To the Class of 2016: Ten Things I’ve Learned

To all my sweet, young friends who will be graduating tonight. I want you to all know how proud I am of the humans you have become.

As you embark on this thing called adulthood, let me pass on a few things I’ve learned along the way. Maybe one or two of them will help you avoid some unnecessary pain or frustration. There are many other things I have learned, but no one wants to read an infinite list. Ten will do for now.



1.
Don’t believe your own press. As you grow older, things will be said or written about you, both good and bad. You’ll even say things about yourself, both good and bad. We’ve all had to make ourselves look as good as possible for a job interview or an audition. Maybe things will even be printed about you. People will put you on a pedestal, and they will think you can do grand things. Don’t get me wrong; you can absolutely do grand things, but the minute you replace confidence with ego, that’s when your downfall begins. Stay humble. Stay grounded. Know who you are, and know who you’re not.

2. Find your people. Don’t settle for any group of friends that you can’t be yourself around. Be your quirky, weird, fun, absolute true self, and keep being that person until you find a group of people who are similarly quirky, weird, fun and true. Don’t surround yourself with ‘yes’ men and women. People who suck up to you are not your real friends. Don’t allow it. You can’t grow without positive resistance. Conversely, don’t allow yourself to be bullied by anyone. No one has the right to tell you how you should live your life. Or to make you feel small or unwanted. This isn’t high school anymore. You can walk away, and it’s a beautiful thing. Keep walking until you find your people.

3. Never stop learning. If you are pursuing higher education, take it as far as you possibly can, and past that, keep learning. Even if you’re not pursuing higher education, keep questioning, never take anything anyone says at face value, and never accept the answer, ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it.’ That’s they way it was always done before you got here. You bring value to everything you do. Keep reading, watching, listening, learning. You can never have too much knowledge. Also, travel. See things, see them in person. Meet new people, seek out opportunities to grow your mind, and expand your personal world.

4. Find your calling. You may or may not work some really crappy jobs in the next few years. Keep working, because they are the jobs that make you humble. A job is different from a calling. A calling lights a fire under you, brings you joy, challenges you, and makes you look forward to another day. Find your calling, and find a way to get paid for it.

5. Do all things in moderation. This is so important, and so very simple. Don’t drink/smoke/sex/drug/study/stress/sleep/work/play/spend too much. All of these have the power to take over your life. Some of them can ruin your life, and destroy many years, or shorten your life by many years. I’ll let you decide which those are, but they all have that power, if you give it to them. Don’t.

6. Choose a mate you like. Hormones are extremely powerful. You will have feelings for people you didn’t believe were possible. Strong, passionate, lusty feelings. Don’t listen to feelings. Do listen to that inner voice. It’s not enough to love someone, you must like them too. Do you like who they are? Do you like who you are when you are with them? Do they support you? Do they challenge you? If the only thing you have in common is physical attraction, then what will you have when that fades away? Choose someone who doesn’t push you to do things that make you uncomfortable, instead, choose someone who makes you the best possible version of yourself. Choose someone who brings you peace, not turmoil. Choose someone who makes your heart, mind, and soul say, “Ah. There you are.”

7. Be kind. Always. You are busy living your story, but you have no idea what your fellow man (or woman) is going through. Be kind whenever possible, and it’s always possible. If you find yourself becoming jealous of another person, ask yourself if you are willing to put in the amount of work they have for the result they have. If you are, then do it. If you aren’t, then be happy for them, and stop being jealous.

8. Learn to read body language. This will save you years of heartbreak and wonder. Learn to listen to what people say with their bodies, not their mouths. If the two don’t match, it is the body language you should believe. It is the purest form of truth.

9. Keep your sense of humor. Know that Life only gets harder. It will not always be kind, forgiving, or fair. Especially fair. Bad things will happen. Good things will happen. Sometimes, they will happen at the same time. Keep your sense of humor, because if you lose that, you could possibly lose your mind. Someone you love may not love you back. You might not get the job you know you were meant for. Eventually, you will lose people you love to distance, breakup, or death. This is Life. But you are in it for the long haul. Hang on, because it can also be beautiful, and full of wonder. Keep going for those moments. The big ones, and the small, simple ones. They make all the bad times worth the journey.

