Episode 152: An Open Heart to Growth

Interview with Ashleigh Thompson

Sponsored by Danner

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Ashleigh Thompson is an indigenous archaeologist. She’s also a runner, climber, photographer, and lifelong learner. Ashleigh’s woven her many interests together and is actively building a life that is true to her values. In this episode, we talk about the importance of uplifting indigenous archeologists in the field, the life-long influence her grandmother and running has had on her life, coping with stress through the outdoors, sobriety, and more.

Bio: Ashleigh Thompson is a Red Lake Ojibwe tribal member and PhD Candidate in Anthropology at the University of Arizona. Her favorite place is outside, where she runs, hikes, climbs, and more for healing and happiness.

Full transcript available after the photos and resources.

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Featured in this episode: Ashleigh Thompson

Hosted by Gale Straub

Music in this episode is by  Swelling, Meydan, & Lee Rosevere using a Creative Commons attribution license.

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Ashleigh in Her Favorite Place, the Outdoors

Ashleigh on a backpacking trip

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TRANSCRIPT: 

Gale Narration:

I’m Gale Straub and you’re listening to She Explores.

Gale Narration:

This is Ashleigh Thompson. Ashleigh is Ojibwe and a member of the Red Lake Ojibwe and Eagle Clan in Northern Minnesota. She lives in Tuscon, AZ and is getting her PHD in Anthropology with a concentration in archeology.  Ashleigh is also a runner, climber, photographer, and lifelong learner. On this episode, we talk about how she’s woven her many interests together and is actively building a life that is true to her values.

Ashleigh and I talked on May 13th. We were (and still are) in the midst of a pandemic, and the week before had been especially raw one for Ashleigh as a runner and an indigenous woman. May 5th is the National Day of Awareness of Missing & Murdered Native Women and that same day a video was also released of Ahmaud Arbery’s death when he was out for a jog. Since our interview, the national conversation has shifted.

I’m grateful to Ashleigh for taking the time and for sharing a piece of her story with us – which starts and ends with a woman who has had a great deal of positive influence in her life.

We’ll get to know Ashleigh, after this.

[PREROLL AD BREAK}

Gale – Narration:

We’re back.

We’ll jump in and get to know Ashleigh shortly, but first I just want to make what might seem like a really obvious statement that I haven’t emphasized enough on this show. Ashleigh’s story is her own. She does not speak for all Ojibwe people or indigenous archeologists. Her story is personal and always evolving, and it’s an honor that we get to hear it today.

Also, a content warning for this episode: we talk high level about childhood neglect & trauma at the beginning, and substance abuse, recovery, and sobriety towards the end.

Before almost every interview I get to do, I hop on the phone with the interviewees for a casual conversation not unlike the one we record. It’s an opportunity to get to know each other without the pressure of a mic or thinking too much about your words. When I asked Ashleigh what she wanted to talk about, she excitedly mentioned her grandmother who’s been on her mind during this pandemic.

Ashleigh:

I have a mom who is Ojibwe. And then I have my dad who is white. And so it’s my white grandmother on my father’s side. And she is 83 years old. She’s turning 84 in June. But when my brother and I were quite young, about pre-K age, we were placed into foster care. Um, both of our parents had issues with alcoholism and other addictions. And so Andrew and I were in foster care and Minneapolis.

Gale – Narration:

Ashleigh and her brother were in foster care for just a short period of time because her grandmother took them to live with her in salt Lake city.

Ashleigh:

I think a lot about her because I feel so grateful to her for the life that she was able to give my brother and I, because I honestly don’t think I would have had the educational opportunities I’ve had and other life opportunities without her influence and without her care and love and raising us. So she’s a very important woman in my life. And also in a lot of people’s lives, to be honest, just as being a nurse for a number of years on a longterm pediatrics floor at the university of Utah hospital. And then she was also been a community volunteer and has volunteered many years in a first grade classroom. So I know she’s touched a lot of lives, including putting mine.

