1. Tell us a little bit about yourself! Where you’re from...what your passion is...favorite food...memorable place traveled to...and your enneagram # (if you know it!)
First of all, thank you so much for inviting me to be featured on your blog, Hope! I feel so deeply humbled and honored that you would even ask me to do this and I genuinely mean that. So for those of you out there reading this that don’t know me my name is Ashley Powell, I’m originally from a small town called Pageland, South Carolina, but the last 15 years I’ve lived in Houston and Dallas, Texas mentoring, teaching, choreographing, performing, and just growing as a dancer/teacher/artist. I now reside in Hagerstown, Maryland as of October 2019 and am continuing to teach at Bloom Dance Studio and also dance myself when I can.
I think one of my greatest passions is people and diving in deep with people to see, hear, value, and understand them. To ask them about their stories and share my own as well. I find that a lot of encouragement, healing, and freedom comes from sharing through honest vulnerability. I love using dance and other forms of art as a tool to share and exchange stories with others as well.
Favorite food...oh gosh this is hard for me because I just love all kinds of food to be perfectly honest! I’m the kind of girl that will literally try ANYTHING, but I guess lately (especially with it being winter) I just want all the breakfast brunchy kinds of foods! I also could eat tomatoes every day of my life!
It’s so difficult to narrow it down because I love experiencing and being immersed in differing cultures even within the good ol’ U S of A;). South Africa and Italy were probably my two favorites though and the most memorable places I have visited simply because the cultures were so drastically different from what I knew and I loved the people in both places.
I am a hardcore classic Enneagram type 4 with a slight 5 wing. So all the deep emotions and introversion to the max lol
2. What sets your soul on fire? The kind of fire that makes you feel completely alive?
Honestly, so many things currently set my soul on fire which I am so incredibly grateful for because the season before this current one I had lost all passion for anything at all in life to be very frank. So it’s been really sweet to rediscover lost passions and hone in on cultivating good things within them again. The main passions for me in this season are getting to dance through freestyle/improv because I process a lot through movement both with myself and the Lord so I’m realizing how vital that is for me to feel somewhat sane because it sometimes is easier for me to express through movement what in the english language I just cannot find the words to say. I actually record a lot of those moments and share what I feel led to share in hopes that someone else can somehow relate to what is being expressed and communicated through the movement of my process and journey in life through my dancing. I absolutely adore kids in general and love their perspective on life I actually learn so much from them! I love my students and teaching them to express through movement as well as aiding in the development of their character and authentic artistic voice. I love music! I listen to every genre you could possibly imagine except country and polka and I even love to sing and play the piano. If I could play other instruments I totally would, but I have tried throughout my life and let’s just say it is in everybody’s best interest if I stick to the piano lol. I’m extremely passionate about vulnerability and honesty, I can’t do fake, so I’m a huge advocate for that to be fostered well within myself and others. I love sitting down with all ages of human beings and creating an environment for people to just simply be. A place for people to just come as they are and be themselves, a safe place to unload all that they are carrying (the good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful), and for them to know that they are heard, seen, loved valued, and not alone. As I mentioned before I LOVE different cultures and immersing myself in them to better understand the people living within them. I’ve learned and am still learning so much from observing how people live and perceive the world around them and it’s just beautiful and fascinating to me.
3. What have you been learning about living life to the fullest?
For me, I’m continuing to learn that comfort is not change and change is not comfort. The crazy thing is that I long for change in my life especially with being an enneagram 4 I can feel like there is always something missing in my life, but I am terrified of leaving what is comfortable to me to find it. Not to be confused with areas where I just need to be content because that is important too, but actually areas in my life where there is a fullness missing and I need to take action to seek, find, and fight for it if necessary. I typically like to play things very safe in life in general and have the comfort and guarantee that everything will work out how I think it will or hope it will, which means I can have a tendency to stay in my known safe little cocoon of a world surrounded by what is familiar for far longer than I should sometimes over trying something else that is best for me. The fear of failure is persistent in knocking at my door any time a moment of leaving safety and making a decision to do something new arrives that would enable me to live life more fully. That’s just the reality and honest truth. What I have been learning and trying to be more proactive in though especially in 2019-2020 is taking risks that are rooted in Christ and realizing that they are worth it even when it’s weird and awkward and doesn’t make any logical sense to both myself or others. It’s a growing and uncomfortable stretching and strengthening of my faith that I greatly desire the change in, but whew it’s been a challenge. I think another thing that I’ve been learning is that sometimes rejection can create clear direction for your life. Let’s face it, rejection freaking sucks, but also my perspective has been changing on it and I’m realizing that sometimes it’s the Father’s way of guiding me in the right direction to live a more full life.
