My name is Ashely Smith. It’s one of the most common names in the United States (especially if you were born in the 80s), except my first name is misspelled on account of my dad, who just couldn’t spell so good.
I’m a middle child of five siblings. Pale-skinned, freckle-faced and ordinary. I was born in Milton, Florida, 15 minutes from the Alabama state line. Its original name was “Hell Town” because the mosquitoes, snakes, briar patches, alligators and hot, humid weather left it undesirable to anyone with a lick of common sense.
Now I sit in my plant-filled sunroom in St. Petersburg, Florida, watching the remnants of another fantastic sunrise turn into a bright white sky. My Mercedes SUV sits in the driveway — a societal testament that I’ve graduated from roads made of clay and whip antennas.
Milton is all but a distant memory. Yet, when I think back to everything that had to happen to get me here, gratitude wells up in my chest for what I didn’t know at the time was the experiencethat I needed to get me to the next level of my life.
I needed to grow up poor. I needed my dad to leave us at 8 years old. I needed to learn the hard way that I was fueled by a deep rejection from father figures — that’s why I always got my heart broken by the many “bad boys” that roamed around town. I needed there to be an old skating rink where I would spend hours rolling around on the slick rink floor, and I needed to love it deeply.
Ten years ago, I was really trying to get it together, especially for my newborn daughter. I enrolled in college and started working hard to become a dental hygienist — a $70,000 annual salary and a 35-hour work week sounded pretty sweet to me.
To gain some experience in the field, I got a job as a dental assistant and laboratory technician. And to escape the tumultuous arguing with bad boy #37, I played roller derby in the evenings.
One night, I showed up to derby practice wearing a mouth guard I made at the dental office — with my derby name “Slim Skatey” written across the front — and my future began to take shape. The derby girls loved my mouthguard, so much so that they asked to buy some from me.
I bought a thermoforming machine, a die-cutting printer for the vinyl, ordered the material online and set up shop in my laundry closet. I’ve come a long way since using the top of the washer and dryer as my workspace.
I read somewhere that when you go to work on your business, you’re really going to work on yourself. Your business is a direct reflection of you. It will never exceed who you are. So, if you want more, you have to become more.
With that said, here are seven tips for anyone that has ever had an inkling that they deserve more out of life.