ashley manley

Today, I turn thirty-two.  Birthdays always have a way of making me reflect.  I'm not someone that mourns the aging process, I actually like it.  Every year that passes, I feel like I meet a new part of myself, and I kind of love that.  Like reading a favorite book over and over and seeing a quote that you didn't see the last time around.  What struck me this morning was how different this birthday is than the one 10 years ago, and even 5 years ago.  When my husband asked me what I wanted to do, I honestly didn't know what to tell him.  Have 30-minutes to play with my watercolors or pull out my clay?  Splurge on a $15 bottle of wine? Have him cook dinner?  To the person I was in my 20s, these thoughts would be crazy and ridiculous and so boring.  But, here I am, becoming a new version of myself, meeting the more calm and intentional Ashley that cares a little less about trying to please everyone and a little more about time for those that matter most.

Every May, I write a letter to my kids and tell them about who I am with a series of self-portraits.  I've been writing them monthly letters for years, since Oak was born actually, but it's this letter that I think they will love the most when they are older, the one where they get to know me, today.  And the reason I do it is simple: I'm constantly changing.  I'm not the person I was a few years ago or the person I'll be in a few years.  My ideas and interests will change, the lines on my face will get deeper, and we all know my hair color will change.  I want them to know me now, to laugh at me and to watch me grow like I get to watch them grow.  I know they wont remember, especially these younger years, so I'll do my best to remind them.

I spent my 20s living like a pirate, ordering my cocktails extra strong, music extra loud, and only being happy if my toes were in the sea, but I'm working hard to spend my 30s living like a wildflower. I want to bloom where I'm planted, bringing joy to the few treasured people in my life, live a little more simply, and try to weather the storms of this life with grace.  I've started favoring the silence over the noise, the calm over the chaos, and practical shoes over stylish ones.

So here are the birthday self-portraits that I will pass onto my kids in their letter.  A Johnny Cash tee, glaze-stained birkenstocks, a handmade mug, and a tired smile.  Thirty-two, I can't wait to know you.