4. What decisions have you made in your life to more fully receive God’s best for yourself?
I’m gonna go ahead and dive in deeper and be completely transparent with all of this too and give some background story to what has led me to my now. I often find that being transparent is better than letting things be opaque and vague for the benefit of ourselves and others and I hope it encourages somebody out there. But my whole life actually kind of came to a head and fell apart at the beginning of 2019. I had just gotten out of an extremely unhealthy relationship that I had lost myself in, I had lost my job that I had been working at for 11 years, my health was in a horrible place to where I couldn’t really function or participate in life well, and I was struggling with major depression and severe panic attacks. When I tell you it was bad, it was really bad. When each one of those things ended it felt like I was grieving a real death of a whole person called, “My Life” even though he was not good or beneficial for me at all I just didn’t know it yet. To be honest I didn’t even realize it until this past November or December. Basically for me to find my life I really did have to lose it. Because the honest truth is: I was comfortable and a lot of times it takes kind of drastic measures for me to let go of things that I think are good for me, but that may not be God’s best for me. I am so stubborn. So after all of the things that felt like rejection, after rejection, after rejection last year it led me to a quiet place of actually living with my parents for a few months in the woods of South Carolina surrounded by grass, trees, flowers, love, grace, care, and being reminded of my worth and value that me simply as I was, with what looked like nothing, was enough and I was loved. My best friend Chelsea offered me a position to teach dance at Bloom Dance Studio in Hagerstown, Maryland and I loved the thought of us no longer having to be long distance friends haha, but I was so hesitant out of fear of change because I had just adapted to living in South Carolina and worried about failing if I chose to go. I knew my options well and what each entailed between Texas, South Carolina, and Maryland. I knew what would or could be good and bad whatever choice I made and was frozen by fear for a long time, but also what did I have to lose after I had already seemingly lost it all? I chose Maryland and it has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. Removing myself from desolate places and being in a place where there is opportunity for growth and life is so encouraging after being in a desert for so long. Don’t get me wrong I learned a great deal in the desert and the familiar and I’m so grateful for it, but I’m also grateful to be in a new green pasture with still waters. Some days I still struggle with loneliness, depression, doubt, worry, confusion, not trusting, fearing, laziness, idealizing things, etc...just because I moved doesn’t mean I don’t struggle still. However, taking the risks I felt were ordered by Him has helped in rediscovering daily who I am and rebuilding my identity daily in Him and there is such a freedom in that. Living life to the fullest will always involve risk at some point or another and even if within taking the risks things die or seemingly fail, if it’s in Christ “to die is gain”, right? So my continued learning is how to live life to the fullest pivots on my perspective of who He is and trusting and believing He loves me. My new beginning to fully live involved me physically moving, but I feel like that is such a reflection of what He did within me more than anything and that is just so beautiful and cool to me.
5. What is your advice to anyone asking the question, “How can I live with more purpose and intention?”
I’m still in the process of learning and navigating this myself so I don’t really have a clear answer, but I think before asking how can I live life with more purpose and intention I first have to ask myself, “Where in my life do I feel or know that I am not living with purpose and intention?” And then from there take initiative to change the narrative of those specific weak areas. Surround yourself with accountability and people that will challenge you. Maybe they are people that are already living with purpose and intention in the specific areas that you are not and you can grow, glean, learn to develop strength in those areas from them. God gives us each other for a reason so don’t isolate yourselves in trying to be perfect and not humble yourself to learn from others God has placed in your life. And I think another thing is just simply asking the Lord to show you how to live. I know that is something I have been asking Him almost everyday since my new life began and it’s a slow process, but I’m doing my best to learn and He really has been patient, faithful, and kind in the midst of my feeble attempts and daily failures. I really am so grateful for His grace and strength that is made perfect in my weaknesses, seriously, if you all only knew how weak I truly am. Just know you are loved by Him no more and no less as you succeed and fail throughout this life. You existing on this earth...you simply and freely being you...you who were created with purpose and intention to display His glory...you are enough.