To Risk It All - Part One
To risk absolute all.
It's true when they say that, "the greater the risk, the greater the reward” and although I'm not sure who "they" are — I completely agree.
I'm going to share with you a story, it’s a real time story and is unfolding as type... So I guess what I’m trying to say is welcome aboard the adventure. I hope these words serve you well and that by reading them you find something positive and light, whether it be simple enjoyment or some kind of inspiration..
Setting the scene: I’m currently sat at the front of the 3-1-9 bus, heading towards Clapham Junction in London. I'm hugging my giant backpack with my legs, trying to type this post on my phone without any typos while still making extra effort to smile at anyone that has the courage to make eye contact with me (it gets pretty grey here in the big smoke and fog). Once I get to Clapham Junction, the goal is to find a train that will take me to Gatwick Airport and that's all the scene setting needed for this part of the story. If you notice any disruptions of flow in this writing, it's due to the fact that this is a real-time story, and real-time very rarely flows.
SO here we go... This story started many years ago with a very childish dream. Two little girls with imaginations wild and untouched by what some refer to as a very 'cruel world' had a very specific "when I grow up I'm going to..." dream. As the years passed and the girls went their own ways, the dream faded and up until a few days ago, was completely forgotten. If it isn't obvious, I'm on of the all-grown-up little girls who recently remembered all the stories, playful moments of imagination and child-like faith.. It only hit me a few days after I decided to make the 'risk it all' choice and chase the dream. Although the dream doesn't look the way 9-year-old Ashy thought it should, the location of the dream stayed the same.. This story, the big choices within in them may have only happened 5 days ago -but it's spark, the part which the romantic in me is clinging to, is the that this story began as little girl, with a best friend and all the child-like faith in the world.
I’m going to do my best to share with you a short, yet captivating and exciting version of this story. I personally find that the exceptional part of any story is most often found in the detail so if it get's a little long, bare with.. The start of this adventure began on a Sunday, but it wouldn't of if it wasn't for Friday's happenings.. I'll be jumping between days in the hopes that this'll explain it all in the most accurate, sincere and authentic way.
Sunday, 8th of May. My day started with me going to bed as I only got home from the library on Saturday night at around 2am.. I managed to sleep a few hours before getting myself to church for a friend's baptism. I then met one of my best friends, her family and friends, my dad and doggy on the beach to celebrate her birthday! I was completely consumed by my degree, which didn't make me the nicest person to be around. After an afternoon nap and doing a little more work, I met up with everyone again for a birthday dinner celebration. Unfortunately I excused myself a little early as I felt the library calling.. I made the choice to put my degree above all in the home-stretch before the deadline not because I hadn't done my work throughout the year, but because putting in all of my efforts for the last few weeks of my time in education seemed like the right thing to do. This Sunday evening in the library was the marker for the beginning of the end, it was when I practically moved in to the library, averaging on about two hours of sleep a night, thankfully I had a few friends with me, agreeing that we would give our absolute all to our degrees! Finishing any task with the knowledge that 110% went it to it, makes completing the task that much more rewarding!
So our study breaks consisted of walks to fetch more coffee and one or two power naps under desks. This effort and determination to work hard, along with pep-talks, encouraging words for each other and little prayers gave us an unexplainable high that almost made our final deadline enjoyable! (Please note the word, “almost”, I’m still not completely convinced.)
Anyway, at the rate we were going, I blinked and it was D-DAY!
Friday, 13th of May. My work needed to be submitted by 12pm, and of course the both little clock hands it the top in no time at all! It was all D.O.N.E. ... ... ... Finished for good. Everything. Done.
I’m not sure what I was expecting, but the initial thrill of getting rid of all the hard work soon disappeared and my sleep deprived thoughts overwhelmed me, by 2pm I was sat in my car sobbing as the disappointment of finishing a degree that I wasn’t actually proud of, I felt rejected by a degree because even though I put all my efforts and hard work in to it - I still didn't enjoy it.
The anticlimax of so much energy and effort was far greater than I had prepared for. And although I popped champagne on the beach with friends, had a nap and spent the rest of Friday night dancing in a stinky club with one too many shots of tequila, it didn't change that I still felt disappointed. The best part of Friday were my friends. Dancing alongside them, smiling and laughing with people that have made me the person that I am today over the past three years, they made it worth it. People make it worth it...
