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. 🙂

For the love of Art

Bad things happen. Hate, greed, violence, and pain have existed since our exit from the Garden of Eden. There is nothing new under the sun, so hate, greed, violence, and pain will go on existing until we all shuffle off this mortal coil.

What can be done about it? What do we do when things seem at their very lowest point? When we can’t imagine something more awful happening than the thing that happened yesterday? Or today? Or even tomorrow? How can we combat all the darkness?

Love. Joy. Peace. Forgiveness.

How can we achieve these feelings? These qualities? One way is through art. That sounds ridiculous. Legislation! New rules! More restrictions! Shouting! That’s what we need to create love, joy, peace, and forgiveness!

Perhaps. I’ll leave that up to those who feel called to that line of change. I wish them well. In the meantime, while they do the work they’ve been called to do, I’ll do mine.  I will combat the darkness by creating art.

What qualifies as art? The actual definition is, “the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.”

Art is painting. Art is film. Art is dance. Art is theatre. Art is whatever we need it to be that stirs our emotions, stimulates our minds, and soothes our spirits. (Or challenges them).

During the Great Depression, all businesses suffered, but the one business that still brought in crowds was the movies. People wanted to escape their circumstances, and for two hours, Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, and many others were their ticket to another world. A world where there wasn’t any hate, greed, violence, or pain.

Our theatre has a show that opens tomorrow. Come see it. Not because the volunteer actors have spent countless hours rehearsing and refining the material. Not because it’s been a joy to produce. Not because these actors are some of the kindest people ever assembled in one place. Actually, not for any reason related to the actual formation of the show.

Come because for two short, simple hours, it will take you away from the darkness that gathers outside. Inside our four walls, there is sunshine, and there is pure joy. Our actors portray real characters with real problems, so there is conflict, but it is resolved. We know everything will turn out all right for them; and knowing that, we have a bit of hope for ourselves. And we need that right now. We need that every day.

We are fortunate to have many community theatres in our area, and all are producing the best quality art they know how. Support them. Support art in all forms because it’s only when we stop filling the seats, when we give up on any hope of love, joy, peace, and forgiveness that the darkness truly begins to win.

——————–

“Corney County Christmas Talent and Variety Show Fundraiser”

December 4 @ 7:30
December 5 @ 7:30
December 6 @ 3:00 AND 7:00

More information, including directions and tickets at:  www.TheTheatreDownstream.com

 

Sometimes, “It’s Complicated” to describe feelings.

It’s been a week and one day and I’m still at a semi-loss for words.

Our play, “It’s Complicated” has been put to bed and we’re already discussing our next venture. I have to admit, there was a lot going against us for this particular play. The weather wrecked havoc with our rehearsal schedule and we had to postpone the show by one week, which put the new performance days right smack in the middle of the opening of March Madness. In Kentucky.

Due to limited availability, we could only use the facility for one weekend, so there wouldn’t be a word of mouth buzz to boost our second weekend of attendance.

The Board also set a goal of increasing membership, and as an incentive to join at a higher level, Rachael and I offered signed copies of our book. But we only signed 10, which we felt was probably aiming high. I left some extras in my car and laughed at myself for doing so.

Finally, the show wasn’t ‘well-known’ material, in that it was original content, the bulk of which was written by me. Early on, one of the cast members asked me how it felt seeing my work performed, and I answered truthfully that it didn’t feel like my work. It was all very surreal.

While I have had plays or sketches performed before, I always have one ear open, waiting for the cast to say, “Oh wait. Nevermind. This isn’t a real play.” The fact that they all just accepted my words and acted like I knew what I was doing was too humbling. I told myself that maybe the cast might have enjoyed it, but that didn’t mean it would bring in people. For one weekend only, during March Madness. In Kentucky.

My expectations were shamefully low. To top it all off, I still get crippling stage fright. I’m absolutely certain that I’m going to forget every single line, and I become hyper aware that I am on stage, in front of a group of people saying words, and oh no wait….what are those words supposed to BE??? HELP HELP HELP.

It takes me halfway through the play to settle down and ease into the role. I took two photos opening night before I left for the theatre. The first, showing what my ‘outside’ looks like. The second, my ‘real’ inside.

Ashley OUtsideAshley inside

But then, performance weekend happened, and every expectation was shattered to bits. I had every intention of signing on closing night and gushing about all my feels. But when I sat down to say things, nothing would come because I couldn’t put into words all the feels that I felt.

Three Local churches donated snacks to keep us energized. I cannot emphasize enough how amazing it is for actors to have food waiting for us at the end of a show (or before, depending on the butterflies in our stomachs!!)  Our deepest thanks to Campbellsburg Baptist, Smithfield Baptist and Campbellsburg United Methodist.

