Collecting Things

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I’ve always admired people who collect things. I’ve secretly also been very jealous of them. Records, cameras, war memorabilia, Marilyn Monroe calendars, etc.

Why don’t I have a favorite thing? Why don’t I have a desire to accumulate something so particular that I can’t stop learning about it?

Today, while on an airplane, I finally figured it out - perspectives.

I want an entire wall of ‘em, different colors, shapes and sizes.

5 Reasons Why I Love Running (today, at least)

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1. Teeming Thought
My mind follows the steady pacing of my feet. Thinking flows in and out but not in an overwhelming or unfinished way; instead, I reflect and let go. I revisit moments in time, draft messages and often forgive and forget the actions of someone else. Thought never feels quite as fluid when standing still. I can be sitting at my desk or on the bus and will experience a more jagged rhythm, zigzagging from one idea to the next, but never bringing one to closure or a place of rest. A place of rest is a concept that my poor brain doesn’t get to experience very often, so I will forever cherish the way running can harness it all and help stretch it out.

2. Breathing 
This reason shares my gratitude with yoga and therapy (and it totally doesn’t mind). Running has helped me find balance in breathing. In order to pick up the pace, my body needs more oxygen. If something begins to hurt, chances are more oxygen entering my lungs will help. When I’m ready to slow it down, my body uses the air I breathe to begin repairing itself. Similar to the steady flow of my mind, my body knows and understands how to best allocate its resources. As I breath, I focus on dismemberment and where I mean to send that oxygen. Is it going to my legs? My stomach? My shoulders? I’ve been surprised by the many ways thoughtful breathing has benefited my body and overall focus.

3. Connectivity
Runners are really, really nice. I haven’t raced all over the country (or even the state), but all of my experiences have been with hundreds of alike runners making their way through one, usually quiet narrow, coarse. Not once have I witnessed shoving or fighting. Instead, I’ve experienced a world of understanding and never-ending support. I’ve never crossed a finish line with someone familiar to me, but in that moment, we see each other as best friends. In addition to support and encouragement, people share food, clothing and medical supplies with complete strangers and without question. I look around and a runner’s level of experience separates them from no one. Everyone is a runner. It’s really amazing.

4. The view
Chicago is quiet the place to run around, but really, running anywhere can make the most ordinary of places feel exciting. I’m lucky enough to have three beautiful landscapes at the tip of my toes: the lake, big skyscrapers and a few trails. I can plan a run that gives me all three in one workout. Repeating an incredible route can feel like re-watching a Tarantino film - you may know all the words, but you’re always noticing a new detail somewhere buried beneath the main action. There are special areas in Chicago that I’ll avoid driving or taking public transportation on simply because I know it just isn’t the same when I’m off of my feet. 

5. Individual Accomplishment
I don’t care if you’ve ever only run 1 mile or 26.2 - nobody can take away the rush of accomplishment you feel when it’s over. Running is hard. Even though this post is titled, “5 Reasons Why I love Running,” there are a handful of mornings I lie and tell myself that I don’t (usually because I have no choice but to run in the morning that week). This last one is most difficult to explain. I’ve always been an athlete who works alone. I was on a swim team for most of my life, but each race was just between me and the pool. It’s a very personal moment. It’s wrapping your head around what your mind and body have just accomplished together. Everything is working in unison to push forward. It’s really an incredible thing.

Being a sister, Having a sister.

I’ve been gushing a lot about my sister lately, I know, but she’s been making it so easy to gush that I can’t resist. The past few years have been especially enriching for us with this summer really topping off our growing relationship. It’s as if the seven years between us are disappearing one after the other, allowing our similarities to outshine our differences. Even our differences aren’t feeling quite as different as we mature and come to understand and appreciate the other for exactly who they are.

In this world we have different types of people on our team, usually consisting of close friends or family members - you’re lucky if you have both.

Siblings are different, though. If you are lucky enough to have a relationship with someone you grew up with, you just get each other.

We’re cut from the same cloth. We grew from the same garden. We swim in the same pond. We’re sisters who are becoming the best of friends.

I’m realizing that my sister is a huge part of who I am, so I want to thank her for helping me be the best me possible. Whether she knows it or not, she’s who I look up to, and I hope I can be that person for her in return.

A Much Overdue Post

I can’t believe how long it’s been since I’ve written anything. Well, I’ve been writing a bunch but just not writing here. Life has become so rich in the past two months that I’m finding it difficult to focus on only one topic or theme right now…

Congratulations, Ashley. Talk about first world problems, huh? 