Gale:

What are, what are some of the things that you might say you have in common with her?

Ashleigh:

Sometimes I want to be more like her. She’s an amazing people person. So she’s able to connect with a wide range of people. Um, my entire life, I’ve just seen her be able to talk to anyone and that’s something I’ve really admired about her, but she is a really great writer. So I aspire to be a great writer like her. She also has a great eye for nature. And by that, I mean, she really pays attention to our surroundings, wherever we are and points out things that she sees that she likes. So she might, and you’ve taught notice, you know, when the sun is setting to the West of the Valley, she’ll notice how, um, the Wasatch mountains are lit pink and she’ll point that out to us, or she’ll notice people’s gardens and certain flowers and how they’re doing. So I think just having her in my life since I was young, pointing out those things and noticing the beauty, even within the city salt Lake city itself, I think she, in a way helped me to see and see the natural world around us and see the beauty of things. And I think that has definitely rubbed off on me. She’s also, she kind of introduced me to running, which I’ve, I’ve held onto since I was little. So she put me in my first 5k races when I was a kid and she would, um, walk them very fast, but she was like in her sixties and I was small. And so I also think we had that in common, just a love for like walking and running and overall wellness I would say.

Gale – Narration:

As we’ll hear throughout this conversation, wellness is one of many constants in Ashleigh’s life. She started running her junior year of high school when she was encouraged to join the cross country team by the coach and competed on a division three team in college as well.

Ashleigh:

It’s been an important life part of my life since, um, I would say my junior year of high school, which was, Ooh, that was a while ago. It was like 12 years or something. But, and today I continued to race. Um, I’ve kind of transitioned more to trail races, longer distances like half marathons, but training on two different teams for about six years, I built up a base and knowledge about the sport and learned a lot about myself, about injuries, like a lot of things through those years. Um, and so continue to run today. And that’s a good thing because there’s not many more sports we can do during, um, during this COVID epidemic.

Gale:

One of the things that I feel like I often bring up or think about a lot is is those constants that are in your life and running is definitely one of those for you. It’s just, it’s, it’s been a constant and I’m glad that you’re still able to do it right now. Cause like, I think I bet it would be hard if you couldn’t.

Ashleigh:

Yeah, absolutely. Um, and I like to think about constants too, because I don’t know when you come from a sort of tumultuous childhood when you lived in a few different places and with different people and you’ve kind of lived in a few different States, it’s, it’s fun and comforting to think about those things that have stayed the same. And so I am really thankful every day that I have the ability to run right now and that I’m healthy for that and that I don’t have to have such strict stay home orders. I can’t even go outside. So it’s definitely been a source of happiness. And also it keeps me mentally sane during these times. So I’m very grateful for it.

Gale – Narration:

This was solidified for Ashleigh and her college years. She went to University of Minnesota, Morris, free of tuition. It felt a little bit like fate. Her grandmother’s family on her dad’s side was from the small town of Morris. And some of her family also attended the college also because the school has the dark history of having been a Native American boarding school from 1887 to 1909. Ashleigh was able to attend the university free of charge.

Ashleigh:

There was this for me personally, this family, like I see at this school, this connection to that town where my grandma had grown up as well as now, this financial opportunity for me to attend there free, free of tuition. It just seemed like it was meant for me to go there. And I’m so glad I did because I was introduced to a lot of things that I am passionate about today. So cause when I moved to Utah, I lost a lot of that connection to the Ojibwe community and that side of my family. And so when I was able to return to Minnesota and go to a university that actually it has a very high Native American student body compared to other public universities because of the tuition waiver. So they have between 10 and 15% of their student body is native. When in most public universities that’s less than 1%.

