Some of this stuff I’ve actually never shared before. I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts lately and one thing that really struck me recently is how if we live with any shame, it can seep into every aspect of our life. And the one antidote is telling your truths – opening up can help remove the weight you’ve been carrying by yourself. How accepting and owning your story is one of the most empowering things you can do. It’s something I am working on and part of the reason I recently started therapy for the first time.
We are shaped by our experiences. Even though this wasn’t the ideal story and I’ve definitely felt shameful about it… I am happy where it all led me.
Here we go—diving right in!
I think I blocked a lot of my childhood out of my mind to be honest. My parents had me when they were very young (17 & 18, I was unplanned). I was born in Ohio and then we lived in Colorado all through elementary school. Most memories are mainly life at home feeling dysfunctional. Even from a young age, I could tell my parents weren’t in love with each other and there was a lot of stress, anger, and fighting.
We moved to California when I was about to start 6th grade. I started at a middle school and then the following year, another school opened closer to where we lived, so I changed schools again. I became friends with a group of girls, but was closest with one in particular. She ended up moving away after 8th grade. Looking back, I never felt rooted by community.
At home, things had continued to feel broken and unsettling. I have memories of hiding under my bed many times, wishing I could fast forward to a future where I could be out on my own. I don’t blame my parents anymore, because I think they were lost, trying to survive with teenagers, and in a marriage that was not built on strong foundations and love. But it definitely impacted me. I felt lonely, unworthy, and simply like I didn’t belong.
Rewind a bit—to a lighter note! I had discovered my creative side early on. When I spent time on my curiosities, I felt so full of life. I could finally see potential in myself. I saw my spark! I used to clip images and graphics from my mom’s magazine collection, hoarded journals with words and quotes, and changed my room around on a weekly basis. I loved the feeling of how much a small change could bring such a different perspective. When I was a junior in high school, my dad got our first computer. I remember being so fascinated and would spend hours tinkering. I would change the desktop background, fonts, and folder colors. Eventually I discovered AOL and learned to make an AOL homepage. Then blogger and WordPress. I would snap photos on my disposable camera, scan and upload them, and then used this desktop app called Irfanview (can’t believe I remember this) to edit.
This was how it all began. Creativity has quite literally saved me and has been my nurturer and guiding light. Blogging has been my therapy, my favorite outlet, and I am just so beyond grateful for that.
My parents ended up getting a divorce my senior year of high school in an unhealthy way. My mom moved and brought my 8 year old brother with her. I moved down to San Diego after graduating, and my younger sister lived with my dad to finish her last 3 years of high school.
I will save the next couple of years of my life for another day—another lengthy story.
A new life, a fresh start
I met girl at a job I got after moving back to East Bay in 2009, who became a fast friend. She moved to San Francisco a few months later, and asked me if I would be interested in moving in with her. Growing up, I had been into the city a bunch. Mainly tourist areas around the holidays—which is a bit chaotic. It’s how I always pictured the city. But after visiting her (in Alamo Square!), I realized how much grander it was. It opened my eyes in new ways I had never experienced. The charm and architecture, the energy, the feeling. It was so big to me at the time and inspiring! So, I agreed and that decision changed my life forever. I was so ready for change and a new adventure.
I decided to create a new blog as a life that I had been wishing for most my life was unfolding and I was brimming with excitement about it all. I called it ‘Brunch on Chestnut’… a ritual we quickly adopted as new residents. I loved how this title evoked a scene in your head. Sitting leisurely with friends on the weekend over a nice meal, sharing things in life we like to marvel over.
I lived in SF for over 11 years and thinking about my time there brings the biggest smile to my face. I created my own life there, no where else in the world feels quite like ‘home’ like San Francisco does. It was everything. I met friends who were there for me through really hard parts of figuring life out. I found out what true love means after meeting my husband. I chased my curiosities endlessly which led me to running my own business. I am so so so grateful that I made that move, started this blog, and for the little girl who fortuitously found her life’s calling early on—which helped steer me through the thick of life at times.
I am really proud of myself for building a life beyond my imagination and have a family of my own that I adore—which is what I wanted more than anything else in this world.
Ashley, thank you for sharing your story. Knowing, and understanding, the happiness this creative outlet brings you reveals a whole new kind of magic behind your work!
On another note, I had an eerily similar childhood to the one you briefly described, and reading your thoughts brought tears to my eyes. Going through challenges, no matter what stage in life, can feel isolating but your words reminded me that we’re never alone. Thank you!