6 Years on; Success, adult Life and Old Classmates

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Much to my horror, I had a bit of a realisation this year. It’s been 6 years since I’ve been at High School. 6 years. That’s just plain ridiculous.

It feels like just yesterday I was furiously studying for university, feeling the pressure of my 17 years of life, and wondering what the hell I was going to do with myself post school. That final year is built up so much and yet ends so dramatically; for something that has such a small ripple in your adult life, it’s something that tends to hang around you a lot.

I’ve changed a lot; the 17 year old Ashleigh wouldn’t recognise the current almost 23 year old sitting in this office chair. I didn’t follow 17 year old Ashleigh’s goals, nor did I even stay with 17 year old Ashleigh’s friends. 17 year old Ashleigh was shy, woefully insecure and so clueless about what she wanted. She was willing to let her friends and peers walk all over her, because she was ‘nice’ and didn’t have a spine. She was in love with an unattainable and unhealthy dream.

I was definitely a University person. High School was a dark time. I didn’t fit in; I liked the course content but hated the peers. University was my coming of age. I learned more about the world and myself in those three years than I had bargained for. I miss University; I really enjoyed my time there.

In the years since High School I’ve earned a University Degree, travelled overseas, went back to College to get a Diploma, and got a full time job in an area I never even thought of 6 years ago. I learned to be ambitious. I learned how to love. I learned that boys are clueless, and that if you find one who makes you laugh, he should probably stick around.

I was a ugly duckling. And now i’m a swan.

Don’t get me wrong; I never lost my baby fat and I still haven’t been able to work out what to do with my hair, but I’m pretty damn happy with where I am personally.

Success of course is relative. What I count as success doesn’t match others. Just as what I have achieved isn’t the same story as my classmates.

Like I mentioned, I didn’t really like my classmates in High School. The limited strong connections I formed with some people, shattered soon after leaving School as we left to pursue our own interests. In high school, you’re thrown in tiny rooms with people who are so different from you, that in the real world, it would never work. You’re with each other because you have to be. It’s either stick together, or go alone.

Going alone is a scary thought, and one 17 year old Ashleigh was not brave enough to make.

I haven’t kept in contact with anyone since high school; a combination of choice and physically loosing touch with people. But there is Facebook, and Facebook- the devil that it is- allows me to see if others in my year have found success too.

Some have

Some haven’t.

The some who have, I’m proud of. They did it! They’ve made it past all that awful indecision and self-finding and have carved their own niche into a very full world. They’ve demanded the world take notice of them, and I’m so proud of them.

There’s the fashion stylist, styling models, rich clients and national celebs. One is a successful body builder who tours local competitions. One is a very well loved personal trainer who has started her own active-wear line. Another has arguably started one of the best up and coming hair salons in the region; he’s got a successful franchise of 6 stores and is opening new stores in Sydney each time I check in on him online.

Another has written a book. And that book is the inspiration behind my post.

Keaton never struck me as someone with a love for the written word. I don’t know if it was because I was always wrapped up in my own head, or because I just didn’t know him that well. We rotated around the same groups, and had similar friends, but I can’t say I ever sat down and had a conversation with him. In Keaton’s defence, it was because I was determined to make myself invisible and small, and not due to any fault on his part.

When I saw a few months ago he had secured a publisher for his book, I was surprised. A) that someone had so much motivation to break into such a closed market, and b) because I had no idea he was a writer. I instantly knew I had to get my hands on a copy of this book when it came out. Success is so hard won that it should be celebrated; if Keaton needed an audience, I was happy to volunteer my time.

I’ve always admired writers. Partly from being a book addict from birth, and the other half because writing was always a hobby and a pipe dream. Since I was young, it’s been one of those unachievable dreams of mine to have a story published. And Keaton had done it.

I followed the progress of the book closely, and after a great deal of searching to find a copy, I managed to get one not long after it was released.

It was a small book, but one that had obviously had a lot of time and care poured into it. Every choice was deliberate and well thought out. His writing was economical, frank and showed such an astounding amount of self-awareness and acceptance that I couldn’t help but be awed.

Keaton’s got this adult thing figured out.

Keaton’s book is a life-coaching style of non-fiction which calls on the reader to focus on their inner knowledge and inspires them to change their behaviours to better their chances. To put it simply, Keaton wants to help his readers get where he is; happy (or working towards it) and on the right path.