Ashleigh:

And so being able to go to college and meet other Ojibwe students, re-establish my connections to red Lake, start doing the Ojibwe language table, taking initial NABI song and dance. And just all of these things that I felt I had missed out on in my youth and my childhood, I was able to be reintroduced to. And it was a really, for me, an empowering experience in which I, I was proud to be Ojibwe and I started to learn what that actually meant. And so I actually ended up getting one of my majors in American Indian studies because I just so much enjoyed learning about the indigenous contributions, indigenous histories, indigenous cultures of turtle Island or North America. And so I really can’t have imagined going to any other school because it just seemed so perfect for me. And if you think about it like two sides of my family created that perfect experience. Like if my grandmother hadn’t been born and raised in Morris, Minnesota, this small town in the middle of nowhere, or if I hadn’t been an enrolled member of my tribe, just everything seemed to fall into place for me to experience what I did there and to kind of grow into the person that I am today.

Gale:

Oh, that’s so beautiful. I’m so glad that you went there too, because you know, it’s, it’s so easy to go somewhere else. There’s all these little life decisions that happen. And I know we talked on the phone about how you look back and you feel like it couldn’t have happened any other way, but I don’t know. There’s just so much that you go through when you are, you know, 18 to 22. And if you are fortunate enough to, to get, to go to school in that way and to learn those things about yourself, but like to also have that rediscovery of your culture is just, it’s just incredible.

Ashleigh:

Absolutely. And when one thing that I really appreciate about education is in school and an American Indian studies for my classes there, I started hearing this word that I’m very familiar with now, but I had never heard of it before. And it’s called historical trauma or intergenerational trauma. And it’s, it’s this phenomenon that happens when, for example, and within the native community, our ancestors experienced a lot of trauma, whether it be genocide or removal to reservations or assimilation tactics like the boarding school era and those traumas get passed down through the generations. And so not only was I like learning Ojibwe language and started returning to my community more and that sort of thing. But I started to really understand more about my family’s history and my community’s history. And so for a while, I was really bitter about why I had to have been raised by my grandmother and you know, why I had to have this tumultuous childhood.

Ashleigh:

And I always felt like a weirdo in Salt Lake city. Like just kind of like, I didn’t fit in, like I was, you know, a native like Ojibwe girl being raised by my grandmother. But when I went to school and I started learning about intergenerational trauma, I was able to take a step back and seeing why my family is the way it is, why my mother had addiction issues, why? And then I also learned that her, her parents also had their issues. And so my mother, for example, when she was a child, she was taken away from her parents and she was also put into the foster care system at a pretty young age. And so you kind of see this, this intergenerational trauma once I learned about what it is and the impact it can have on individuals, families, and community. I was able to kind of forgive my family and also look at them with a lot more compassion and empathy than I ever did before. So it allowed me also to start this of healing for, for, for me, but also for my family.

Gale:

Yeah, because obviously the source of that trauma, it was so outside of themselves, it was colonization and white people.

Ashleigh:

Exactly. And like I could no longer hold my mom to this ridiculous standard after all she’s experienced and her family has experienced and our community has experienced because of the forces of settler colonialism. And I am glad to help be one of the first people of my generation and my family to start to break that cycle and get an education and make healthier choices for myself and my family.

Gale – Narration:

Ashleigh’s undergrad experience led her to pursue a PhD in anthropology with a focus in archeology. She started off as an environmental science major and came to love field research.

Ashleigh:

I discovered that I really loved working outside and I liked the sciences. Um, but my true passion was sort of more in American Indian studies. And so I loved my anthropology classes. So I loved learning about people and culture and especially from indigenous perspectives. So I had one professor who was a cultural anthropologist and she was native and she’d worked with, uh, Michigan, um, Ojibwe community. And so she was able to share her research, some of it with us. So I was really inspired by her to, um, actually change my major to anthropology. And I was thinking about how I really loved field work and how I discovered that with the different ecology projects I’d worked on. And so I took archeology as part of my major requirement off of the advice of two of the archeology professors. They recommended that I do an archeological field school if possible, because it was, you know, archeology is the study of human history through the things that humans leave behind.

