Heroic journeys, myths that tell the story of heroes, played an important role in early culture by inspiring and unifying the people. My favorite teenager was tasked with writing her own heroic journey story this summer as part of the Duke TIP program at Trinity University.
On this Thoughtful Thursday, I challenge each of you to think of your life as a heroic journey and find inspiration in your own perseverance…
The Story of Me
December 9, 1999. It is a cold, snowy day, or so I am told. In Cozad, Nebraska, Anne and Matt Burkholder are waiting for the birth of their first child. The baby, who has already tried to enter the world a few months earlier, has the umbilical cord wrapped around its neck, and the doctors order a C-section. Three weeks early, I am born at about 5:30 P.M.
My life had begun.
I was a bossy child. Being the oldest, I spent my first 2 ½ years in a household where I was the queen. My world was rocked when my parents brought home my sister; again the world shook 3 years later. Shortly after my youngest sister was born, my mom was diagnosed with Graves Disease, an autoimmune disorder that caused her thyroid to produce its hormones too fast. Six year old Ashley was suddenly thrust into a world of responsibility; a world where I was the one cleaning and taking care of the kids while my dad worked. All I remember from this period was the house always being dark so that my mom could rest.
Once she recovered, my mom threw herself into making up for the lost time. I did every sports activity offered in town. I participated in Destination Imagination, a program where teams are given problems to solve and they make a skit to display the solutions. I did speech and essay competitions galore. We went to Kenya for Christmas one year, where I learned not to take my life for granted.
In seventh grade, I was allowed to do school sports. I soon fell in love with Cross Country, and have learned so many life lessons pounding the pavement of Cozad. I participated in HAL mod, where we took the ACT, and did Quiz bowl and History Day. Last summer, I went to the UK with my grandma, which prepared me for spending long amounts of time away from home.
In January, I got an envelope from Duke TIP inviting me to come to a summer camp. That was really my herald, bringing the possibility of an adventure. I was all for it, but my grandma and guidance counselor/cross country coach had to convince my mom first. She finally said yes, and six months later I walked through the doors of Prassel Castle, not knowing what to expect.
My plane had been delayed, so I arrived late. Consequently, everyone was at Orientation and I sat alone in the back. Afterwards, I didn’t know anyone, so I went back to Prassel inconspicuously following a group of girls, but not quite walking with them. I felt so alone. Once I was introduced to my RC group, however, I rebounded quickly. My roommate, Leah, and my entire group have become good friends and allies.
The first day of class, I was so nervous that I wasn’t going to be as smart as everyone else. I had been having nightmares that I would get sent home because of my inadequacy. Of course, I soon learned better, and began to really enjoy class. Miss Wiley has become a sort of mentor, because she made me realize how powerful I am and that I can change the world.
Running consistently has been another struggle I have faced here. The morning runs didn’t start until four days after camp began, and I stressed about whether I would be able to achieve 200 miles this summer. I have also had trouble setting my alarm, so I have not been able to go to every run. This experience has certainly taught me to be more responsible!
So far I have tried so many things I never thought I would get the chance to, including, but not limited to, authentic Mexican food, Ultimate Frisbee, yoga, and brick painting. I also have an awesome tutu to show for this summer, and I can’t wait for the TIP-Sync competition and Tiger Fest.
I think that my shadows on this trip have been my own demons. It has been my own insecurity or self-doubt that have plagued me during this adventure. The threshold guardians have in some way, been my family. My youngest sister would not let go of me as I climbed into the car, and my mom’s teary eyes almost made me give up.
In the future, I hope these trials will have made it possible for me to graduate high school, (valedictorian, please!) and go to a good college (possibly Stanford, or an Ivy). I want to work with underprivileged children as a teacher and friend, in this country or others. Hopefully, I will get married and have children, and be as good of a mother as mine was for me.
My story has just begun.