Elevate

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“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?” 
― Mary Oliver

I took a risk the other day.
My gut…no, my soul told me too.
And I listened.

I was asked to speak at Elevate a few weeks ago.
It was an honor.
You see, Elevate is different from most blog conferences.
It’s intimate. Almost magical. Limited to 50 attendees.
And topics of discussion focus less on the techniques of “growing your business”,
and more on the journey of blogging..the heart of blogging…the art of story telling.

I diligently stayed up into the wee hours of the night on the week leading up to the conference,
preparing a talk with helpful insights I was sure my fellow bloggers would find useful.
I called it 10 Things I Wish I Would Have Known Before Starting My Blog.

But…
My words just didn’t feel right.
They were too formal.
Too neatly packaged.

So I did what I always do when I seem to have the inability to make decisions for myself.
I called the friend who doesn’t hesitate to make decisions for me.
I called Nina and read her what I had prepared so far.
She was kind and gracious, as she always is.
But I could hear in her voice that the words weren’t quite right to her either.
I told her that I didn’t feel like I had said what it was I really wanted to say.

Nina: Well…what do you really want to say?

I guess I want to say…
That this is hard.
And sometimes it sucks.
And at least once a day, every single day I want to quit.
And how I blame blogging for the onset of my quarter-life crisis.
And how as bloggers, as people who put ourselves out there,
we never really talk about that part.
But for me, something about blogging makes me feel more empowered and fulfilled than I have ever felt in my life, while also feeling more scared and vulnerable than I have ever felt in my life–just like motherhood.
…and I guess that’s what I want to say.

Nina: Then say that. It’s the truth. It’s your truth.

Me: But…I feel like I need to tie it up in a pretty little bow at the end. Find some silver lining in what may come across as negative…

Nina: Maaaaybe you just haven’t gotten to your bow yet…

She was right. And I knew it.
I hung up the phone, opened a new, blank word document,
and I started over.

But something was holding me back…
Keeping me from fully writing the thoughts that were weighing on my heart.

So I wrote a modified version…
a fluffier version…
a safer version…
of my truth.

And then I clicked print.
In that moment I figured I could have the best of both worlds.
I could tell my truth and I could package it neatly.
Truth and perfection.

What I hadn’t considered was that the Universe doesn’t allow those two things to coexist.

***

I was last in a lineup of fantastic speakers.
As I listened to these talented ladies deliver their heartfelt and beautifully prepared talks,
I was driven to tears and inspired to continue on my journey.
Our words matter–that’s what I took from their stories.

By the time all the speakers had gone and my turn was fast approaching,
I looked down at my 8 page talk and realized that every word had already been spoken in the previous talks.
Every. Single. Word.
I had nothing new to offer these eager minds and open hearts.
I began to silently panic. To scour my talk for a shred of material I could use.
Nothing.

So I did what I do…when I don’t know what to do.
I walked away,
found a quiet corner
and I prayed.

I prayed for the courage to say the words I had hoped I could be brave enough to say.
I prayed for the courage to share my truth.

I wish I could say that I walked away from that prayer with comfort that all would be well.
But that would be a lie.
What I did walk away with though,
was the knowledge that my prayer had been heard and this was no longer in my hands.

As I walked back into the room a fellow blogger friend, Megan, took a thoughtful look into my eyes with obvious worry on her face.

Megan: Are you okay? Do you need anything from me? How can I help?

Her words were unexpected. Thoughtful. Inspired even.

Me: It’s out of my hands now.
And then I gave her a wink and walked to the front of the room to begin.
I looked down at my stack of neatly typed pages and I tossed them on a nearby table.
I was ready to share my truth–even if it wasn’t packaged with a pretty little bow.

***

So I did.
For 45 minutes straight.
Without taking a breath.

I could see the surprise on the faces of many sitting in the audience.
Surprise at my sometimes brutal honesty.
At my failures acknowledged.
At my weaknesses pointed out.
At the raw nature of my lessons learned over the last three years.