Ashleigh:

So learning about it in the classes is fine, but there’s this whole other set of experiences where you do well, you can do a variety of different research methods, but one of the major ones is excavation where you can go to a site and dig for artifacts and to learn more about that, that people. And so off of their advice, I applied for a scholarship for a field school and I got it. And so I was able to choose within reason any field school I wanted. And I chose one that was run through the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Cool. Yeah. And so, and I chose that one because, um, the research sounded interesting. They were working on really this really ancient site called the Mead Site where the oldest component of the site is around 12,000 years old. So that’s, they call that paleo Indian.

Ashleigh:

But so it’s really ancient, ancient native ancestors. And that say is located in the interior of Alaska. And so I got to spend a couple of months up there and just learn hands on how to do excavation. And I really fell in love with field work and some archeologists, you know, they work. Um, and other places I have an old roommate, you know, who does her archeological research in Greece. And I have other people in my program. They do research all over the world. Um, but I like archeology here because I feel like I get to learn, continue that lifelong learning of the indigenous peoples of the Americas.

Gale – Narration:

We’ll hear more from Ashleigh about why it’s so important for her to pursue a career as an indigenous archeologist on turtle Island or what we now call America after this.

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Gale – Narration:

We’re back. Before the break, we talked about Ashleigh’s path to becoming an archeologist. She elaborated on why we need more indigenous archeologists in the field.

Ashleigh:

Within the field of archeology. There has been a lot of contention, historically, archeologists have not treated the Native American community very well in terms of digging up ancestors graves without any community and put or permission or they’ve, you know, taken not only human remains that are native American, but also like important cultural items of native communities. And within the last couple of decades, there’s this emerging field called indigenous archeology. And so it’s, there’s debate over what that actually means, but essentially it’s archeology for, with and by indigenous peoples. And so an example I like to share is for a couple of years, I was working with a professor at University of Arizona on the Blackfeet Nation. And she was able to do a collaborative archeological project that brought in the black feet, tribal historic preservation office. So a lot of tribes have offices that deal with the cultural resources of the tribe and the archeological resources.

Ashleigh:

And so I got to work, you know, right alongside Blackfeet, uh, tribal members to learn more about their history. And in some instances, when that’s being done, the goals of the archeologists and the indigenous communities can align. So one thing that that, that per particular professor has been able to do in her career is they were able to establish a longterm Blackfeet presence in this area of Montana known as Badger to medicine. And by showing archeologically that the Blackfeet have always been there and the Blackfeet new, they have always been there that oral tradition and oral history says that. But a lot of times you need the Western science to support those claims. You know, they can come together into a project that can end up in an area being, for example, protected. And so it can help both tribes and archeologists, like by showing this longterm presence of human occupation and then being able to protect it legally because of the archeology that they were able to to find there.

Gale:

Yeah. I mean, I can see how empowering that is. And I can also, I can also just assume how frustrating that is that you have to fit within the box of, of Western studies or law and order to protect something that should be protected in any way.

Ashleigh:

Absolutely. So, um, there, there is that and archeology, isn’t the only field that has to deal with that. There’s a lot of, you know, areas within the United and where, um, indigenous knowledge is and taken seriously, it’s not taken like it’s real, or it can be proven. And so, unfortunately, that’s like an unfortunate case, but fortunately, I think a lot of indigenous peoples are able to take these, uh, Western methodologies and Western theories and adapt them to fit their community needs. And that’s a lot of what archeology has done indigenous archeology is about. So, so even though we were excavating on the black feet nation, there’s some tribes that don’t want to excavate their sites. And so they adapt the archeological methods to fit those needs. So they might just do like a surface survey where they just see what kind of artifacts are found on the ground surface, or they might, you know, choose not to do any archeological methods and use more of a traditional approach with like oral histories and oral traditions. So I feel really lucky though to have found this field because it gets to combine a lot of my interests of indigenous culture and history, but also scientific methods. And then in the end for, for the communities that I’m working with, rather than for non native people,

Gale:

I bet your professors are so thrilled to have you and you know, people in your generation on board to, to be pursuing this field.

