Time to face the strain

Today I get to post my first blog entry on this website. For anyone who has been following my portfolio throughout the years, you may know that I kept a Tumblr blog for quite some time. I'm not sure if I am abandoning that Tumblr page, or if this blog will serve as a more formal, or informal outlet to express myself. However, I decided that this initial post is both incredibly necessary, and will also be quite therapeutic. Here it is:

Why I left.

Since 2013, I have made it a point to volunteer my time contributing whatever I could to various public arts projects and gallery ventures in Stroudsburg, Pa. the current place I call home. In May of 2013, I resigned from my positions as co-director of Origins Gallery, and media director of st'Art Stroudsburg.

I've spent a lot of time recently trying to figure out how I got here. How I got to this point. The past three years really feels like its been a single, continuous moment. I don't remember the days in between.

In 2012, I submitted one of my first real finished digital illustration print to a art exhibition at the former Living Room Gallery at the Sherman Theater. I was actually stranded in New York City due to Hurricane Sandy, and could not make it in for the opening reception, but I heard that it was an awesome show. That was my first dip into the water of community arts in a small town. I didn't realize at the time that I would dedicate a huge part of my life to working with a group of people who have been continuously striving to build up an arts scene for decades.

After my first layoff in 2013 resulted in my having to move to the Poconos and live here full-time, my level of participation gradually increased. I have been a featured artist, a gallery volunteer, a muralist, a mural project manager, a gallery owner, and eventually the media director for the arts council's public arts committee. I've worked at several galleries in the Poconos, many of which sadly no longer exist. This experience has allowed me to work with a variety of people, from all ages, backgrounds, and mental capacities.

I have been fortunate enough to have been educated by the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program in 2015 and 2016, an experience I really had wanted to utilize during my time as a volunteer, although it never came to pass.

I have been a visiting instructor at East Stroudsburg University, and asked to be a judge during their student arts association juried exhibition. I've been on local television and radio, and spoken to local magazines and newspapers. I have taught regular classes to children, raised money for charity, and helped other local businesses in what little ways I could.

All of this has been done without pay, in my spare time. While attending college full time at night, and working a full time job (which always went overtime). Not to mention I am what someone would call chronically ill, although I do not view myself as such, being a PCOS, auto-immune, and Fibromyalgia patient. I have also foolishly tried as hard as I could to be the model girlfriend, daughter, sister, and friend during this time.

After my last layoff, kidney stone, and a series of family deaths this past spring, I realized that perhaps it was time to allow someone else to take on the work I have tried to help out with. I feel that I have done all that I can, to the best of my ability. Although some do not agree with me, I truly feel that it was time to move on from the volunteering aspect of my life. It was time to build myself back up.

I know it may fall on deaf ears, or those reluctant to believe me, but I spent up to 40 hours a week volunteering, in addition to all the other things I am currently attempting to do in my life. A former colleague and volunteer in the same arena once messaged me late at night saying "Its 4am, of course you're awake". I wasn't awake because I wanted to be. I grew used to the four hours of sleep I was getting a night, all to the tune of declining health and increased anxiety.

Although I experienced a level of heartbreak similar to that of a breakup (though this is the first I am admitting to it) in my process of leaving those positions I felt were my duty to fulfill, I am now relishing in what feels like a new life. My current work is hard, but I love it. I'm finally on the career trajectory I need to be in. I am also able to experience and enjoy the successes of my family in a new and more present way. I am slated to graduate with my bachelor's next summer; and of course one of my most important successes is that for the first time in our relationship, my partner and I are both truly present with each other. We have been together for nearly seven years, and have known each other for twice as long, but I feel that I am finally achieving a healthy relationship with him.

The real reason I wrote this statement, is not that I hoped anyone would read it. If you read this far, thank you. This is really for my own closure. In April I began the transition out. I resigned in May, and I turned in my keys at the beginning of September. It is nearly October and I am just sitting down to write this statement and explore my own feelings. That is how long and emotional this process has been for me.

There has been quite a bit of negativity conjured during this transitional period by some of the people around me. All I care to say is: that I am truly flattered that I contributed enough to this community that you would be angered by my leaving. I hope that someone even more capable than I can take my place.

Thank you Stroudsburg, for the experience, and opportunity.

-ashley


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