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.
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.