We’ve made it!

So many thoughts have been flying around my head since Matt accepted his job. It feels a lot like floating. 

Since moving to Chicago we’ve been walking up a pretty steep hill. Being broke and tired in Chicago is hard. We were spending all of our days and nights at work and in school. It’s no wonder we didn’t do too much our first two years here - we didn’t have any money or time to even consider it. We were grateful for the jobs we had, but we weren’t being respected by our superiors. 

We’ve worked our butts off, and we’ve learned a lot of important lessons. Now, it’s time to enjoy life at ease. We’re both working jobs that don’t make a lot of money, but they’re jobs that we love. They’re jobs that challenge us everyday and reward us when those challenges are met by our skill and talent.

And we’re planning things - all kinds of things! The trips we dreamed up last year are closer than ever. Our future knows no limits now. We can choose to do the things we’ve always wanted without sacrificing our most basic needs. We are no longer only trying to survive; we are budding into the lives we’ve always hoped would grow. 

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I realize that this isn’t a feeling that everyone gets to in their lifetime. There are people who will work hard all of their lives and never experience what we’re experiencing now. That makes me sad. I wish that everyone could experience what it feels like to be without worry.

If there has ever been a time in my life where I’ve felt the utmost grateful, this is it.

As excited as we are, we will remain grounded and balanced. There will be yet another phase in our life together when we need to walk back up that steep hill.

It’ll be tough but also a bit easier, and we’ll have this moment to thank for that.

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Breakfast with Matt today.

It’s the most important meal of the day, so it only makes sense to share it with the most important person in your life.

S-e-a-n Campbell Spells “Dad”

If I had to give my Dad a grade, I’d give him an A- (…not an A+ because there is room for improvement in anything, a statement I know that he, himself, would agree with!) 

Most people know that my Mom and Dad were pushed into parenthood at a very young age: 19 years old. My Dad isn’t my biological father. He chose fatherhood at 19 years old. He made a decision to love and support my mother as best as he could and has been ever since.

Their story is quiet unique and beautiful, but that’s for another post. This post is about my Dad and the superhero that he is to me.

My biological father left my Mom shortly after she became pregnant, but my Dad was there to love and support the two of us. This is a photo taken shortly after I was born; Daddy loving me no matter what. Biological father or not - that’s a new Dad falling in love with his little girl.

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When I reflect on my Dad’s life as a father thus far, I am amazed at how far he has come. Becoming a Dad at 19 years old wasn’t easy, and he made a lot of mistakes. He made some bad choices and maybe even said a few things that he wishes he could take back, but there wasn’t a day that went by that he didn’t love us unconditionally. As a child, I always knew love and that’s not something that everyone can say in this world.

As the years went by, my Dad continued to learned and to grow from every dispute and time of difficulty. He implemented that learning into his own life which quickly complimented our life as a family.

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As a family, we’ve seen each other at our worsts and built each other back up again, and again…and again. Because that’s what families do. They make mistakes, they learn, they try again, they grow and they better themselves for the sake of one another. 

I remember when he worked the graveyard shift and would eat his morning cereal when I was having dinner. I remember him staying up late to study when he decided to change his career. He still accepts side jobs on the weekends to ensure there’s an unforgettable trip to the Florida Keys every year - (I’ve got some catching up to do, I know!) Recently, he’s opened himself up to a more mindful way of healing injuries and ailments that have bothered him for most of his life. He’s taking care of himself which in return takes care of us.

In short: Dad gets it. He understands that we’re all works in progress and the only way to keeping moving forward is to “roll with the changes.” His drive to continually better himself as a man and as a parent is his most admirable quality, and I’ve truly loved watching him grow into who he is. 

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Seattle + Lessons from kayaking

Thank you, Seattle. Thank you for sharing with me your people, your food, your sites and all of your sounds! Some of you may remember my post from earlier this year that I wrote after traveling to San Diego. While this one may ooze a familiar enthusiasm for the West Coast, trust that my love for Washington’s King County is far more special.

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I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know the impressive team behind the very company you’ve heard me gushing about all summer. I’m completely convinced that this is where I belong. Not that I needed much convincing but this trip really cemented it all together. It’s a pretty amazing feeling to find yourself fitting in with people from all over the country. I’m leaving Seattle with a pocket full of new mentors and a heart full of new friends in every time zone!

After a night of seafood, laughter and goodbyes beneath the sunset, I embarked on my most rewarding adventure of the week. I welcomed the day by kayaking Lake Washington’s Ship Canal and chased Seattle’s many views of Mount Rainier well into the afternoon - taking a pit stop to the Ballard Locks in between. (A million thank yous, Gene!)

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I love kayaking, and today I realized two important lessons that can be taken away from this magical sport. 1) When the water gets choppy, you don’t fight against waves. Instead, you rock your hips and roll with them. Side-to-side. My Dad is always reminding me to just “roll with the changes,” especially when unexpected ones mess up my finely tuned agenda. Now I have a visual to pair with that mantra. 2) There were moments I found myself rowing only to find…”wait, wait…the current is actually taking me in the direction I want to be going.” It hit me that I could make pieces of my trip easier by putting my oar and arms to rest - letting go. 

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There are going to be things that are out of my control, and that’s okay. And sometimes I’ll need to trust the work that’s already been put out and let everything else, just, happen - because it will. 

While Chicago may be difficult to sell alongside Seattle, I refuse to return home without giving her a big ol’ smooch. Even if her face is hot and sweaty from the humidity, because soon it will be dry and cracked from the cold.

Chicago is a city of extremes and nothing like Seattle, but I owe her too much to ever let myself easily dismiss her many advantages.

Until next time, Seattle! Because there most certainly will be a next time.

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 jerky jerk-face 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.