Keaton doesn’t claim to give you the secrets of life; rather he guides you to the right path to find the right tools to find them. A lot of the comments he makes and questions he raises has come at a time of my life where I was also asking them of myself. This has been an immense comfort to me.

I am very proud of Keaton; I think he’s done a banger of a job. He’s defiantly someone we need to keep an eye on.

Dwayne “the rock” Johnson said that “success isn’t always about greatness. It’s about consistency. Consistent hard work leads to success. Greatness will come.” This is something that I believe is fundamentally true, and something that Keaton is hinting at in his book.

I am an ambitious woman; I’m only at the beginning of my road, but my goals are clear and i’m working towards them. I have lots left to do before I can claim I am a success, though I have had success over the last 6 years. I am and always have been, a quiet achiever. But in 4 years when the inevitable High School reunions begin to be organised, I am looking forward to celebrating what I have achieved with others and their achievements. I’ll admit it, there’s that secret part of me that looks forward to shoving my happiness and progress in the face of those who doubted me and underestimated me, but I am human. Humans are entitled to a bit of wickedness every now and then.

If the last 6 years have changed me, than it’s little doubt that the next 6 years will change me yet again. Time goes very quickly, and I’ve got lots to do in that time.

My old classmates won’t talk about me to their friends; I am fairly certain they’ve forgotten I was in class with them. But I don’t measure my success by them, just as they shouldn’t measure their success by me. When I’m where I want to be though, I look forward to what they’ll say about me then.

When I graduated high school, Firework by Katy Perry was the pump-up song, and Warner Bros. had just released the last Harry Potter . Charlie Sheen had a melt-down, and the world fell in love with the Royals again with the Cinderella wedding of the decade. 17 year old Ashleigh was obsessed with Harry Potter (still am lets be real) and wanted to be a journalist.

It seems like yesterday, but I wouldn’t trade the last six years for all the world.

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Goodreads    ||    The Book Depository   ||   Amazon/Kindle

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My top 5 and 5 least favourite books of 2016

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Ok, so who’s ready for one of the most controversial posts in the book review community? The silence is overwhelming. I’m a bit late here, but to coincide with my last post, here are my top 5 and top 5 of 2016.

I’m going to be doing this slightly differently.

For my top 5 I wont be giving a small review on why I liked them; I want others- if they are inspired to- to read them for themselves and come up with their own opinions. Or if you, dear reader, have read one, please give me your review in the comments. That will certainly mix these things up. I will however include some links to the good reads page and if I managed to review it last year, there will be a link to my review. (Don’t worry my reviews tend to be spoiler free)

For my least favourite books, I will write only one line. In that one line I will say in summary, why I didn’t like it.

Cool? Cool.

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Why: Story with good idea executed very poorly with weak characters.
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Review: Da Vinci’s Tiger by L.M Elliott

Why: Bad history re-tellings and teenage angst don’t make good bedfellows.
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Why: A bad case of second book syndrome and a book that was nothing like the first.
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Why: It made me saliva vomit constantly.
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Why: It was ok… but just ok…and a bit of a pipe dream.

January 2017 Wrap Up

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So January kicked off a bit sluggishly for me this year and I made a very impressive dent in my 2017 Goodreads Challenge (Which is 50 again this year. I couldn’t quite get there last year but I’m determined to this time). I read 7 books in January. And boy did I read some crackers.

I’ve not done a monthly wrap up before but I think it might be a nice change this year.

  1. Drums of Autumn – Diana Gabaldon 

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… Ok, so I technically read 70% of this book in December 2016, but I finished it in the new year so i’m counting it. Man oh man was this book good. Without giving too much away of the previous three books, the fourth book shifts location and offers Gabaldon’s unique view of history for a totally different country. Gabaldon has such a fantastic way with words and her characters are so real and human, its hard to reconcile that they’re fictional. While two of the rising stars- Briana and Roger have been known to us previously, Gabaldon ensures we’ve fallen totally in love with both of them. A stellar fourth book; so good in fact, that I actually would have been satisfied if the series had ended here…. BUT I’M SO DESPERATE FOR BOOK 5 IT’S INSANE.

2. An Ember in the Ashes-  Sabaa Tahir

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So I waited to read this book for a very long time. I found out about it when the advanced readers were singing it’s praises and eagerly awaited it’s release. I was unable though to get my hands on it after it came out so I was left waiting listlessly for it. OMG this book is SO worth the hype. This book was not what I expected at all but I bloody love it. The summary is so misleading but in a good way; the characters are strong, determined and each powerful in their own rights. A corrupt government, a filthy, irredeemable villain and notorious rebels, make for a complex and rich plot. It’s a diverse novel that just works. I was on the edge of my seat the entire book.