I laid it all out.
Acknowledged that I didn’t have all the answers. Not even close.
That, like everyone sitting in that room, I know this experience is a journey.
My journey. Full of mistakes, and pitfalls, and lessons learned the hard way.
And I don’t have a pretty bow yet because I’m still in that part of my journey where I’m trying to figure out my packaging.
I’m still working on getting those tough folded over corners just right–even if it takes half a dozen tries and nearly an entire roll of tape.
I’ll keep trying though. Until I know I’ve done my best. Until it’s beautiful.
Even if the paper rips along the way. Even if it isn’t perfect.
Especially if it isn’t perfect–because it won’t be, I know that for certain.
But if there’s anything this journey has taught me so far,
it’s to find beauty in the imperfections.

***

I finished talking and left the front of the room without that usual “speakers adrenaline” I had grown accumstomed to in the past.
Instead, I was calm. At peace. Resolved.

It wasn’t until the drive home and the entire week following the conference
that those pesky little “fear” and “panic” thoughts started to creep in.
What did I just do?
Did I really say all that?
Did I really admit to being an “immature” and “petty” blogger in the beginning”?
Did I really admit that some of my past posts make me cringe?

Did I really voice those thoughts out loud?
Have I just scared everyone away forever?

Because you know,
that’s what fear does you guys.
Especially when you share your truth.
Fear tells you that you’re crazy–and that everyone thinks you’re crazy too.
Fear tells you that your mistakes are in vain–that there are no lessons to be learned from them, only heartache in their wake.
Fear tells you you’re not enough, and admitting weakness or failures in fact makes you both of those things–weak and a failure.
But fear is wrong.
Dead wrong.
And I choose to believe that,
even if I need to remind myself a million times before it feels true.

And even if I scared the hec out of most people in the room with my truth…
Even then, the calm I felt right after I spoke…
that calm was my truth, the answer to my prayers that at least ONE person in that room needed to hear my message.
So take that fear. Boo-ya.

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Photo and Video Credit to the amazingly talented Lora Knight!

Ashley Stock
I'm Ashley. Sometimes I craft, occasionally I cook, everyday I write, and I'm always Momma. This is my blog. I keep it real while still seeing the rainbows and butterflies in all of life's lessons.
Ashley Stock
Ashley Stock
Ashley Stock

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Comments

  1. Wow. This post gave me goosebumps. I so wish I could have heard you speak (downside of being in the UK and all these amazing conferences being the wrong side of the Atlantic for me I guess!)
    I know that I am so, so, SO guilty of trying to find the silver lining – or as you called it “the bow” – in each situation. And while I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing to want to see the positives and wrap things up all pretty and tidy, it isn’t real or, as you point out, your truth. I’m glad that you spoke your truth and that it brought you calm and peace. I hope I can get better at speaking mine. x

  2. You look adorable- loving the dress!

    Wish I could have heard you speak at that conference- I have been wanting to attend Elevate!

    xx Lynzy

  3. you seriously know how to speak/write in a way that no one else can. i so look forward to reading your posts every day. SERIOUSLY. some day i hope to meet you and not just know you through the blog world :) and i don’t just say that about every blog i read….

    ps i have those target wedges and love them. you look fabulous in that black dress! casual and summery and cute.

  4. Nope did not scare at all– in fact it was your words that finally made me feel okay about the whole thing okay; like it was all worth it even when it sucks, that I am not alone in how I feel.
    Thank you. Thank you for trusting enough to just turn it over and say what you were guided to say.
    My only regret is that I did not take the time to come tell you all of this that night.

  5. siobhan says:

    I LOVED reading this post! I don’t even blog and I felt the struggles and joys of this world of blogging through your words. I also loved seeing my friend Sarah Hull standing next to you; two amazing women. I once read a line that said, “You don’t get the cool scars to talk about by putting a Band-Aid over every wound.” Everyone has things, life, that shapes and makes them who they are, and there’s no reason to hide what has made you, you. I’m sure my wrapping paper looks like my 3yr old did it, and it doesn’t have a bow yet either, but I love it all the same. Keep on inspiring women like me who need to hear that life is worth it, that they are worth it!

