I Found Myself When I was Lost
When you look at this picture you may see a happy woman with a bright, cheery smile. She looks like she loves life, and she’s got it altogether. Not a care in the world.
This is the feeling we probably all get whenever we’re scrolling through our Instagram feeds or browsing through photos of friends and family on Instagram. Job promotions, engagements, boyfriends, and births flood our social feeds and maybe even our emotions.
We look at each post wishing we were those people, comparing our lives to someone else’s story. And who could blame us?
No one is going to show you the ugly parts of their life. They just show the best of what’s happening for them, and you reel at not being able to have those things for yourself.
Well, the girl in that picture feels your pain and shares your struggle.
Her name is Ashley Paintsil. She’s an editorial director in the fashion industry and a newly appointed Fashion Journalism Professor at the University of Delaware.
She was the last student ever to interview the great poet Maya Angelou. She single-handedly runs the one of the most important fashion business publications on the web. She counts five young women as ladies she mentors. And she constantly hears things like,
“Wow, your life is amazing!”
“How do you keep it altogether?”
“How do you do it all?”
Well, the truth is, behind those titles and triumphs, there’s a bucket full of tears, sleepless nights, financial burdens, self-doubt and a ton of setbacks.
When Ashley was 9-years-old she saw a Calvin Klein show on FashionTV and knew from that moment on she would work in fashion. If you ask her today why she has such a wide vocabulary, she’ll tell you it’s because she had her face buried in every issue of Vogue with a dictionary in tow. She would do everything in her power to chase her dream of becoming a fashion editor— pray, intern, work hard, and network like she was out of her mind.
She finally landed a job at a fashion tech website, right out of college. It wasn’t Vogue, but she took the job, because she believed it would somehow get her foot in the door into a world that was so very hard to break through.
She started there as an editorial associate and worked her way up to the top spot as editorial director. She would interview big-time fashion investors like Lawrence Lenihan and Gary Wassner. And pen features that would get 300+ Facebook likes ( that’s a lot of ‘likes’ on a site that’s used to seeing zero to two people like a post.) She would go to Fashion Week, and get to spend time going to some really cool shows featuring the work of really cool designers, but would still feel like a loser.
A really big one.
While she was away from her office, the website would run without a hitch, but people didn’t know was that Ashley went to bed at 5 a.m. trying to post stories to the site, and had to wake up at 6 a.m. to catch a train, all while appearing like she was calm and everything was perfect to the people around her.
She would walk around New York meeting with some top faces in the industry and interview some fashion heavyweights, with a cute outfit and fake smile painted on her face.
What people didn’t realize was that Ashley was running all of this by herself.
She had a team of writers, and a few interns, but they were all freelancers so she couldn’t always depend on them to stick to the regular editorial schedule and some of these girls were still in school so they were still learning how to write.
Sometimes she even had to rewrite whole stories, because the copy that was sent to her was so bad. It was no offense to them, but she just had to make sure everything that went up on that site was perfect.
She spent 90 percent of her job sending “I’m-so-sorry-we-posted-this-story-so-late” emails, while she was trying to balance administrative tasks like trying to pay her writers on time, covering new stories and editing copy so it would appear flawless on the website.
She would constantly break down and have episodes of sustained anxiety and depression and worried constantly about how low her starting salary was.
“I work in fashion,” she thought. “Everyone says the starting salaries suck.”
She tried to console herself with these thoughts.
She was living with her parents so most of her bills were paid for, but they would never let her forget that.
“When are you going to start paying your own phone bill or car insurance?,” they’d say.
“When are you moving out?,” my brother would chime in.
On top of that her personal life was in shambles.
A guy she had been talking to for six months randomly called her and told her he was getting a “more-than-friends” vibe from her and that he wanted to end whatever it was that they had going on.
She fell into deeper depression.
“How can I keep going on like this?,” she would ask herself.
She didn’t think she would make it, and then one day she snapped.
She fell to the ground on her bedroom floor, crying like she had never before.
Then she heard a still small voice. It was like a whisper to her soul.
“Cast all your cares upon Me, for I care for you.”
All of a sudden she felt free.
This phrase had come from a verse in the Bible that was very familiar to Ashley.
She grew up in church, but never really felt connected to it, until she hit rock bottom.
She realized that nobody in this world was perfect and that there was some “man upstairs” who created her and was watching over her.
She decided to immerse herself in her newly found faith and live differently, live for this man called Jesus Christ, not worrying about checking boxes off those countless lists she made every day, trying to please everyone around her or about whether some boy liked her or not, and just going out and doing her best.
No, she is not perfect, and yes, about 80 percent of the struggles she’s mentioned in this story still exist, but she is at peace.
She is at peace because she has a Savior who despite all the struggles she has around her, constantly saves her from self-destructing.
Some people think faith is for the weak or it’s something that’s not real or not relevant to them or what they believe, but it’s very real to me and very personal.
I am Ashley Paintsil.
I don’t view my faith in Jesus Christ as a crutch. I view it as a deep relationship I have with a real God who literally pulls me through every struggle, situation and setback.
I may not win in everything by human standards, but when I measure up my life to what He thinks of me, I always win.
You may not believe in Him or my faith, and you’re entitled to that, but it’s a part of my story and I can’t tell my story without mentioning who He has been to me.
I count every success as a testament to how far He has brought me and can’t wait to see where He’ll take me.
And when I wake up in the morning and just feel like I can’t take life or have 1,000 emails sitting in my inbox and 100 stories that still need to be posted I tell myself this —
“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”
Written by Ashley Paintsil
As writer, editor and entrepreneur, Ashley splits her time between Delaware, New York and anywhere else her travels take her. She’s an active member in her church, Purpose Ministries, and also likes to sing and watch an unreasonable amount of reality TV. You can email her here or take a peek at what she’s up to here.