Introduce yourself! Who are you? I’m Ashley, a (very) recent graduate from the University of Delaware. While there, I majored in Communications and Political Science. I’m currently looking for job opportunities in the non-profit industry and trying to use my time before working to focus on self-improvement. I have a blog where I share everything from media recommendations to political opinions. You can also find my previous published work there.
What is one thing no one really knows about you? While I’ve been candid about it with my family for years, most people don’t know that I suffer from Crohn’s Disease, a chronic gastrointestinal disease. I’ve written about my experience with the condition – how I was diagnosed, what treatment plans we’ve tried, and what the future looks like – on my blog, but I live a relatively normal life, spare injections I give myself each week. I’m hoping to use my platform to bring more awareness to not only Crohn’s, but also other invisible illnesses that affect people every day.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? Take things one day at a time. It’s simple advice, but learning to live in the present has been a struggle for me. I’m a planner, and I like to have everything laid out ahead of time. Transitions are tough, and graduating from college was no exception. When I was at a crossroads between my time at school and everything that would come after, one of my best friends told me to relax and take it all one day at a time. Focus on the present, and do what you can to make it as productive and beneficial as possible.
What would you say to 16 year old you? There is a big, beautiful, scary, exciting world out there, and you will get to see it. Take a breath, and enjoy where you’re at. In the words of Robert Holden, “Beware of Destination Addiction – a preoccupation with the idea that happiness is in the next place, the next job and with the next partner. Until you give up the idea that happiness is somewhere else, it will never be where you are.” Stop believing that being with the right person or moving to the right city will suddenly change everything for the better. You are enough, all on your own, and you will move mountains wherever you are, whether it’s Washington D.C. or the suburbs of Jersey.
What message do you think every woman should hear? The hardest part of most things is showing up. Whether it’s a job interview or a first date, the scariest part is those first few minutes before fight-or-flight kicks in. Sticking around is what matters. It’s not just showing up for yourself, though. Being there for your friends and family when they need you is just as important. Ignore the anxiety or self-doubt that has you second-guessing your ability to be the best person for the situation, and just show up. Most of the time, we all just want someone who’s going to be there.
Have you always had confidence in yourself? Of course not. We’ve only recently seen the inclusion of plus-size models and actresses in the media, and I grew up in a world that privileged being skinnier. I have never been and will never be skinny, and that is completely okay. I didn’t always feel that way, though. Learning to love myself and accept myself was a long process, and it’s one that still requires effort and reflection. I think it’s important to let women admit they aren’t always confident or happy with themselves. Having those conversations allows us to speak more openly about our insecurities, and the first step to overcoming them is addressing them.
What do you love most about yourself? I’ve got a big heart – sometimes too big. It took some time to realize that I shouldn’t apologize for caring too much or wanting to treat people well. I’m an empathetic person, and I want my professional work to have a positive impact, specifically for underprivileged communities. I’m proud of the person my parents raised me to be – accepting and loving. I’d like to think the world would be a better place if we were all a little bit nicer to each other.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned along the way? I’ve learned to believe and trust that everything happens for a reason. The situations we go through, the people we meet, and the chances we take all lead us down different paths. I would love to control every aspect of my life and weigh the pros and cons of each decision that I make, but the reality is that we usually don’t know where our choices will take us. Trying to plan for every hypothetical scenario is a waste of time and energy. Sometimes, you just have to take the risk and trust that you’ll end up where you’re supposed to be.
What do you do on a daily basis to grow and move forward? I try to practice some form of self-care every day. Some days, it’s an hour of yoga or an afternoon spent in a coffee shop, writing. Other days, it’s spending time with my friends and letting myself enjoy the simple kind of peace you can get from being around people who care about you. Self-care isn’t the same for everyone, and it takes many different forms for me. Each day, though, I try to find some avenue to let myself be at peace and reflect on what makes me happy and what is stressing me out. Tracking my emotions and being present in my life helps me to make changes when necessary and focus on the good parts while they’re happening.
Where do you find inspiration? I’m fascinated by people – how they got to where they are, what they overcame, where they hope to be in the future. Telling people’s stories has always been important to me, and that’s why I loved working with the Food Bank of Delaware to interview the students in their culinary program. Connecting with people from different backgrounds was enlightening and helped me grow, not only as a writer but also as an individual.
What are your biggest passions? Writing has been my biggest passion since I was a little kid. After changing schools in the middle of second grade (a very big deal at the time), I started writing stories about a pair of siblings who explored other worlds through the pond in their backyard. Since then, I’ve written several novels and started countless others that I hope to get back to one day. I’m currently working on a new book and pursuing publication for a young adult novel I finished editing last year. Outside of writing, I’m passionate about women’s rights. As a women’s studies minor in college, I loved learning about the history of the women’s movement and how far we still have to go – specifically for women of color and those in the LGBTQ community. We’re not done advocating for equality until everyone is actually equal.
Ashley Stahmer is a recent graduate from the University of Delaware, where she majored in Communications and Political Science with a minor in Women’s Studies.