We were thrilled beyond belief when on Friday night we jetted past our previous attendance record with 101 people in the audience. We thought we’d reached the pinnacle, but on Sunday 103 people came and we all nearly fainted with delight, myself more than anyone else.

Our two board members (and cast members) Angela and Kevin had a private goal in mind for new memberships, and not only did they reach that goal, they doubled it, in one day, during one intermission, which lasted about 15 minutes. I’ve never in my life seen two people raise so much money in such a brief period of time. It was astounding. We were all a bit dumbfounded. I went through sixteen books.

Finally, people actually seemed to love the show. They loved the content, they loved the writing, they loved the acting…we were showered with so much love it was overwhelming. Too overwhelming.

So here I sit, one week and one day later, still overwhelmed. Still unable to say thank you enough times. To the cast for wholeheartedly believing in my words, and to the crowds for showing up, signing up and standing up at the end of our shows.

Mid-way through the run, before the second day of breaking 100 people, I looked around at the cast and crew. While audiences were large, and money was coming in, that doesn’t always mean the show is a complete success. I only consider it a full and perfect success if, at the end of the show, the cast and crew are still happy they signed on for this endeavor.

So, I looked around. I saw their happiness, their smiling faces, their joy of performing and being together, and I thought, “We did it. This. This is really what success looks like.”

🙂

bts complicated

Snowpocalypse Part Deaux

It’s been a week since my birthday and so much has happened! The book was published, millions of copies were ordered, it became an international best-seller, and I got a personal invitation from Steven Spielberg to the premiere of “Jurassic World” because of the sheer amount of times I mentioned John Hammond’s name in the pages of our story.

Also, none of that is true. Actually, I did the opposite of what I should have done upon releasing a new book; I took time off. I was starting to play a game called “old age or exhaustion” and decided to rest instead of press. I had a lot of work to catch up on for our theatre show anyway. (which opens on the 19th if any of my readers live in the vicinity!)

In truth, during the last week, more copies were sold than I anticipated, but I’m not exactly international….yet. If only I knew someone, say, in the United Kingdom, that could buy a copy. Then I could truly call myself international!! *cough*James*cough.*  😉
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Now what??

Now that I’ve had my family birthday lunch, the celebrations are subsiding. Also, my 35 day blogging challenge is over, and while I don’t have to write a blog every day anymore, I wanted to at least finish out the month.  What happens now that the book is complete and released out into the wild?

Obviously, the bulk of the work is done and I can move on to the next project/book without another thought about those 35 intense days where I nearly lost my mind publishing my first book. Right? Right?

No.
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Llama Dress Drama

First of all, thank you to everyone for the lovely birthday wishes and congratulations on the book publishing! It was an amazing day from start to finish, and will go down as perhaps my most favorite birthday in my remembrance. It was like living in a Disney movie for a day.  The happy, montage, ‘may all your dreams come true’ part. Not the beginning part, where a parent or loved one is inexplicably killed off.

I stayed up until midnight, squeezing every bit of happiness out of the seconds that remained and went to bed on cloud of joy. Because this is how the world works for me, I woke up, not to my alarm, but to my cat Henry galloping across my face. Never in my history of knowing him, has he been want to such behavior. This was a sign of things to come.

I then turned on the television to find that America was embroiled in some kind of dress debate whose significance still fails to register to me. I really expect that this is actually some kind of social experiment and Ashton Kutcher will pop out at any moment to let us know we’ve been on an episode of “Punk’d this whole time.

Also, the news informed me that llamas had escaped some kind of captivity at an elderly residential facility. I am a huge fan of Alpacas and Llamas, and one day dream of owning two such magnificent beasts that I will christen “Westley and Buttercup.” However, to me, this also seems unimportant enough to lead the news. After the dress story.

Shortly afterward, I attempted to squeeze the last bit of toothpaste out of the tube, when my hand slipped and sliced a chunk out of my index finger, sending shockwaves of pain and a gusher of blood my way. Because today was a cleaning day, I spent the rest of the day looking like a genteel Bond villain, with one pink plastic glove on to protect my injured hand from germs.

This afternoon, Leonard Nimoy passed away, crushing the heart of millions.

Clearly, the world in which I am now a published author is completely falling apart and I want no part of this madness. :-/


35 Days to 35 is the series just completed by Ashley about her process of bringing her first book from rejection to publication in 35 days. It can be purchased in paperback or e-book. A portion of royalties will go toward her “Alpaca Fund.” 

http://www.amazon.com/Why-Not-Philosophy-Learned-Raptors/dp/1508557004/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1425078946&sr=8-1&keywords=ashley+raymer-brown

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/