  6. I was that person. If no one else walked away with a new appreciation for their words it was me. I was so incredibly inspired by your speach and by you as a human. I just love your guts but that’s no secret. :)

  7. well, I am sure you already knew/know that you shall know the truth sand the truth shll make you free……………………..elevate/enlighten

  8. So beautifully written, thank you for sharing your truth, no matter what. Its true your words matter, they give me hope, I learn so much, to let go, take it easy, and to give myself a break. Thank you.

    xoxo,

    Misty

  9. You did a great job Ashley! I’m so glad I was in the audience for it. And it’s crazy to read this “behind the scenes” look at how you were feeling before/during/after it. Thanks for sharing. So nice to see you (again) ;] xo JA

  10. hi! i am so glad i read this today. i am new to the whole blogging world… and while there are moments that i LOVE it (when i get to put my thoughts to words for some one to read, when i get a lovely email from a reader, when it just offers a distraction from the fantastically trying motherhood thing…), but there are PLENTY of times when i feel stretched too thin… and i think “why am i spending time on this blog thing?… i have 3 little boys that need my help… i have a church calling that needs my time… i have that half marathon to train for… i have sleep that i’m not getting… i have a to do list that keeps growing… i have dates to go on with my hubby…” but, i’m not ready to give up on my little blog. i hope that i will know if/when that day comes… but, for now i will carry on. and hope that i find that pretty little bow… or at least some joy, chocolate, laughter, new friends, DDP, cuteness, fun, etc. along the way!
    oh and that dress looks so cute on you! i’ve been wanting to buy something from PP with that quote on it… not sure i could pull of the dress as well as you do though? i think i might be more a boyfriend T sorta girl. you look adorable though.
    thanks for sharing your words, experience & thoughts with me today.
    carry on!

  11. Your honest storytelling is why people love your blog. This post spoke to me on a broader level (not just blogging), thank you for inspiring and comforting!

  12. 1) tears. 2) fear and boo-yah:) 3) now I guess I should face my fear and write…..

    Thanks for this post!! Your real made a difference.

    Jessie @possiblemary

  13. Your session spoke directly to me and my blogging heart. I write all about it in my post to publish Thurdsay. I loved what you said but also in your delivery. I would have never known those fears. Thank you for agreeing to speak at Elevate and for your hug that day! It was amazing to meet you but even more amazing was to be inspired by you all over again!
    Xoxo
    Megan

  14. Love this post! Women can learn so much from each other’s experience, joys, fears, imperfections. Thank you for sharing your stories here. It sounds like you rocked that conference!

  15. Breanne says:

    “Fear tells you that you’re crazy–and that everyone thinks you’re crazy too.
    Fear tells you that your mistakes are in vain–that there are no lessons to be learned from them, only heartache in their wake.
    Fear tells you you’re not enough, and admitting weakness or failures in fact makes you both of those things–weak and a failure.”

    Thank you for your words. You’ve inspired me, given me hope- truly, thank you.

  16. good for you for being honest ! i will tell you right now that the biggest, prettiest package came for me when I made my blog private and started doing it just for me and my children. I quit fb and Instagram and started to really, really focus on the relationships that meant the most to me. not saying this is for you, either, but don’t be afraid of considering it either. best of luck on your journey!

  17. You are amazing! I want to go to Elevate so badly. It sounds totally amazing.

  18. Brittney says:

    Wish I could’ve heard you!
    xo

  19. I was blown away from your speech. It was the best thing to hear because you were the first blogger I ever found. You were the reason I wanted to write as well and share my voice. But you also made it look so darn easy.
    It was a sigh of relief to know that you have struggles as well. It’s hard to have a ton of content to write about. It’s hard to keep up with emails and sponsors and the whole shebang! It’s also hard to know that they is so much negativity out there. A lot.
    Thank you for sharing your truth.

  20. You are such an inspiration. I {a lot of the time} don’t know what to write about and I need to realize that no matter what it is. It’s my story! Thank you!!

  21. It was an HONOR to listen to you speak! Seriously! Thank you for pouring your heart out to us because honestly it’s so easy to sugar-coat everything we shout out to the world. To cover up and make everything perfect. I know I am totally guilty of that and trying to be more real. It was incredibly refreshing to hear your truth about the journey that you’ve had with all of this. I love reading everything you have to say. It’s like you are sitting right in front of me speaking….you have a gift with words and I’m so happy that you have this platform to share it with the world : )

    xoxo
    Lora

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