Ashleigh:

Yeah. And I say, yeah, we need more indigenous archeologists, but we need like more indigenous everything. So we need more, we need more indigenous doctors and more indigenous teachers, you know? So like, I’m really happy to see my generation, maybe even the generation before me receiving these opportunities to get their education and to fulfill this great need of having our people and all, all walks of life and in all careers, because it does make a difference. I mean, you see the first Native American women inCongress, people Sharice Davids and Deb Holland, they were just elected in the last midterm election. And, you know, they’ve already started making indigenous issues a priority, you know, from Congress side. So we can make a difference when we enter these fields of study, I strongly believe that.

Gale:

Where do you see your career path going?

Ashleigh:

That’s a very good question. And I think I’m lucky that I have choices. So, you know, I first got into my PhD program with the intention of being a professor, a faculty member somewhere. And I really do still feel strongly passionate about education. So one of my favorite jobs as a graduate student so far has been being a teaching assistant of a hundred level general ed class and the American Indian studies department here. And I really love, you know, sharing everything that I’ve learned with students and then learning from them as well. So that’s still a viable possibility, but being in grad school, like I’ve come to know that there’s a lot of other career options besides academia. So I could be hired by, I mentioned tribal historic preservation office. So a lot of tribal nations have these offices, which deal with the cultural and archeological resources of the tribe.

Ashleigh:

And so I could work somewhere like that. I could also work potentially in a government position. So national parks oftentimes hire archeologists to manage the resources of that park, to do community outreach, to do consultation with the tribes that deemed those areas as part of their own lands, I could also enter into there’s actually private archeology. So 90% of archeological work done within the United States is known as cultural resource management or CRM archeology. Um, and so those are compliance projects in which, um, different federal and state and tribal laws have certain requirements for projects that use federal and state money, or that’s done on federal and state land. And so before, for example, a freeway is created oftentimes a archeologist or a team might go in there to see what sort of archeological resources are there, and they can document those resources. Or they might, if it’s, for example, a huge important site with a lot of like a longterm occupation of where someone might have a group of people might’ve lived there for a number of years, a significant site, they sometimes can even turn the project so that it might build around that site or something like that.

Ashleigh:

So I have options and I’m not sure what route I will take, but I think as long as I’m continuing to learn and connect with indigenous peoples, as well as find my work fulfilling, I’m going to just kind of stay open and to see what what’s out there. When I graduate in a few years, you’re definitely going to be a lifelong learner too. Yeah. I felt, I say I’m telling my, like, I’m, I’m almost ready to be done with school. Cause I’ve been in school almost I entire life and I’m almost 30, but I honestly, I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t be sad about that because I love learning so much. So, so I hope I continue to learn and I’m sure I will

Gale – Narration:

Amidst the pandemic Ashleigh’s been busy with her PhD. I was curious what she’s turned to for stress relief.

Ashleigh:

So I would just say time outside, it’s the big one. Like I discussed, I really love running. And so that’s an easy thing that I can do just out my friend’s door through my neighborhood, as my schedule is tight, otherwise I can get to a trail head and do some trail running. And then before the pandemic hit, I was doing a lot more climbing. And so I really enjoy it. Ever since I moved to Tucson, I started rock climbing and during normal circumstances, I would be, you know, at the climbing gym a few days a week with my friends. And so that’s become a really important part of my life. The differences between climbing and running are really interesting to me, climbing is great for a lot of different reasons, but it’s this really neat phenomenon where I’m, when I’m climbing on the wall, that’s my only focus and it’s very meditative for me.

Ashleigh:

So that’s a really great way for me to deal with my stress when I have a lot going on, because I’m able to just focus on getting up safely, which when there’s a lot of different things going on in graduate school and in my personal life, it’s a welcome escape from that. And it’s fun and it’s a workout. It’s something I usually do with my friends. So I also get to do this activity along with my friend circle. So that’s been a really great stress reliever. And I do just like to get outside on the trails around here with my camera too. So I’ll take my dog and we might just go on a little photo hike. I try to get out during like, you know, the beautiful lighting time. So oftentimes that’s around sunset with my camera and I really enjoy creating photographs too.

