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Small handwriting sample of Ashley's First-Year Student Journals, link to journals home page

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26 September 2005

Inside my head there lives a dream, that I want to see in the sun
Behind my eyes there lives a me that I’ve been hiding for much too long
‘Cause I’ve been too afraid to let it show
‘Cause I’m scared of the judgment that may follow
Always putting off my living for tomorrow
It’s time to step out on faith, I’ve gotta show my faith
It’s been elusive for so long, but freedom is mine today…
Procrastination had me down, but look what I have found; I found
Strength, Courage, and Wisdom
And it’s been inside of me all along…

From “Strength, Courage & Wisdom”
By the multi-talented soulful songstress India Arie

Ashley’s Two-sided Conscience: A Letter to Me

Dear Ashley:

I found myself in a bind. You guessed it; I started doubting myself—again. I felt that the only person that I had was me. I know that this idea was bad because I can be my own worst enemy and not only that, but I can really criticize myself heavily. It’s very unhealthy for me to worry a lot because stress can become very overwhelming. I hate feeling like I have to take the whole world on my shoulders. It is so stressful to the point that I feel helpless at times. However, I know that I am very blessed and there is no reason for me to be this way. This is how I’m going to change. Stand by my ideas and what I love. If people are not familiar with me or my particular interests, I’m going to remember that it’s not my place to try to change anyone but to simply educate them. By showing them the reason why I chose to do something or why I like something may draw them in as well. So this is what I’m saying to myself: Ashley, don’t change yourself for not one person because they are not your creator. They do NOT control you. Stand by your opinions. Also, be comfortable within yourself. Even Chris* noticed how uncomfortable you were in your own body. Realize that it is a beautiful thing no matter how YOU may see it in the mirror. A poem by an anonymous writer said it best:

Someone will always be prettier.
Someone will always be smarter.
Someone’s house will be bigger.
Someone will drive a better car.
Someone’s children will do better in school.
And Someone’s husband will fix more things around the house.
So let it go,
and love you and your circumstances.
Think about it.
The prettiest woman in the world can have hell in her heart.
And the most highly favored
Woman on your job may be unable to have children.
And the richest woman you know,
she’s got the car, the house, the clothes...might be lonely.
And the word says if “I have not Love, I am nothing.”
So, again, love you.
Love who you are.
Look in the mirror in the morning and smile and say
“I am too blessed to be stressed and too anointed to be disappointed!”
“Winners make things happen.
Losers let things happen.”
Be Blessed ladies and pass this on to encourage another woman.
“To the world you might be one person,
but to one person you just might be the world.”

People may not understand you. Hell, you may not understand yourself half the time. Take things slowly and stop being so quick to jump up and verbally abuse someone or get violent. These are some of my problems. I get jealous really fast because my insecurities overwhelm me and cause me to explode. Then when people see me they don’t want to have anything to do with me. That’s so horrible and it makes me feel bad, but there was a time when I was too ashamed to even write any of this down. Now I’m maturing and see that this is my personal therapy. There’s one side of me who is real helpful, and the other side will get me into some trouble. Lord, help me please. I’m trying to manage but right now things are crazy. I’ll be OK. You know what I learned from my good pal Chris? I need to be straightforward. Sometimes I give people the run around with my answers because I’m afraid that they will use my words against me during a time of war. Now, I have to be real with other people and myself. Ask me a question, any type of question. I’ll give it to you. Anyways, when I met Ali* I also knew that being straightforward will tell a whole lot about your character and the type of person you are. Scared to cuss? Scared to let people know how you feel about those stinky cigarettes that people like to smoke on this campus? What the hell are you scared of? Stop thinking about what people are going to say, but what impression they are going to have. They may say you are crazy, funny, bold even, but the impression will be the girl is real and is not sugar coating herself for anyone no matter who it is. How can you say you love Mos Def if you’re not helping him spread his words and messages about what kind of country we live in and how beautiful black is? You’re a trip, girl.

You hide entirely too much and there’s nothing to be ashamed of. If you like rock music, or if you like to sing, it’s OK. It’s OK if people aren’t accustomed to the things that intrigue you. Intimidation is a crazy thing. To me it’s a silent killer. If a person would look at me, they would not probably guess that I’m intimidated quickly and it kills me inside. I start stressing and get into this emotional scene. It’s time to make a change. I know I keep saying that and then end up backsliding, but I mean it this time. I’m going to change for the better. I just need to start realizing how valuable I am. There’s a bunch on my mind and releasing it is the best thing to do. Meditation also helps. Just closing my eyes and imagining great things is a great start and like I have said so many times: I’M GOING TO BE ALL RIGHT! I don’t think I can say that enough though.

