I was raised with the understanding that to succeed in life was to establish yourself and set yourself up for a life that would support you financially; financially not just in the sense that having money was the goal, but having stability was the goal, because stability translated to happiness. And, in order to live a life of happiness, you had to be at the helm. No one person could deliver you happiness and stability aside from yourself.
I started my road to stability in 2005 when my then boyfriend (turned husband) and I ventured out of Arizona and headed to San Diego, California to start a business. My father also owned a business, and I watched him bust his backside my entire childhood. As I aged, I also saw him succeed. He taught me that I could build my own dreams, or someone else would hire me to build theirs. His words, advice, and truth have been the best I’ve been gifted. Some have been tough words to swallow, and extremely scary to confront, but they were correct.
However, I started this journey at a much younger age than he did. I was barely 21 when I started down the entrepreneurial path. That’s a young age to start anything that serious. I was finishing my last semester of university, wasn’t married, but I was a “fly-by-the-seat” type of gal. Plus, what 20 year old turns down a business opportunity that makes their home California? Not many.
Before I knew it, I was married to the man I took the leap with, I was pregnant, we had made a little home for ourselves and we were busting down doors and takin’ names.
It didn’t take long for reality to set in. There are only so many times watching a beautiful sunset escape you on the sandy beaches of Del Mar before the ‘What the fuck was I thinking?’ thought process sinks in.
As time went on, we built our business, loaded up on loans, stress, and things began to take their toll. I made a plethora of mistakes and it took me a long while to escape them. My husband and I kept chipping away and here we are, nearly ten years later, and while we aren’t completely out of the red, we can slightly see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve been looking for that light at the end of the tunnel for a long time and it’s very slowly starting to shine brighter.
I was reflecting the other day when I was contacted by some section of the government that we apparently owe money to and my mind went back to that old place nearly a decade ago; the place of ‘what the fuck was I thinking?’. I had a mini self-pity party. I thought about what my life would be like had I never made the move to San Diego, had I never made the choice to become a small business owner, and jump into this insanely chaotic life—the entrepreneurial life. While I sat there, I had a load of thoughts pour through my brain.
At first, there were the ‘woe is me’ thoughts, but then I stopped and thought about just myself for a moment. I took everything out of the equation—including my daughter and husband.
Who am I today? Who would I be if I hadn’t delved into this adventure all but ten years ago? I have been through and experienced quite a bit in my 20’s. Albeit, I’ve put myself in a lot of situations by my own doing, but regardless, those lessons, those experiences, they change you.
I’ve been sued (twice), I’ve been reprimanded by several branches of the government (many I didn’t even know existed) more times than I can count with fines, notices, warnings, etc. I’ve learned the in’s and out’s of who not to fuck with and who’s a bit more lenient when your bank account is in the red and you need to come up with 5K at the drop of a hat, I’ve faced serious medical problems that have taken years to resolve; I’ve digested a lot.
A few months back, I arrived at my daughter’s school for pick-up and overheard a frazzled mom talking about how fast her day went by; how she couldn’t believe the time when she peered at her watch and realized she hadn’t had an opportunity to grocery shop that afternoon because of her toddler’s nap. She mentioned something about potty training and how she was losing sleep because of it, and how much stress that was adding to her life.
In that moment, I was envious of her. I was envious of her stressors, I wondered what it would be like to be at stay at home mom, I wondered if I’d ever have enough time, space, or money to add another child to my family. I know my envy was childish, but in all honesty, it was present.
My mini-pity-party started just as that, but it quickly evolved into something else. Life takes you on a journey whichever direction you take, that is a fact. In my case, my ditching the typical ‘fun-filled twenties’ was left to build a business, get married, birth a human, and make a few bad decisions along the way, too.
I turned 31 five months ago, and as I look back on my twenties and look forward to my thirties, I realize that these will be my best years. The craptastic experiences and lessons I’ve endured (many at my own doing) have changed the way I view the world, life, and the “little stuff.”
Those memories: the awful, the beautiful, the reckless, the happy; those are the experiences that have carved and whittled me into who I am today, Ashley Alteman. The one with the heart on her sleeve, yet armor that protects her from the storms that life throws her way; the armor that has thickened during each trial and hardship. The woman, who, through it all, has never once lost her sick, demented, sense of humor.
Every time I’ve felt my life was the pits, I think of where I’ve been, what I’ve endured, and what I’ve survived. Those life experiences create somewhat of a warrior out of you. The little stuff no longer seems to matter, and you learn to no longer allow it to penetrate.
I’ve found that I’m able to handle most anything now. My biggest fear is no longer the unexpected, because I’m prepared for that.
My husband and I were chatting the other day about our life, where we are, where we intend to go, and I said: “Honestly, as long as I have you on one arm, and our girl on the other, and we’re all healthy, I’m good.”
Perspective. It’s funny how much it changes; the more shit you go through, the more shit you put yourself through, the more shit you know you continue to face, but you learn, you deal, and you adjust your sail.
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