Ashleigh:

Um, that’s more of my creative outlet, uh, and not only when I’m out there shooting, but also when I bring it back home and I get to like look at the photos and like that had done in lightroom. And that sort of thing is really a fun hobby for me personally. And I really liked photography because it’s one of those creative outlets that you can do relatively quickly. I mean, you can spend as much time as you want creating the photograph and doing the post-processing of editing it, but in a pinch when you’re a busy person, it’s, it’s an, it’s a nice way to get creative without having to spend too much time doing. So I’d say like right now during this pandemic running and hiking, and then also the China create images is, has been really great for my mental and emotional wellbeing. And in turn also for my physical health and I believe wellness is all, all connected. So for me, the biggest just relief is getting outside, getting fresh air, moving my body and sometimes, you know, getting creative with it. So that’s been a grateful about, I live in such a beautiful place, Tucson, Arizona, to be able to do those sorts of things.

Gale – Narration:

One of the topics Ashleigh wanted to talk about on this podcast is sobriety. I noticed something in common for all of Ashleigh’s interests, climbing and running, hiking, photography. They all put her in her body and her mind, which is a very different feeling from alcohol, which a lot of us use to numb.

Ashleigh:

So this Memorial weekend, so coming up in a few weeks, I will be celebrating three years of being alcohol-free and I, for me, my athletic pursuits have been a godsend and dealing with being sober. So, so like I mentioned, I have a family history of addiction on both sides of my family. And so ever since I was young, I’ve seen the destructive forces that alcoholism and other addiction can have on individuals and families and communities. And so, you know, as a young adult, it was always looming in the back of my mind, you know, that alcohol has been such a negative force in my life and my family’s life. And so with my sobriety from alcohol for the last three years, I’ve had to find other activities to take up that time and take, take the stress away because I think for, so since I was an undergrad and into my early years of graduate school, I think that’s the role that alcohol played in my life.

Ashleigh:

It was a, it was a big stress reliever. I could just have a drink or a few drinks and get immediate relief. And so since I took that drug out of my life, I’ve had to really focus on the activities that can also bring stress release and share a bit more work than just simply drinking something and feeling, you know, the anxiety lesson. Um, but for me and for my family and considering my family history, it’s a lot healthier way for me to deal with the anxieties and the stressors that occur in my life. And, um, I’m really proud of myself for being able to get rid of this, this substance that has taken a hold of people in my life and just, you know, make the choice that that’s not something I want for myself and for my future self. So running and climbing and being able to do those sorts of activities within my social relationships really takes the burden off of having to, you know, solve those stress stressors and other ways such as drinking.

Gale:

Congratulations on three years, that’s a big deal.

Ashleigh:

Thank you. I don’t know. It’s it seems like it’s been forever since I drank. Um, and I guess three years is quite a long time. And so I can’t imagine my life if I continued drinking. And so I’m happy to be in this place I am now.

Gale:

Hmm. I’m happy for you to just like, when you talked about how you feel like you’re stronger, that you’re a better runner than you’ve ever been before. And not that it’s like a magical thing to stop one thing and then that, but that it’s a lot of things have opened up for you. And that’s really cool.

Ashleigh:

Yeah. Like when I was drinking, uh, it disrupted my sleep, um, when I was training and if I had been drinking, I’m sure my training wasn’t as efficient as it could have been if my body wasn’t having to process that. And like, since I have stopped drinking, my wellness has been way better and I’ve been able to set personal records in the 5k. Um, and which I never believed had happened after college because you know, when you’re in college and you’re running six days, six to seven days a week and you’re competing every week, you think you’re at least I thought I was at like the prime of my running career. And so to be able to be 29 now and training less, I run fewer miles than I did in college. And I run fewer days a week, but I’m able to be a better athlete. And I, I attribute that definitely in part to leading a healthier lifestyle due to not drinking alcohol. So that’s been a really neat side effect that I wasn’t anticipating, but that has brought me a lot of pride and happiness to see, you know, my physical self really transform and perform better and be able to set personal records again and to be excited about racing again. So, yeah, that’s a nice benefit of, of leading the lifestyle I do.