I wrote this particular entry to myself before I came to UT, and to be perfectly honest, I was terrified with the thought of college. I wasn’t terrified because of the responsibility, because independence is my strong suit, but because I didn’t feel like I was going to perform as well in my academics like I know everyone expects me to. This has clouded my mind and still does, but I think the best thing I could be doing is exactly what I’m doing at this moment—writing. The thing that I’ve gotten to understand is that college is not just about getting the grade, it’s not the letter that determines your success. It’s the knowledge that you obtain and apply to your everyday lifestyle. As long as any person digests those simple facts, then it won’t seem as scary. The one thing that has helped me face my reality of “being in college” is just to stick to the bigger picture, which is the reason why I’m here at UT in the first place.

So what’s the bigger picture? Is it to be among thousands of screaming Vince Young fans every day? Is it to go to as many parties as I can go to, while going bankrupt in the meantime? Or, is it about not going to class and wasting all of that scholarship money and my time? Obviously, the answers to these ridiculous questions are no, but my point is that the bigger picture is obtaining as much knowledge as I can and abstaining from stupidity. That’s it. Although I was a little nervous about coming to UT, I was thoroughly prepared mentally before even stepping foot on campus. I’ve been planning my college career since the 10thth grade and I basically had something that I’ve learned in my current critical thinking class, which is an external locus of control. What is that? Relax. It’s just a million-dollar word that means taking responsibility for your actions and determining your future.

See, you learned something new. Anyway, I’ve never felt like I was the “smarter” person. I’ve always felt that I had to seriously work for whatever it is that I’ve wanted. I was also fortunate to have friends who went to college, made mistakes, learned from them and kept me posted on the things to do and what not to do. Before entering the city of Austin, I knew not to spend financial aid money on frivolous things, not to attend every party thrown my way, go to class regularly, and most important, meet my professors. That’s the reason I came up with The Freshman Focus. Gives you chills, huh?

The Freshman Focus

I came up with the freshman focus as a tool to help me have a successful first year at UT. I thought of it out of fear because, once again, I was terrified of college. There’s so much pressure on me to do well and to prove everyone wrong, but I had to get my head in the game before I could start anything. So I composed a list of realistic goals to hang up in my dorm room. Every morning before going to a class or to work out, I look at those goals and keep in mind what I’m working for. When I know I need to be studying and someone tells me to come to a party. Ha! Yeah, right. I’m going to glance over my shoulder at those goals and say, “Nah, you got it, playa.” It’s like these goals are going to be my inspiration. So what if my roommate thinks that I am a complete loser. Baby, I’m not trying to please everybody else. I’m trying to be successful. I can only do that if I know what steps I have to take to make it on my own. I’ve told myself time and time again that life is really about the survival of the fittest. I have failed when it came to that, but now it’s back to business. Whenever school starts I always get into that concentration mode. I’m also thinking hard and reading and just overall preparing for what the year will bring. However, I have to adjust the playing field. I’m no longer in high school and worrying about what I’m going to wear on the first day is no longer on the back-to-school list. This year is definitely going to be my turning point. I can’t wait to make new friends and to see who’s going to take to my caustic behavior. It’s going to be something! So here they are, my goals for the 2005-06 school year at UT. These goals have to be realistic enough to complete, even if it’s something wild and crazy. Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, The Freshman Focus!

  • Before classes start: Learn all bus routes
  • Keep a mini-file cabinet of the different classes. It should be organized in this manner
    • Gateway*
      • List
    • Non-Gateway
      • List
    • Miscellaneous
  • Wake up early enough to review last class assignments
  • Wake up early enough to be in the front
  • Meet all professors (Extremely important)
  • Study between classes
  • Rewrite notes
  • Review notes after class
  • NEVER MISS A DAY! (Even if you’re sick, you better take some medicine, wrap up and grab that tissue box!)
  • Keep scholarships in mind
  • Join two organizations and remain faithful
  • Start budget up again and follow it thoroughly
  • Attend church regularly
  • Attend as many social functions as you can without harming your schedule (networking principle)
  • Start looking at summer internships
  • Find out which work-study you’re going to do
  • Don’t procrastinate!

Believe it or not, this list of goals is the best thing that has happened to me. The realization that I have while attending the university is that UT is a whole different ball game, and if I want to finish on top, then this is what I must do. I know there are temptations, and I know I am human, but I am not stupid. I may not know as much as the next person, but I will guarantee that I will make a greater effort. Guaranteed. So until next time, readers: Make sure you don’t fall under pressure, and remember to possess an external locus of control.

~~Be Blessed~~


*Chris is an awesome friend of mine whom I met at a summer camp at UT about two years ago. We’ve been buds every since.

*Ali is a friend I met through another friend and is a person who thinks for himself and does not mind voicing those opinions.

*Gateway is an awesome program that gives students first-priority registration, smaller classes, free tutoring and peer advisers who will drill you to stay on top of your game.

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