I believe in magic. Not the pull-a-rabbit-from-a-hat, make-coins-appear-from-behind-your-ears kind of magic. I believe in the magic that comes from truly enjoying life, from allowing you to find inspiration wherever you look.
Although people who knew me before called me an “over-achiever” and would have considered me someone who took advantage of what life has to offer, my guide in traversing the unexpected joys in life was my friend Ashley.
He was a complex character, but what drew me to him initially was his joie de vivre: he lived life to the fullest. More than that, he actively sought out and shared the fantastic, but often overlooked aspects of life.
We met senior year of college, a couple days after I had fainted in an elevator and busted my lip, requiring stitches. Although I looked like I’d been in a nasty fight and couldn’t smile or laugh for fear of painfully severing the stitches, I spent the entire evening clutching the sides of my mouth with both hands, trying desperately to keep my lip intact as I begged Ashley to please stop making me laugh! Naturally, that didn’t work.
Our laughing, savoring the situation, and uncovering the magic rarely stopped.
On a memorable trip to New York, we made the most of a bad traffic jam during a snow storm by rolling down the windows, turning up the music, and doing a Peanuts dance outside of the car. In between listening to Broadway hits on his iPod, we used his trucker’s CB radio to propose conspiracy theories about the traffic we’d just been stuck in.
Ashley’s inspirational outlook and magical insights were not limited to flighty, insubstantial situations. Another weekend he drove me to New York for a job interview. The morning of, he calmed by nerves by taking me to various flea markets to look for the perfect hostess gift: a carved elephant foot! While we never found one, he definitely kept my mind off of the impending interview and accompanying trepidation.
On the drive home from that trip I was able to more clearly understand Ashley’s unique outlook on life as we gleefully pointed out outrageous signs (the church with the huge neon red cross), hypothesized about the origins of mysteriously overlooked tourist attractions (surely you could charge admission to see the junk pile that extended for almost a mile after someone’s personal collection of old household appliances grew out of hand), and invented hilariously inconceivable excuses for speeding (our third passenger was pregnant or the gas pedal was controlled by the tempo of the music).
Ultimately, Ashley’s magical outlook on life could not overcome some of the more complex aspects of his character and he committed suicide four days before graduation.
I remember him and commemorate him by incorporating what I learned from him about seeing, celebrating and embracing the vibrant details of our world that are so often overlooked into my personal philosophy. By acknowledging and wondering at the magic of life which surrounds us, by keeping Ashley’s outlook alive, I continue to spread his love of life and of all the minuscule particles – people, personalities, perspectives – of which it is comprised. It was Ashley who taught me the lesson that has become my personal motto and core belief: to live life the fullest, find inspiration everywhere.
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