10. Seek God/Don’t blame God. He is the ultimate teacher, granter of wisdom, favor, and love. Seek Him in everything you do. He extends the hand of friendship to every human being. Those who accept it live an enriched life. Be careful to understand that it is not an easier life, in fact, at times it could be harder. In that vein, do not fall into the trap of blaming Him when Life beats you up. Trust Him. Trust that he will work all things together for your good. Bad things happen because this is Life, and this is a world with good people, bad people, disease, accidents, and tragedy. Know that He weeps with you in the bad, and rejoices with you in the good. Know that He loves you more than our human hearts can understand. That is, until you become a mother or a father. Then, I think possibly you will understand the depth of His love for you.


I don’t have all the answers, but these things have worked for me. In short, welcome, my friends, to all the possibilities of your Life. What an exciting adventure awaits!

 Happy Graduation Day. 🙂

No Room in the Inn…

“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” Luke 2:7 (KJV)

We have an advantage over Mary and Joseph. We read about their exclusion from the Inn and gloss over it as a just another sentence in the story of the birth of Jesus. But I think about it now, and I feel for them. How in the moment, what a terrifying prospect that had to be for them both.

While I don’t have the experience of childbirth, I think how mortified we would be if our families sweet Katelyn had to be born in a parking garage because the hospital was just too full to take on another patient on the night my cousin Lauren went in to have her.

We know, with the benefit of hindsight, that His birth in a stable was the fulfillment of prophecy, that it had to happen this way, that it was always meant to happen this way. But Mary and Joseph didn’t. If they did, they never would have asked for lodging in the first place. They would have gone straight to the stable, because they would have known this was God’s plan all along.

Bearing that in mind, I think of situations I go through today. How life sometimes seems so unfair,  or ‘first world’ difficult. How much easier would it be if I could just head straight for the stable and skip asking for the lodging because I know this is part of the plan.

But I don’t know. I then realize that because I’m in the middle of living my story, I don’t know how it turns out. How the blessings, difficulties and trials were/are exactly what was/is supposed to happen, because it was/is all part of the plan. I’m not at the end of my life, but I know the One who is.

This Christmas, I’m realizing that I don’t have all the answers, that I’ll never have all the answers, and that’s okay. That this is what God meant when he said, “sufficient for the day is it’s own troubles.” (Matthew 6:34)

If there’s no room in your Inn, fear not. This could all be part of the plan. Your story is far from over. 

35 Days to 35: We have an E-Book! (Today is my birthday!)

After the triumph of last night, I could barely sleep! I woke up this morning early, and laid there for a few minutes, thanking God for making the deadline. My grumbling tummy forced me to get up and make breakfast before I went to work on the e-book. I had sausage, eggs, Dr. Pepper and thin mints.

Because it’s my birthday. 😀

Since this journey just isn’t a journey unless something goes screwy, the e-book took about three tries before I got the margins presentable, and the photos where they should be. I re-watched “Bringing Up Baby” to keep me company.

I think that the indention on the paragraphs is too far, but, I’m sorry, I just didn’t know how in the world to fix them. So I submitted it. It said it could take up to 12 hours to appear on the site, but as I sat down to write this entry (about three hours later) it appeared!

I can now officially say that I completely made my deadline of publishing this book by my birthday. It went from rejection to publication in 35 grueling days. When I committed to blogging about this process, I had no idea what I would talk about every day, or if anyone would be interested in reading. How wrong I was on both counts! The support from friends, new and old, has been incredible!

I’m a Pisces, so now we’re going to get to the inevitable sentimental part of the story. I think back to what my life was like 10 years ago, and it is staggering the amount of changes that have taken place.

In February of 2005, I was still trudging through college, one class per semester at a time. I had just been asked my one of my instructors to make a list of my ’10 year goals’. Ten years seemed like an eternity away. I don’t remember everything I wrote down, but I know the top three were:

3. Write/ act on stage
2. Act in a Movie
1. Write a book

At the time, I was also in rehearsals for my very first Coffee House at my local community theatre. I had written a show, and it was the first time one of my works was really seen by a large audience.  I had a good job, great friends, and a theatre I loved more than anything. But my life was very small. I don’t say that with a trace of snark or meanness. It was lived in a 16 mile radius of work, home, theatre. And it was a very good life. So I thought.

