When I was at North Carolina School of the Arts I had a teacher named Ashley. I’ve blogged about her before. I arrived at school pretty anti-school…. which, for those of you haven’t tried that approach…. is a weird way to go to school. It was the first school setting I’d been in since eighth grade and I entered it with all sorts of social inhibitions and insecurities: the need to be the most popular, the fact that I didn’t know how to be around people my own age, the overbearing need to be in control of everyone and everything around me at all times. Fun stuff! These things, along with a plethora of other factors, are what eventually lead me to my running away…. literally…. six month into the school year.

There was one teacher, specifically, who terrified me. Her name was Ashley.

Ashley is a director and taught a text class but long before we ever got to the actual text of a script, she took each of us on a mind blowing journey through things most of us had never wrapped our silly little eighteen year old heads around. Things like souls, faith, the power of positive energy, tribes.

I was pretty mesmerized by Ashley’s class but above all, utterly freaked out. I was just sure she knew things about myself…. saw through the act that I thought I was performing so well…. the act of overt confidence that was all completely and utterly false. She looked at you in the eye when she spoke to you, you could feel her listening, being actually present…. right there with you…. and I think that was one of the first times I ever experienced someone with that kind of extreme presence and it was knock me off my feet scary.

I found myself resenting her class, and had long sine started resenting my fellow classmates who were so capable of releasing themselves…. the emotions, the fears, the insecurities but for me, I had spent the past four years never being around anyone my own age (with a few exceptions of my peers that I directed in community theater but then, in a position of power) and here I was dealing with people experiencing the aftermath of high school, taking that next step in growing up. It felt more like my first day of ninth grade and I would never admit it at the time but all I wanted was to be Captain of the Football Team (or in this case…. what? The Mask Class?)

After I ran away from school I was so embarrassed to ever talk to Ashley or any of my other teachers again. I had literally left without letting anyone know and clicked ignore when classmates, then teachers, then Deans, started calling my cell phone on my long six hour manic drive back to Georgia. By the time I got there, I never wanted to hear the words “North Carolina School of the Arts” again…. because I was pretty embarrassed with myself.

For a while I held on to the resentment I’d created for myself while at school and then, sometime last spring I realized the resentment was gone. I don’t know if it came from achieving various goals I’d set for myself, finally feeling comfortable and at home somewhere, or maybe just growing up a little bit but for whatever reason I woke up one day and realized I really wanted Ashley’s incredibly positive presence in my life. Even if she was just someone I could send an email to every once and a while, I knew that true goodness radiates out of her and in both my darkest and brightest times, that goodness is the most powerful tool in the world.

I embarrassingly wrote Ashley an email saying hello and apologizing for running away four years prior. I explained a lot of what I thought I was going through at the time. I told her how grown up I was pretending to be and how terrified I was of her knowing the truth. I told her I’d been thinking a lot about her and that I’d like to talk to her again sometime.

She quickly responded and welcomed me back into her world as if nothing had happened. Since then, she’s been a big part of my life. I don’t see her that often, or even talk to her that often, but somehow she seems to appear when I most need her and least expect her and when she does its astoundingly invigorating for my soul.

Ashley herself, has been on the wildest of adventures. She wrote an awesome and inspiring essay about it here. This coming Tuesday (December 15th) she’ll be giving a free talk here in New York City and I can guarantee it will be a magical evening. Click here for details.

Magic people wander into our lives every once and a while. Sometimes we’re not ready to embrace them yet, but its the magical ones that keep popping up again until we do. For me, Ashley is one of those people and I’d like you to know her too.

Hope you can make it on Tuesday.

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