I’m just gonna let it roll.

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A new hobby of mine - bird seed. I love my patio. Hobbies are fun. (Photo credit: Ashley Campbell)

For most of my life, my well being and state of mind have completely been a reflection of my current job. And lemme tell you, I’ve had some shitty jobs. Not shitty jobs, I guess, but I’ve worked for some shitty people.

You all know what that’s like. We’ve all felt the wrath of some dickhead dipshit with an impressive title and a paycheck the size of their fat egotistical head. It sucks and it makes you miserable.

Now, I’m not trying to say that I’ve been miserable most of my life. I’d like to think that I’ve been pretty happy considering the expected growing pains of adulthood. My new job, though. There’s something really different about this experience.

For once, I think my job is giving more than it’s taking from my life. Sure, it’s taking my time but in exchange for that, I’m gaining a sense of fulfillment. I’m not sure that I’ve ever truly felt fulfilled since  this “growing up” stuff.

No, that’s a feeling I’ve been chasing for the past seven years and, man, does it feel good to finally feel it again.

Life is doing what it does best right now - it’s happening and with each new day, I fall more in love with it. I truly am blessed.

On May 4, 2014 I made the choice to quit drinking. My awesome little sister made me this bracelet to help when that decision gets a little tough. 

I also have an incredibly thoughtful note from Matt that I’ll keep with me and in my wallet until the day I die, but it’s too cute for the internet.

I love them both more than the air I breathe. Truly grateful.

On May 4, 2014 I made the choice to quit drinking. My awesome little sister made me this bracelet to help when that decision gets a little tough.

I also have an incredibly thoughtful note from Matt that I’ll keep with me and in my wallet until the day I die, but it’s too cute for the internet.

I love them both more than the air I breathe. Truly grateful.

Defending the use of “My Partner”

Many people ask me why I refer to Matt as my partner and not my boyfriend.

It seems that when people hear the word “partner” they assume I am dating a woman. This doesn’t surprise me as “partner” is commonly used in describing members of non-heterosexual relationships, but my response is always the same:

I choose to use the word partner because that’s exactly what he is to me. “Boyfriend” feels very juvenile. It feels very small. It doesn’t fit so I’ve chosen a word that does. 

"Boyfriends" (and yes, even a few "girlfriends") have come in and out of my life since the 7th grade. They’re like test runs, aren’t they? Come on, that isn’t harsh. You know it’s true. Male, female, transgender, etc., nobody has a clue what it is they want so you’re both just trying different things on for size - testing, experimenting, winning and losing but hopefully always learning something in the end. 

Now a “partner,” someone to share virtually everything with, is much bigger. It’s sturdy. It defines a commitment and an understanding of what each person feels, wants, dreams, and aspires to be. With that commitment comes a resilience to adapt as those feelings, desires, dreams and aspirations change. 

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Photo by Ashley Campbell
Road Trippin’ to Southern Illinois University ‘14
 

It’s something very difficult to put into words, especially for those who haven’t yet experienced this. Matt is my partner and calling him anything else just feels like cheating. He deserves more credit than that. We deserve more credit that that. 

Out of everything I am grateful for, he takes the cake (although, he’d prefer pie). We’re a team, a team that never quits. We’ll be the first to tell you that it’s not always easy, but it certainly is always rewarding. 

I’ll spend the rest of our life hoping that I’ve thanked him enough for being the magnificent person that he is, for his patience and for his unconditional love. I’ll also thank his family, because they’re so goddamn good to me, too. I’ll thank them for having something to do with this honest, hard-working man they’ve brought into this world for me to find.

Can’t stop, won’t stop.

I love food. 

Food. Food. Food. Food. Food. I love eating food - bad food, too. 
I really think we should get over this “pretending not to love to eat in front of other people,” ladies.

Guess what - our bodies suck at weight control anyway.

We were made to have babies, and will therefore will lose/gain, lose/gain, lose/gain for the rest of our lives. Wouldn’t you like to say that you at least got a few good, greasy, grimy meals out of this lifetime?

Eat up, Chicago gals. 

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Photo by Ashley Campbell (I’m going to credit more…sorry!)
Cookies & Carnitas 

Moments

"Most of all, we need to remember - in between texts and e-mails and Facebook posts - to listen to one another, even to the boring bits, because it is often in unedited moments, moments in which we hesitate and stutter and go silent, that we reveal ourselves to one another."