3. A Thousand Nights – E. K. Johnston

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I was really worried this book would be too much like ‘The Wrath and the Dawn’ which I read last year and adored. I need not have feared though, this book was SO different. Worlds apart. With a fresh style that’s unlike any I’ve read, Johnston weaves a lush story. Johnston’s story is pretty faithful to the original folk tale, but diverges about half way through. Lo-Melkhiin is hideous and i’m glad Johnston didn’t try to romantasize him. I loved that the main character was left really ambiguous; with a nice trick at the end I didn’t see coming. You can tell Johnston knows her stuff; the way she described the land was so authentic and genuine- it was obvious she drew inspiration from real life. A fantastic interpretation of a classic.

4. Divergent- Veronica Roth

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I’m sure you’ve noticed a trend;- I tend to be super late to the party for most over-hyped teen franchises. When Divergent came out, I religiously avoided it; some part of me shied away from what I thought would be a dull and under-cooked book. I’d seen the movie but hadn’t felt a great tug towards it. I listened to this as an audiobook; summer radio in Australia is impossibly dull, and a 30 minute commute each way needed some filling. I got so into it, I used to listen to it in the afternoons when I got home from work. I was so pleasantly surprised by this book. I got so sucked up in the story, I forgot I was listening to a story. Is it worth all the hype, nah probably not. But I still quite enjoyed it. It’s an awfully dark tale for a teen audience, but I think it holds an extremely relevant commentary for current world affairs.

5. Passenger- Alexandra Bracken

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This was another one of those books that I’d meant to read for a very long time. I loved Alexandra Bracken’s work on the Darkest Minds series and I’ll honestly go for anything she publishes, she’s got that much skill and command. But time travel? Sign me the heck up! This book delivers. It’s certainly not what I thought it was- I was definitely lead down the wrong tunnel when listening to people’s book reviews. While the romance in there was cheesy at times and a little bit cringy, the time travel aspects were very well done. The sense of urgency is really well conveyed without rushing the plot. The side characters were well thought out, and Bracken spends the time to remind the reader how dangerous time travel is. Definitely for the Doctor Who fans- this book is original and fresh.

6. Illuminae – Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

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Sci-fi -especially Sci-fi aimed at Young adults- always tends to be under-baked and totally unrealistic. This was one of the most god-damn interesting books I’ve read in a really long time. Holy Shmooze balls is this book GOOD. This has to be one of the most original ways to tell a story that I’ve come across; told via case-files, audio transcripts and instant message logs, this is fantastic. Kaufman and Kristoff have poured so much hard work to create texture and life into each and every page. Each page is an image- scribbles, black sections from sensors, memo style backgrounds, logos the works. No expense has been spared. The story is fantastic- it’s gritty, it’s complex, thought provoking and dynamic. The scary thing is, it’s really not that hard to put aside your disbelief; this honestly feels like it could happen. The book cleverly taps into everyone’s deep dark fears; Multi-national corporations, Artificial Intelligence, the deep- unexplored dark nothingness of space and war. It’s bloody brilliant and everyone needs to read it. Also can we please just appreciate some Aussie excellence (YEAH KAUFMAN AND KRISTOFF!!! REPRESENT!!)

7. Adulthood is a Myth- Sarah Anderson

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Funny story; I pre-ordered this book on the Book Depository 3 months before it came out last year and they cancelled my pre-order without notice or warning a few weeks out from publication… yeah it’s not actually that funny… I was pretty devastated to be honest. This book was so worth the wait though. I found Sarah and her work in 2015 and absolutely fell in love with her. Like literally, her comics are so real and so cute I just cant even. Anyway, I eventually got my hands on this book (it was a case of post-Christmas “treat yo self”) and I savoured every last page. Its only a relatively small book of comics, but I treated every last page like royalty. Anderson is a genius- her work is funny, well executed and so god-damn relatable. This is literally the perfect pick me up; after a long day of pretending to be an adult, the comics go down as nice as a cold glass of Chardonnay on a Friday arvo. 10/10 would recommend.

 

 

So there you have it… what a month. Can honestly say I didn’t read a bad/meh book in January. This is surely a good sign for the reading year ahead. Leave a comment below with any recommendations for me this year and if you have a reading challenge. I’d love to see what everyone’s goals are for the year.

 

Stay golden!

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