Ashley Simmons
January 21, 2016

Expatiation: noun. to move or wander about intellectually, imaginatively, etc., without restraint.

“Out of the night that covers me,

      Black as the pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

      For my unconquerable soul.


In the fell clutch of circumstance

      I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

      My head is bloody, but unbowed.


Beyond this place of wrath and tears

      Looms but the Horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

      Finds and shall find me unafraid.


It matters not how strait the gate,

      How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate,

      I am the captain of my soul.”


-“Invictus" by William Ernest Henley 
Out of the night that covers me


It’s 7:40p.m. on January 20th, 2016 and I just finished downing a large shrimp lo mein from the Chinese place up the street. I should really be indulging in a salad or something healthier but I think I’ll sit and happily bid farewell to American Chinese food while I can. In five days I will be on my way to Granada, Spain. Getting to this point in my life, a point where I’m conquering both the fears I was hyperaware of, and those I didn’t even know existed, has not been an easy process. But it’s definitely been worth it.

I think this part of my life, my 20th year, has been a lot about moving on and moving forward and also embracing more parts of myself.

Normally, at this point in my winter break, the end of it, I’m dying to go back to school, to absolve myself of Home and instead indulge in whatever college has to offer me once again. This time, though, I’m finding myself in a sense of peace. I don’t desire to be here or there, and I don’t feel stuck in an in-between either. Instead, I feel ready for whatever challenges I may have to overcome before me and whatever challenges I may have to overcome within myself. This time around being home has largely been a state of cleansing and redirecting myself to healthy spaces. 

Oftentimes, we talk about moving onto healthier things, i.e. my salad vs. my lo mein, but we never actually make these transitions. It’s not easy to move on from a part of life or even a part of yourself that you’ve held close and coveted, but the decision is worthwhile. The new, unhinged space is worth it. Sometimes the answers to our problems are right in front of us.

I found myself constricted by my own fears and unbeknownst to me, standing in my own way. My decision to study abroad in Spain was one I made even before I’d gone to college and I am glad to see it coming to fruition. I’ve always wanted to participate, learn, and appreciate the culture and language more than I had ever before. I felt that being in the actual presence of it would be the only way to do it true justice.  I’m glad that despite all of my fears of wandering an entirely new place, I’ve been able to persist and push myself beyond my own limits. I’ve been able to overcome challenges I never thought I could. This gives me confidence in the things I’ll do in the future.

I often look at pictures of myself when I was younger, innocent, ignorant yet willing to learn, and think, “You have no idea what you’ll go through and grow through. You think you’re strong now but you don’t know just how strong you are.” I feel that way now. I feel young and strong and ready to grow. I feel ready to learn and explore and succeed in unforeseen ways. 

I often wonder: Where did this sense of peace and freedom come from? Why was I so frightened before?

The lesson I’ve learned is to never again stand in my own way.

To my readers, you all can expect this blog to be a culmination of my thoughts, fears, struggles, successes and the many failures embellished within them throughout this new experience in my life. And you can expect unrelenting persistency throughout it all.

Like the word tattooed on my body and the meaning of the poem at the beginning of this post: I am Unconquered.

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Ashley Simmons

Ashley is the 2015-16 IES Abroad Blogger of the Year! A Junior at Brandeis University, Ashley studies English, Creative Writing, Film, Television, and Interactive Media, as well as Creativity, The Arts and Social Transformation. On campus Ashley is an English Undergraduate Departmental Representative. Originally from Washington D.C., she enjoys cooking, reading, playing the piano, playing video games, and being with her family and friends.

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