- “The Flight From Conversation” by Sherry Turkle 

I’m starting to notice a pattern. I’m not happy unless I allow myself the time to recognize and enjoy valuable moments. Actually, they don’t even need to outwardly valuable. They can be silly. They can feel pointless. A moment can be simply succumbing to the steam trapped behind the shower curtain. A moment can be taking more time to smell my coffee than to actually drink it. It can be taking the time to catch up with an old friend in the hallway, despite needing to get that assignment started…

Do it. Let yourself feel, see, smell, taste and be.

Our senses need to  s  t  r  e  t  c  h  every once in awhile. 

No matter how many days, months or years spent apart, friends are friends; girlfriends are sisters. 

No matter how many days, months or years spent apart, friends are friends; girlfriends are sisters. 

Thank you [I’m sorry for what I said], Chicago.

Dear Chicago,

I’ve said some pretty terrible things about you recently. Remember that night I literally cried myself to sleep over how much I thought you hated me and I you? Yeah. That was silly. We don’t hate each other. We may not have been so nice to one another lately, but I know deep down there is a lot of love between us.

I really am sorry for what I said, though. What I’d like to do now is thank you.

Thank you for:

My beautiful apartment because finding one here isn’t always easy, and I’ve gotten pretty lucky. You’ve blessed me with not one but two incredible spaces - this current one, as many know, is my favorite. It’s warm when it’s cold and open for spring-time breezes (nudge-nudge). I can be at the beach in less than 10 minutes, and that’s all while carrying enough food and booze to last the day’s rays. I can walk out of my front door and be seconds within a grocery store, restaurants, banks, boutique shops and much more. Edgewater is truly something beautiful. So, for that, thank you.

Edgewater, a view from the Red-Line “Bryn Mawr” platform.
Photo by Ashley Campbell

Running. All my life I thought it’d be cool to be a “runner.” You gave me that, Chicago! If it weren’t for the Chicago Marathon, Back on My Feet and your beautiful Lakefront Trail, I wouldn’t have done any of it. Now I’m patiently waiting for the ground to warm up so I can get back on my heels. The treadmill is terrible. Please don’t make me stay indoors too much longer. I’m missing Montrose Beach very much right now.

My affordable education by Northeastern Illinois University. If it weren’t for NEIU, I’m not sure where I’d be finishing my degree. Because of you, I will be graduating, before the age of 25 years old, with less than $15,000 in debt. Enough said. 

The jobs I’ve held while here - from selling pancakes to your tourists downtown and working onset a Travel Channel Pilot as an associate producer - WOW. The experiences I’ve gained (and the savings) while living here have been life changing, and I will take them with me wherever I go.

My independence. Now that I’ve made it in the big city, living on your own in Waukegan, IL is a piece of cake. Sorry, guys. It really is. Braving Chicago’s prices, weather, and mass amounts of trouble, are far more terrifying than living above Booners. And, I’ve done it for more than two years now. Let’s pat ourselves on the back for that one, Chicago. We’ve survived each other’s presence!

Your shitty/beautiful weather.Ahhhhhhh, yes. Have you noticed? I’ve tried very hard not to complain this year. While I may have broken down and flipped a few birds into the air recently, I truly appreciate your bipolar ways. After all, nobody would cherish those first few spring days, if it weren’t for your relentless winter months. We can’t appreciate the good without the bad. 

The Billy Goat Tavern is one place I can do all the things that I love to do at once: eating, drinking and learning. I’ve made some incredible memories at the downtown location, and I will continue to make BGT a stop for celebrating and just-because fun during my time here. 

Every single way (so many) you’ve helped Matt become the individual he is today. There is something unique and beautiful about watching your partner grow into their own. You’ve given him countless opportunities to earn his education and to build a career here. For that, our future family will forever be grateful. I know he will work to give it back to you and to the Chicago Public Schools system. We’re all about coming full circle, Chicago. Get ready. 

These are just a few things I thought up while riding the #84 to the office. Rest knowing that there are more and that I will do my best to never badmouth you again. Sometimes we fight, and I think that’s okay as long as always make up.

Also, one day I will leave you for Waukegan, IL again, and you can’t get mad at me. Full circle, remember? That’s a long ways away, though. We still have time to get to know and love each other. 

Love always,

Ashley