My mother likes to tell a story – that I like to listen to – about me when I was five. Ish. I was at the local primary school, maybe on a school visit, maybe picking up one of my brothers, walking under a covered walkway. Now this is Five Year Old Ashleigh, so she thought she was walking but the world knows she was strutting, sashaying, vibeing, bopping, anything other than the quick stride movement of a mere mortal. And swagger goes hand in hand with singing, so naturally Five Year Old Ashleigh was musical about how good the world was at that current time.
A peasant who worked at the school walked past and exclaimed to Mum, “Ugh! She’s happy, isn’t she?” Mum said, “Well, yeah. She is.” And so the brief nature of the just-passing-by chat ended, with everyone continuing to live their lives. Obviously, Fabulously, for one of them.
Often in the re-telling of this story Mum adds that she wasn’t exactly sure what the peasant was trying to get at. What did Five Year Old Ashleigh have to be sad about? She had a Mum, Dad, Granny and brothers who loved her. Shelter. Food. She loved the world, and the world loved her for loving it straight back. The glass was never half empty or half full, it was a crystal goblet overflowing.
The Internet asked me the other day, “Would the five year old you like the person you’ve become?”
I closed the browser. That was enough of an answer. Thoughts continued to gather though. You can’t really turn off the browser in your brain. What would Five Year Old Ashleigh think of me now? And if I am going to navel-gaze, what do I think of myself? Ugh. I’m awesome. End of blog.
It did hit me straight in my wallet, though. With her vague understanding of employment, what would Five Year Old Ashleigh think about how I spend each day? Does it feel like slime at kindy? Is it akin to dancing to Mariah Carey? Is it the joy of sitting in the tree singing for so long that Mum has to come out and find me?
I assessed. Reflected. Deflected. Got sad. Got defensive. Got anxious. Got the tissues out. Got nostalgic. Got happy. Got some gumption. Got a new idea for a blog. Got hungry. Got a snack.
In the roller-coaster of gazing, I did content myself with the fact that there had been a time when Five Year Old Ashleigh would have high-fived me, or been happy for me to have watched her dance to Mariah. 2017 saw me at great heights and at great lows. I travelled, which saw me doing my morning yoga stretches at the Grand Canyon at sunrise, while a large church choir hailed the coming of the dawn and the cavernous rock below reverberated with joy. I persevered, in work that made me feel overwhelmed and fragile, a square peg in a round hole. I despaired, for 10 weeks, frozen on luxurious sofa with cut glass in my veins, trying to see the world like Lesley Knope. 2017 made me remember that though I chose to drink a hot drink from a paper cup sometimes, which we can all agree is The Worst, I was actually all about the crystal goblet.
That meant leaving a reliable source of income and forging out into something new. Undiscovered for me, and hopefully for the world. Happenstance found me driving the whole of New Zealand, as far having beer on Stewart Island. And then I ran out of money. Which was fine as I was back home anyway, but it did mean now that the crystal goblet was slightly chipped.
And so I worked as best I could. I had things to pay for, I taught so I would have the means to pay for them, I paid for them.
Though I was earning money, I got myself in to debt once again. It wasn’t financial but it was the only debt that Five Year Old Ashleigh, so therefore, I, care about. How could I sell myself out like this? In the year where I will do things My Way, why was My Way modelled on other people’s ideas? No Mariah dancing for me. To be fair, to myself and because truth needs balance, I got myself into one karmic debt paying off another karmic debt. The Peter paying Paul of karma, if you will.
Doing things My Way was so important that I took myself off social media as well. Well, actually, it was 75% because I was getting wanker’s cramp from foodsturbating over cooking videos. The other 25% was that I couldn’t expose myself. 2018 was about me and what I was doing. I didn’t need to share it with the rest of the world because I was already letting the rest of the world tell me enough about my year. I still believe social media is a wasted space with many fripperies. I also have come to find if you look hard enough there are places on the information highway that are informative and do fill your cup.
But now it does mean that 2018 has passed, 2019 is here and I am floundering, or pearling shall we say, still on my luxurious sofa. Pearling because nothing about me is flat, and the world is my oyster. I just don’t know how to shuck it from the inside.
