Saturday, January 4, 2014

Raw and Unedited: The Reason Why I Quit

Looking back, the only thing I can say is that I plunged deep and sprinted hard for my dreams in life.

I had the same dreams as every other girl when she was small, to be a model. An actress. Anything the put me in the spotlight of the world. And thanks to a long line of family genes, I grew up to accomplish that goal.

When I was fifteen, I called an agency (without my mothers consent) to learn everything I would need to make it as far as I dreamt. I began researching the modeling industry, learning who models were and which "type" of modeling fit me best. Every chance that was offered to me, whether it was test shoots or free work to gain experience, I took.

And then I took my biggest leap of faith one week after graduating high school. I signed with an agency and accepted a contract to Asia for the next four months. I was sent to Tokyo for three months, with a stop in Osaka in between. And I was in love with my life. I was busy every day, being rushed to castings, fittings, and booking work that I didn't imagine in my wildest dreams. I shot look books for international designers, filmed commercials for Marc Jacobs, Intel, and Japan's shopping network. My life was equivalent to that of someone's on TV. My best friends came from all over the world, we shopped and dined as we pleased working only a day or so a week and experiencing everything the vast city we lived in had to offer.

I couldn't wait to work more. I spent the next year in Asia as well, booking a job that shot in Paris with all expenses paid for, developing interests in things I never would have heard of in my small hometown of Tennessee. I was on an adventure for life, and all that I could experience along the way.

But, as with most things in life, while I dove deeper into the heart of my dreams and accomplishing them I began to realize how dark the world was on the other side. As a size two, I began hating my body. Wishing I had a bigger thigh gap (Ladies, this shouldn't even be a thing. But that's a discussion for another time.), that I had developed a better portfolio, that I could walk into a room and gain everyone's attention, especially those I was competing against for my jobs. I developed a mindset that was permeated with dirt, filth, and lies but I was too blind to see it myself.

I didn't love my life anymore. And how could I? I was surrounded, so deep in the heart of the lies each one of us are told daily. Lies passed around to us, so nonchalantly, of what we have to be in order to be happy.

My sister posted a picture the other day with the words:

I wonder what it's like
To wake up and love yourself
To look in the mirror and not want to cry
To weigh yourself, see the number, and not want to puke
To be with friends and not feel ugly
To go into public and not be insecure
To go shopping for clothes and not feel fat
I just wonder;
What it's like to love your life.

A girl, only sixteen years old, who couldn't go an hour with out judging herself or hearing the judgmental lies of those surrounding her about her body and the way she lives her life. But the most heart wrenching thought it, she's not the only one. The number of girls who woke up this morning wishing they looked like the size zero, airbrushed, and photo shopped models they see along each advertisement is truly despicable in my eyes. And I was a cause in this disgusting problem. To imagine, for only a second, that a young girl looked at a photo of myself posted on a billboard or online somewhere that caused her to think, "Why can't I be that beautiful?" has me in tears.

Two years after I began modeling internationally, I quit. I was exhausted waking up every morning and comparing myself to everything that I wasn't. My mind was going to explode if I had to consider another calorie I had eaten that needed to be burned before the day was done. My focus on life wasn't on bettering myself and my energy for living a healthy life full of love, adventures, and memories was at an all time low. Imagining the mind wrenching, dark feeling that followed me everywhere as long as I was awake, I couldn't comprehend how it felt to be the person who wanted, even for a day, to be me.

It's been six months now since I walked away from contracts in Europe, North America, and Asia and I'm finally beginning to love my life again. I took a seven week vacation to visit my family in Germany, where I ate as much bread, carbs, and sweets as I pleased. The only item on my agenda was to spend each afternoon reading in our garden, while taking the occasional trip into the city to shop or have coffee with old friends. I eliminated everything in my life that gave me a negative mindset, especially anything to do with the modeling industry. After I flew back to Tennessee, I sat down to determine what it is I really wanted to do with my life. I applied for the University of Tennessee, began my track towards a double major in International Business and Marketing, but I also began to develop an idea of what it is I truly want to do with my time.

I want to show others how indescribably beautiful their lives are. I want young girls to stop comparing themselves to the things they see on advertisements and to start focusing their lives solely on things that bring them self-love. I want adults to realize their place in lives, to leave behind their job filled with exhaustion and to begin a life full of the adventures they once dreamed of. I want people to fall in love with their lives and every tiny memory they will have of it when their older.

It's far past time that people began to look past the lies they are fed throughout each day.

It's time for everyone to fall in love with their lives.

Stop focusing on what you're not, start focusing on everything you are and can be.

3 comments:

  1. Ashton,
    This post brought emotions of great sadness and joy. Thank you first for writing so well. I know your English teachers will be affirmed that one of their students can communicate so well in writing.
    Second, thank you for your transparency. I know it must have been painful to open that door and write those words. However, the many girls, women (and even men) who read this will be impacted by its first hand honesty. I pray that it will help others to see themselves as the beautiful creations that God has made. Sadly, too many young ladies buy into the very lies of which you experienced personally. I hope this finds its way into thousands of lives, and that your account will help save even one from being victimized by the false messages in our culture.
    Thank you, Ashton. You have always been one who brought light to others while in school, and may your light now shine into others through this wonderful essay.

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  2. Ashton I have no idea who you are but I am so thankful you wrote this. I am 24 and I deal with those insecurities every day, I'm over weight and I feel ugly in public. It means a lotthat someone famous understands these feelings and is telling young girls that its not ok. I wish you a lifetime of happiness and success!

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  3. Awesome testimony! Growing up people everywhere I went told me how beautiful I was. My Grandmother was the most vain person I have ever met, and placed great importance on how one looks. I grew up believing my beauty was all I had to offer. I wish instead of people telling me how pretty I was they would have pointed out the 100 other great things about me so I would have known. Sadly, I thought to be happy I had to be the prettiest girl in the building. I grew up to be very seductive and worldly, to feel accepted, loved. I always compared myself to other girls to make sure I was getting the most attention and compliments because that was how I determined my worth. One thing I have learned though is that beauty fades. When you are a teenager it seems it will always be there, but one day you look in the mirror and see the first fine lines creeping to the surface of that once flawless face. You have children and the stomach that was once as flat as the wall becomes rounder and stretch marked. Then what? I tell my daughter that she is beautiful, but I also tell her the truth. There will always be a more beautiful person somewhere and that's okay. My daughter runs the risk of falling into the same trap I did because of her beauty, but she is SO much more than a pretty body and face! She is God's little princess, full of talent and worth simply for being her. Thank you for sharing your story! Many girls and women need your voice in their ear :)

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