Then, three years later, in May of 2008, I lost everything. I mean that in a very ‘first world’ sort of way. After reaching the pinnacle of my career at my beloved theatre, things spiraled out of control very quickly. My very, very, very best friend in the world decided she no longer wanted to be my best friend. I lost the job I had held for 8 years, and I had a earth-shattering break with my theatre home.

No, I’m not going to name any of them, or divulge details. That is not the point of this. The point of this is to say that I was beyond heartbroken. So much so that I almost immediately came down with a combination of mono and strep throat. I felt, emotionally and physically, like the world was ending.

But it didn’t.

I can say whole-heartedly, that God was moving. It was in May of 2008 that my friendship with Rachael and Candy began. That summer, I went outside of my comfort zone to another theatre in another town, and met a group of wonderful, kind, and giving people, two of which (Hannah and Tim) would end up becoming a huge part of my life. That fall, I created a traveling theatre group with Rachael and Brian and we were active for a couple years. This is how I met Ben, who has also become a significant person in my life.

Because of Rachael, in 2009, I had my first part as an extra on a movie set, and a year later, in 2010, I was hired as a Production Assistant, where I met Tyler. It was with the money I earned that summer that Rachael and I pooled our resources and began the “No Lost Cause” journey.

We all know what happened then. Or at least, you will if you read the book! 😉

That is a very truncated way to tell you that Life, for me, has never, ever been easy or simple or uncomplicated. Every time things seemed to be looking up (We got book publication!) the bottom would drop out. (Never mind!)

But you know what? With every change, my world kept expanding. After having a life long irrational fear of flying, I had to fly in a plane to get to my first film festival. There, I met Joel, the man who would distribute my first film, and open my life up on a world-wide scale.

Because of him, I came home and made another movie. I wrote and directed and played the lead role. One of my pivotal scenes needed a high school, where I met Russell (and then Jill) who have taken me in with open arms and given me a theatre to call my home. I started this blog as a way to bring awareness to our films and projects, and I’ve ended up making new friends in other countries! (Hi Josephine and James!)

People have floated into my life at just the right moments, and in just the right way to help me through a particular time or experience. (Kristen, your compassion during the days of Sammy and Deana will never be forgotten.) Some of them floated back out, but others have stayed and taken root.

I’m sure I’m telling all this very badly, because I’m on a semi-cloud of happiness, and I tend to write better when I’m morose. I’m saying all the above to say this. If you read this hot mess of a series from the beginning, you know that I did not reach this goal because I’m particularly smart (in fact, had I been a bit smarter, I probably could have done this faster!) I’m not tech savvy, or arrogant enough to think I could do it on my own.  I asked for help when and where I needed it,(Rachael, Jillian and Josh!!!) and I cried when I didn’t think things were moving fast enough or the right way. (Thank you, Mom and Nancye for the endless encouragement).

But I never gave up. I can’t believe how similar the process of actually printing this book has been to the process of making the film. Spoiler alert. We made a movie almost the exact same way as I got this book printed. We never, ever, ever gave up and we pressed on until we reached our goal.

Was it easy? No, but nothing really worth having ever is.

So to you, my friends and readers I say: If there is anything, anything, that is weighing on your heart right now, that you want to do, but are scared of….do it. Please do it. If things turn out badly, or they don’t turn out the way you think they should, keep going. Keep working. If your life falls apart, maybe it’s what needs to happen before you can really have a break through. It was for me. Heartbreak was the catalyst that catapulted my life into another dimension. One that I love more than anything.

Now, I sure don’t want to relive the heartbreak, but I can say that I’m very, very grateful that it happened. It won’t be the last one, I’m certain of that, but I know enough now to trust that God is working it all out for my good. (Rom. 8:28).

It has taken me ten years, but today, I finally get to mark off my number one life goal.

I wrote a book.