This means that conversations in the chilled aisle of the supermarket are excellent. Excellent because it is summer and that is the coldest spot in the whole world, but also mostly hellish because inevitably someone will ask me, “And what are you up to now?”
So far, no-one really understands the concept of pearling. I tell them, “I don’t know,” smile and leave it at that. They get intimidated by my brevity. It’s not their fault though. At some point in time A Version of Ashleigh learnt to give people lots of words so that the social transaction of conversation could be finished and everyone could go back to what they were doing. Words worked better if they came with a side of anxiety as well, so there is a myriad of different Ashleigh Conversations one could have. Who knows what is going to happen when I open my mouth? I certainly don’t. It depends on so much. What mood am I in? Is my hair okay? Do I have somewhere I need to be? Do I know that they are swinging with couples on Tinder? How did they greet me? What is their body language? Or the real clincher which I forget is not my problem to take on: How do I fill that silence?
I’ve filled silences with half formed thoughts that are nothing but air passing over my lips. I wanna be a writer. I wanna be a poet. I wanna go to Uni for an MA in Creative Writing. I wanna be a butcher. I wanna be a builder. One time I told someone that I could be interested in teaching in Hamilton. HAMILTON?! Let’s just say, no. No I am not interested in teaching in Hamilton. Actually, I do wanna be a butcher. And I do wanna be a builder.
But more than that, I wanna be Me. And I don’t think I should have to explain that you in this gloriously cool chiller amongst the coconut yoghurt. I’m also scared one day my sense of humour will get me into trouble and I’ll tell someone I’m pregnant just to see what would happen.
It is interesting, however, that while I am getting stroppy about chats by alternatives to dairy , which is très five year old behaviour, it does beg the question, who are you doing this for? If you don’t like explaining yourself, why are you explaining yourself, using social media no less? Eg. Weird flex, but k gurl? Well first of all, I do it ‘cos I want to. B, I love a good write. Concluding thusly with – you can’t beat a good human connection. There’s nothing better than a conversation with humour and resonance. Just because I’m not about the small chat, doesn’t mean I want to let it go completely. I will employ our Google overlords to sort the humanity out for me, while I can be here and think about what I want to say, without having to remember that time I did that thing in front of you and got embarrassed and I dunno if you even remember about it now while we’re here anyway. That’s my whole Ted Talk.
Anyway, the Me-ness of my mahi has been a large part of my pearling. What do I have about me that I can share with and don’t mind gifting to the world? That’s what I would rather be paid for. There were some starts in 2018. I got disheartened, though. I was getting into debt vocationally, I just couldn’t bear putting a debt in my creativity on my shoulders as well. I had let the paper cup become my cupus operandi for so many hours out of the day, for so many years, and the cup was empty. I had to be the Tama Toa at the top of the treasure, cos I was finally free to sort the remnants from the phosphorescence. I actually didn’t start getting my mojo back until I saw glimmer of who I am in November, when I was MC for my friend’s wedding. I also saw a Polaroid that reflected something of a fine crystal goblet.
I’ve found that part of the answer, comically, lies with Five Year Old Ashleigh and her Mariah Dancing. I’m very good at entertaining. I master ceremonies like you wouldn’t believe. I have amazing ideas. If you need an idea, I can think of one in less than a second. I’m very good at sharing knowledge, which is my way of saying I’m a Know-It-All. In my pearling I haven’t found a way that I can monetize Me. Side note: I needs me a Kris Jenner.
Currently, I am also great at procrastinating. I have somewhere else I need to be, and I have spent my afternoon creating a new blog. I also forgot to pay for parking and will probably have a towed car or a fine at the very least. Which is super. And this paragraph can be taken with a grain of salt if you are a prospective employer lurking my media. I work fantastically. Employ me.
The car (and potential employer) is the least of my challenges this year. The challenge I accept for 2019 is: How will I balance the reality of employment and income with the free naiveté of Mariah Dancing?
I have zero shucking clue right now. At least I have prepared a good answer for the chiller aisle – you can read about it on my blog.