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J Hart F

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Quiet Heroine (Short Profile Essay)

Her passion reads easily on her body: a smile bright with enthusiasm, eyes reminiscing as her cheeks bunch up and hands wave in reserved dramatic waves, her voice strained slightly as she rushes through a description foreign to words. “…and when I cook them, they’re gooey and soft and the chocolate just melts in your mouth. My chocolate chip cookies are amazing!” she exclaims. I can almost see her mouth watering. Having moved so quickly through her other specialties, tacos and pasta, she lingers on the cookies which she can’t have often because her stepmother is always on a diet. Her imagination is certainly vivid enough to taste her morsels even now, in a stark class room filled with chatter.

Ashley’s wearing what I assume to be her natural attire: light blue jeans and a green shirt with a Roxy design on her right shoulder. Her hair is pulled back, a remnant of her morning routine with ROTC (I think). She sits nearly proper; back with only the hint of a curve left from slouching in high school, one arm casually placed on the tabletop in between periods of writing, the other in her lap. The most intriguing thing about Ashley is her blue eyes.

They hide something, and it seems like sorrow or fear. Perhaps something more sinister like wisdom and experience, and Ashley certainly has plenty of experience to draw into her understanding of the world. Her mother abandoned her when she was born. Abandoned may be a harsh word to use, but Ashley had to struggle without a motherly figure in her life and fight for a cohesive picture of a family and what good parenting is. She certainly has this definition.

Working at the Bay in Broomfield, and other recreation center pools, Ashley has the opportunity to witness many different types of parenting. Ashley is a life guard and swimming instructor, things she truly enjoys because of the adrenaline rush. “I don’t usually make saves… I mean, it doesn’t happen often. But when I do, I jump in, grab the kid and pull them out and continue to watch my water,” she says nonchalantly. She claims, as she looks around in amusement, that the adrenaline rush of making a save has faded over time. However, her self pride comes out again: shoulders drawing back as she sits forward. Judging by the angle of her torso, she crossed her legs as she leaned forward to talk to me.

The talk of parenting becomes comical as she describes some of the mothers she watches neglect their children in the water. The women argue with their husbands, their other kids, and their friends, all the while their five year old is drowning in the pool right next to them. Most of the parents let their children disregard the rules and they run along the edge of the pool, tempting fate and the barrage of whistles echoing across the water. Still, the parents don’t pay attention; and this is how she sets her standards of parenting. “I know I won’t be like them,” she says, and certainly she thinks back to her mother.

But Ashley’s most outstanding quality is her strength to overcome her own faults. Drugs haunted her for years, though she wouldn’t have known it as a haunting during the thick of it. Just the memory of the experience darkens her voice, shadows her smile, and drops her shoulders ever so slightly. For being only nineteen, Ashley’s sense of her own actions is extremely mature. And once you realize what has happened in her past, in regards to her mother and her addiction to drugs, the mystery behind those blue eyes becomes strikingly apparent. She’s fighting a battle with an image of druggies.

Not only is she fighting this image within herself, but she’s pushing that battle out into the world at large. She loves to read fictions dealing with drug and substance abuse; topics she knows very well. Her studies, she informed me, are in psychology so she can use her experience in rehabilitation centers. This way, she can help kids escape this dark world full of unhealthy friends, abusive relationships, and harmful addictions. She can repaint the rosy cheeks onto the pale addicts, show them how to go about their paths, bring light to their darkened minds. Ashley is certainly easy to talk to. No question seems truly off limits and her conversation is open and free. In a way, her voice begs to be provoked and dives into the presented subjects.

Ashley is a quiet heroine. Her past is hidden away behind a mature exterior. A mind filled with history is available to understand, and she is taking the steps to utilize this wisdom for the betterment of others. Already she’s saving lives drowning in a world of neglect. The very presence of a girl, a women, like Ashley allows for a more careful society to be achieved; where conversation about our past lives can change the attitude of the future.

Packing up her bag, she continues to chat with me. She talks about her engagement with ROTC and how she enjoys the discipline; an odd contrast to what I know about her rebellion with her parents. However her past may have shaped Ashley, she certainly knows where she’s headed down a road abundant with people calling out for her help. She will dive in to their rescue when given the chance, I know this. And perhaps there will be chocolate chip cookies for a reward.

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