20something profile: Ashley
My name is Ashley, and I’m a twenty-five year old millennial. With that being said, I’ve always had a friendship with words, long before it became an app on your phone. Whether they were written by me or not, I enjoyed exploring them. This went handedly with my love of music and lyricism as I grew up with a dancer mother.
I, therefore, was also a dancer since the age of 3, and I was confident I would go to college to become a choreographer. As a freshman in high school, however, I suffered an injury in my spine that eventually hindered my physical capabilities over the years. By the time I reached college, I needed an MRI, physical therapy, and medication to help me walk without pain. In the midst of it all, I had returned to my first love — words.
In 2006, I moved from my small town to attend the University of South Carolina. I declared myself an English major, writing emphasis, with a Linguistics cognate and delved into a variety of literature courses and creative writing classes. Peer reviews became the norm. The red pen quickly became a necessity, even when not conducting reviews.
I had toyed with ideas on what to actually do with my English degree upon graduation, ranging from publishing and marketing to editing to freelance and travel writing. I wasn’t entirely sure — all that I knew was that I enjoyed the written word in all its stages. The more writing courses I took, the more comfortable I felt with the idea of becoming an editor and writer.
In the spring of 2010, I graduated Honors Cum Laude with my Bachelor’s in English, completely unsure of what my next move would be. I graduated during an economic downturn, with the ideals of “get your degree and get a job” going down the drain. A friend of mine got me an administrative position with a Research Assistant for a local orthopedic office. Upon realizing I had an aptitude for English, my boss quickly made part of my job tasks proofing his manuscript abstracts and grants proposals.
I was faced with the decision by the end of the summer, however, to either try sticking it out in a part-time, minimum wage position or try to find something that paid the bills. I eventually had to go with the latter, as I lost my insurance upon graduation. Thus, I began working a decently paying retail position that offered insurance.
About a year later, I had my surgery and had also lost all motivation. Standing for nine hours at a time also caused my health issues to worsen, and when I did have free time, I was in pain and moody. I no longer wrote. I was barely even reading.
Though the health issues were difficult, my recovery time took a while, and I was out of work for three months and on short-term disability. This caused me to slow down. I began reading with all of the free time I suddenly had. I began journaling and blogging more, sifting through my thoughts and emotions.
I realized how incredibly depressed I had been since graduation, and though much of it was due to having chronic pain, I also understood it was because I was nowhere close to where I had hoped I’d be. The simple act of writing a journal entry every other day renewed my spirit. I immediately began searching for a job that was in my interests. I was ready to close this chapter and move on to the next.
It took some time, but I eventually interviewed for an Administrative position for a Cardiovascular Physician at my alma mater. In the job description, he had listed your general administrative duties but that he also needed someone to manage manuscripts, reviews, grant writing, and publication submissions.
It sounded like a dream job located at a place I had so many fond memories and in a field that is ever-growing and of great importance. We spoke for over an hour as we talked publishing, and he told me what he hoped to do in his field. I admired his passion, and I hoped my own came across as well.
I’ve been with him for two years in October, and I serve as the editor for his Cardiovascular Translational Research center. I’ve been acknowledged in peer-reviewed journals as a result and recently co-authored on a submitted manuscript. I’m learning new things every day in an amazing medical field, while gaining experience in my own field in the process.
Your dreams can manifest in the most unexpected places. The important thing is to not lose heart and to not lose focus on your goals. As long as you have those in your line of sight, the motivation will follow, and upon taking action, you’re bound to achieve.
Sometimes it takes a few tries, and we don’t always get it right. In an unstable environment, it’s almost expected to stumble while you’re figuring things out. Part of being a twenty-something is figuring us out while defining our passions. Keep experiencing. Keep doing. You’ll get there.