Gale:

Now, do you feel like you know yourself a little better too?

Ashleigh:

Yes, absolutely. Um, it’s interesting to think about how much using a substance like alcohol can impact your relationship to yourself and how you know yourself. It didn’t, you know, one of the reasons that I drank I think was like I said, mainly it was just because it was a huge stress reliever for me. And when you take away that substance, you do your problems. Don’t go away. Your problems are still there, but you’d have to find ways to deal with them, whether that be confronting problems in relationships face to face in a healthy way, or whether that be just doing the self work and introspection of trying to understand why things are happening, the way they are. You can’t just drink something and forget about it. You have to confront it, you can forget about it, but eventually you’ll have to confront it.

Ashleigh:

Um, so, so yeah, I think it, it has helped me understand myself better. So I don’t know, I’ve heard in our community alcohol and the indigenous community talked about as like being a bad spirit. And so when you take that out of your life and you release this whole, that has on your yourself and your being, I think your authentic self comes through and you’re able to see, you know, what are your true thoughts in a sober state of mind and what are your true feelings? And you’re able to approach those, um, with an open heart and in a good way, then you could better than you could when you were drinking. And so it’s been really beneficial in that way as well.

Gale:

And to think that you’re not even 30 yet in terms of like all of the work that you’ve done and getting to know yourself and opening yourself up to what your interests are and how you want to spend your time and how you want to add, you know, to the good of the world.

Ashleigh:

Yeah. Thank you. Um, that reminds me of my grandmother. When I went to college, she gave me this mug and I don’t, I’m sad. I don’t have any more. I probably got rid of it when I was moving. I moved several times as an undergrad. It, I think like every year, but she gave me this mug and it sat on my desk in my dorm room for awhile. Um, and I put pencils and pens in it. And I had this quote that said, life isn’t about finding yourself it’s about yourself. And that, that quote has really stuck with me, especially like through the lens of my grandmother. And to me, you know, it means people might go on trips or these journeys to quote unquote, find themselves. And I mean, like I kind of get that, but what that quote says to me is, you know, we have agency on our life and we have the power to make decisions and some things are out of our control, but we can choose how we respond to, to what’s going on.

Ashleigh:

And so I think a lot of people, maybe in my circumstances that went through some of the traumatic things I experienced as a child, they might walk away and let it really negatively impact them. But I really try to learn from those experiences to grow from them, to heal from them and to make choices for myself, such as not drinking and choosing to be lead an active lifestyle. And through my choices, I’m able to create the life that I want. And I’m really grateful for that, that teaching, which has been revealed to me time and time again about, you know, our agency and how we approach things. And I think my grandmother, she probably doesn’t even remember it giving me that much. I should ask her, but looking back on it now, it’s one of those lessons as a young adult, I was able to take on and internalize because when I went to college, I kind of, I was really excited for that reset button and the opportunity to like move to a new place, to meet new people, um, to experience new things.

Ashleigh:

And I soaked it all in. I, like I told myself when I went to college, I was going to be involved in student organizations that I was going to do all of the things that I, I either didn’t have time to do, or I didn’t have the confidence to do as a, as a high school student or younger. And, you know, it’s just the things I was able to say yes, to like the research experiences I did or the different clubs. I was able to join running on different teams, traveling as much as I’ve been able to do through those different things. But also, um, you know, on my own has really helped me create this life that I’m really grateful for and that I really love. And I’m, I’m happy that I was, I was given that gift by my grandmother. Um, but then also I think there’s some resiliency in me and my brother that has helped us to deal with a lot that we, we encountered when we were younger, but to turn it around and create the life we want to lead.

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