If I can do it, I’m really, really certain that you can too.


http://www.amazon.com/Why-Not-Philosophy-Learned-Raptors-ebook/dp/B00U1M2QKO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1424977605&sr=8-1&keywords=ashley+raymer-brown


Right at 35 days before my 35th birthday, Rachael and I found out that a book we wrote about our experience making our first film “No Lost Cause,” was being returned to us by the publisher after a year of waiting for it to be printed. Instead of wallowing in our collective misery, I committed to blogging every day while I searched for ways to overcome this perceived rejection and obstacle to our goal. I currently also have about three other projects brewing at the same time, and write about the progress of each of them. This is the final entry in that series.

Read the first entry here: https://ashleyraymerbrown.com/2015/01/23/35-days-to-35-dealing-with-rejection/

35 Days to 35: Ten Steps Back (7 more days)

I’m not even sure I know how to explain how I feel. I took the above image a few days ago, but I feel like it rings true for me right now. In a small way, I know what that tree feels like. It spent years growing out a beautiful limb, only to have it hacked off at the trunk.

One step forward, ten steps back.

I’m better now, that much I can tell you, and while the heartbreak is familiar, it just doesn’t seem to get easier to bear.

After weeks of work, and the past two days filled with such tediousness I couldn’t even bear to tell you about, I finished everything I could do on my own for the book. All that was left was a citation page that Jillian had agreed to help with, and a tweak for the cover that my friend Josh was going to try and help me with this weekend.

All of a sudden, things were not only on track, they were ahead of schedule. The book looked beautiful. I was incredibly proud. I couldn’t believe it.

I should have known. The very book I’m editing is filled with so many examples of this very thing. When attempting to fix the formatting of the drop caps, Jillian said, “I can’t believe there’s not an easier way.”

I said, “Jillian. You just read the book. When I’m involved, there’s NEVER an easier way.” We shared a nice laugh.

I should have known.
Continue reading

35 Days to 35: The Gift of Peaceful Geese

Aching muscles and stiff joints were my alarm clock and a tinge of leftover stomach malady was my snooze button.

I had only been awake twenty seconds, and I sat there– just sat there, eyelids heavy with a weariness that usually comes after a long day of work. There’s a lot of things I’m good at. Mornings just isn’t one of them.

Continue reading

35 Days to 35: Super Book

 

After the nail biting incident last night, I went to my room with a queasy stomach and a headache, drained and frustrated by the lack of ‘fast enough’ results on designing the book cover. I am decidedly from the “I want it now” generation.  Last night, I dreamed about the book cover and woke up still feeling exhausted and physically ill.

This. This is what I do best. Worrying. Did it help the book cover magically materialize? No. All it did was make me feel sick, cranky, and distracted.

Today, I sat down again and decided to do some research. While most of America is gearing up to watch the Super Bowl, I was determined that Sunday would come to a close without a book cover.
Continue reading

Climbing the Mountain

As someone who seemingly has unceasing dreams and aspirations, I can honestly say I understand the drive, the passion and the insanity that a big dream, or even a calling, can inflict upon the poor soul who dared to have it in the first place.

In 2012, my mother, Rebekah, was inflicted by such a calling. She called me and told me she had an idea for a story, maybe even a novel. She outlined the whole thing for me and then laughed as she told me I should write it for her. To her shock and dismay, I turned her down. “That’s the thing about a dream, Mom. It has to be lived out by the person who has it. Nobody else can do it for you.”

“But I don’t know how!” she replied. I reminded her that my first film was made with little more knowledge than that. But I learned along the way, and there was one thing I was certain of. If I could do it, she could do it. While I knew it would be scary for her, I also knew that there was no replacement for the euphoria she would feel when she finished. Even if, as she said she feared, no one ever read it, it would be her own personal scaled mountain.

And the view would be glorious.

Once she realized I was serious when I said I wasn’t going to write it for her, she decided she would tackle that mountain. On December 27th, 2012, she began her story.

Now, December 27, 2014, exactly two years, and hundreds of hours of writing, researching, and rewriting later, not only does she have a completed book, but she has a SECOND book fully drafted. On November 1st of this year, she entered NaNoWriMo, which is short for “National Novel Writing Month.” The goal is to draft a 50k word novel in 30 days or less.

She finished in 21.

Back in July, I asked her to sit down and answer a few questions about the book. I told her I would publish them when the book became available. This is that interview.
Continue reading