Saturday, 14th of May. Waking up on Saturday morning was one of the most terrifying moments of my entire life.(I hear you, "pipe down Ashleigh, stop being such a drama queen")
I opened my eyes with the initial panic of “it’s after 8 and I’m not in the library yet!!??” and then it hit me again, I’m DONE.. So I went back to sleep…
I opened my eyes again a few hours later with slightly more awake thoughts, “what do I do now? my whole life? what am I meant to do with forever? what job am I going to get? where am I going to live? how am I going to afford life without a student loan? am I even employable? will I ever get married? waaaahhh!!!” And so I went back to sleep…
When I woke up for the third time that morning, it was nearly midday and I thought starting “adult life” with a load of washing that had piled up over deadlines was probably a good way to start. Post laundry I met some friends at my favourite cafe for brunch. I went big in my celebratory mode and had a chocolate cinnamon swirl too. It was brilliant. Post brunch, my housemates and I decided the only good thing to do would be to curl up on the couch with tea and a film. Of course we watched The Intern as it seemed fitting for the next season of our lives... I ended up falling asleep because staying awake with my crazy I STILL HAVE NO IDEA WHAT IM GOING TO DO thoughts was far too much hard work. (Yes I know at this point I had only been finished with my degree for about 24hours and most normal students would still be drunk at this point.) Thankfully, I knew I wasn't the only one feeling this way, which is always very encouraging.
Sunday, 15th of May. The sun woke me. I live in Cornwall, England - so when the sun is strong and warm enough to beam through your window and actually wake you, there is much hope for the day! It was a new day, time to smile and get my sorry ass to church...
As the day revealed itself, little moments and feelings of crazy turned in to life altering choices. After some serious words of wisdom from a great church service, a pep talk from my one and only mother, and a couple of highly influential moments with friends— it all started to make sense.
I am a 22 year old almost-graduate. I have ZERO responsibilities, aside from having to pay back my student loan, there is nothing looming over my head. I’m not tied down in a serious relationship. No mortgage to pay off. I don’t have children to worry about. I’m not committed to a “real job” or reason to stay in one place for any reason what-so-ever.
This was the time of my life for wild and risky choices because in reality, I don’t have that much to lose. "The world is your oyster" - something I hear so often, and find it more overwhelming than anything else because the chance to chase any opportunity is there, and opportunities are endless! The blessing that I have to be able to decide which country I want to live in, what kind of job I want to have and the friends I want to keep is in itself a MASSIVE opportunity as I am fully aware it's not as easy for a lot of people.
My focus switched from worry to trust, I knew that the God who looks after wildflowers, will no doubt look after me. (Matt 6:30) and with the little bit of faith that I had, and holding on to the truth of "infinitely more than we ask or imagine" I decided to make a bold move and risk it all. Which we realise isn't that much as a 22-year-old with nothing much to lose. So really, this crazy turns in to complete logic, yes? (Jokes, lol, kidding).
Anyway! These promises got me through finishing a season that from the outside looked like many 'fun and care-free' university years, and as much as they were full of adventure, hidden within them were moments that required me to dig deeper than I’d ever had to before..
By Sunday afternoon I decided it was time to pause and give God a chance to really speak to me, to give me a little inkling of what He wanted me to do, or just a glimpse in to what His plans for my life are. I realise as I type this that for most of my friends who aren't Christians this might seem like absolute madness, which I agree with because the events which unfolded after I did this are simply unexplainable...
I sat with a piece of scripture, Isaiah 41:1-4, and read it a few times, reflected, highlighted a few words, prayed a bit, and then realised a very big move was waiting amongst those words. An idea I had put to rest because it seemed a little too wild and spontaneous burst to life and a couple phone calls later with a few people that I knew would give me sound advice, I booked my flights to California.
With a list of design agencies, studios, cool churches and a booked ticket to Bethel's conference, I felt completely at peace with my choice.
I took what was left of my student loan and the money that I had originally saved for “big people life after uni” to follow through on an inkling with just enough faith and trust to make what seemed completely unrealistic a reality.
5 days later and I’m sitting in an airport with an hour to go before take-off, ready for my first trip across the globe alone. All I've got is a couple of notebooks, my penny board and a camera. I'm going with an open mind, expectant heart and an clear calendar (almost).
I am so extremely ready for moments of raw beauty, experiencing and exploring a part of this beautiful world I have yet to see!
and who knows... maybe I won’t come back ;) (Total jokes! I have a return flight booked)
But here is encouraging everyone reading this that it only takes one wild idea with a very little bit of faith and enough courage to change your life completely! We were created to live in complete fullness, expecting greatness and a life that is full of wild adventure!
A C.S Lewis quote that was mentioned in the book Love Does;
"It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday by the sea. We are far too easily pleased."
Expect more from life! And then go make it happen.
May you never, EVER, ever lose your wander..