such amazing and strong women and I love them all, as well. I was so stressed out and emotional all weekend (I cried quite a bit) and they were right there to comfort me and make sure I was okay. Spending so much time together gave them a special place in my heart. It’s been two days, but I miss them so much already!

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I wouldn’t take back anything that I’ve done over the last four years, recruitment or otherwise. So many people say that Greek life isn’t for them, or that they aren’t “sorority girls.” It’s completely understandable, but also, have you met me??? I’m definitely not a typical sorority girl. But I love my house.

I joined Greek life because I thought it would give me that bond of friendship, a purpose I cared about, and opportunities to make great memories. It’s given me all of those things and more. I’ve met my best friends and bridesmaids! (Okay now, I’m sounding like a srat star…)

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It’s so much more than people give it credit for. After my God-awful high school experience–my life experience with depression and an eating disorder and anxiety…It’s given me such a loving and accepting environment to live my life in. I’m a stronger and more empowered person because of these people. They make me less afraid of post-college life. Ya know, when I won’t be watching The Office and eating truffle-salted popcorn with people I refer to as my Frat Rats. Or my Spookies.

Oh, who am I kidding? I’ll be doing that with them for the rest of my life. (Just less often…)

It might be too early to tell at this point, but senior year isn’t going so badly. Yes, I’m already a bit behind on my readings, I’m stressing out about sharing my writing with other people who want to be writers, and worrying about how my skills in poetry are still terrible. But like I said, I have bowling to diffuse that! And regular calls to Matthew to calm me down, of course. He’s so wonderful!!

This is my last hurrah at Cal Poly, a school that has changed my life forever, and I’m determined to make the absolute best of it. I just still can’t believe the person I’ve grown up into over the last few years. This ride has been insane.

-Ash

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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

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.

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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

Beachin’ – Plus recovery, pools, acai bowls, and sunscreen.

Happy Tuesday, everyone! This three-day weekend has taught me a few things about myself, and I thought it might be important to share. Yup, we get to talk about one of my favorite topics:

Body image.

Yaaaaay. I know you are all cheering–as if I don’t talk about this enough. To be honest, yes, I talk about my eating disorder and my body image a lot, but it will never be enough. Not until this stops being such a taboo topic.

So disclaimer to whom it may concern.

This weekend, I spent the entirety of daylight in, well, the daylight. Beach, pool, pool, beach. It was a whirlwind. Literally. Today at the beach, I got attacked by sand because it was so windy. I was surprised at my lack of sun-sickness, but lo and behold, it came upon me this evening. But it is manageable.

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But let’s go back a bit.

I have always compared myself to others and their appearances. I look at girls and their toned legs and flat stomachs and I long to look like them. I curse myself for not looking like them already. It is so engrained into my brain that I think these things as a force of habit; I do not even realize it until the thought has already popped into my head, and I chastise myself every time for it. It is a big part of this illness, and while I am still struggling, I am working on it every day.

Part of recovery for me is developing a healthy relationship among food, the gym, and me. In the beginning of my recovery, I stopped going to the gym and I just ate whatever my heart desired. While this can be a good thing, it did not take long for me to look in the mirror and hate myself again. So I went back to the gym and began eating less, soon realizing that I was slipping backwards again. This all went back and forth for some time.

That is, until a few weeks ago. I started eating more routinely and healthily, and having set times to go to the gym. Just thirty to forty minutes on the elliptical or treadmill a few times a week, plus Zumba on Tuesdays. I was feeling great!

Too bad this only lasted two weeks before midterms ambushed me. I have been having nearly nonstop tests for almost three weeks, leaving all my free time to go to studying and sleeping. And of course, eating. Sitting with your face glued to your textbooks and notebooks can really leave a girl hungry. Even though I was not working out regularly (sometimes at all) anymore, I knew this could not be a opportunity to start slipping again. I ate when I needed to.

And sometimes at one in the morning when I was about to cry from the stress. It happens.

Then I went to Disneyland and stuffed my face with anything my mom baked because I missed her cookies and brownies so much. I am serious, if you meet me one day, and I have something she baked in my possession, ask to try it. Your life will be changed.

One week later, and midterms are finally slowing down, meaning I can finally go back to the gym on a sort of regular basis. I am excited for it, actually, which is something I would have never expected. It lets me be alone with some of my thoughts and a good song.

However, not having been to the gym in a while and eating freely left me questioning why on earth I was going to spend the weekend in a bikini surrounded by all the beautiful people that go to Cal Poly. (I am serious, this campus is so attractive). I looked in the mirror and grimaced at my stomach and my thighs and my butt. This was not the body I was hoping to have at this point. I wanted to be more toned and muscular…I wanted to be thinner.

I could not stop these thoughts from forming in my head, and I could not help myself from looking at the other girls at the pool and the beach and wishing I could have bodies like theirs. I looked at my friends and wondered how they could be so confident–oh wait, they looked awesome as well. I felt like everyone was looking at me and judging me for not having a cute butt or a flat stomach. They were thinking about how big my hips are and about the cellulite under my butt.

I wanted to disappear.

But today was sort of different. I was so much less concerned with the way I looked. It did not matter that my stomach poked out a little or that the skin on my sides bunches up if I lean or turn sideways. All that mattered was my book, my music, my acai bowl, and not getting sunburned. Sort of failed at that last one, but it did not turn out as badly as I would have thought!

I ate my whole acai bowl with pride, even though I knew it would make me bloat a little. I scarfed that thing down like my life depended on it, and it was fabulous. It was one of those little things that turned out to be a big thing.

I have accepted that my stomach will never be completely flat. I know that my hips will always be this big–hey, it just means I am meant to have kids some day! I do not think my cellulite will ever go away. But I know I am not fat. I am not overweight. I am perfect the way I am. This is the body I was born with, and it is my job to keep it healthy. It is my job to treat this body in the best way I can. (Yes, Alice, In-n-Out is sometimes the best thing for me!). I cannot deprive my body of what it needs and I cannot overwork it to burn a few more calories. So I won’t.

I vow to keep working towards recovery and to continue living this life I was blessed with. I am more than the body I see in my mirror.

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This acai bowl was so, so, so bomb! *Barbie Bowl @ Kravabowl, Avila Beach*

xoxo, Ash

PS My mirror is totally warped anyway and makes me look worse. Tell me again why I am worrying so much about this.

PPS I need to stop telling myself that I look that good in that picture because of the angle and the pose I am in. No, Ashley, you really do look that good.