Dear Self,

Dang girl, you finally did it! You actually did it! There may have been a few moments these past few years where the reality of this moment seemed so far away, almost like it would never happen, but here you are. You should be so proud of EVERY. SINGLE. THING you have accomplished since the beginning of your journey at ASU.

This degree you’re holding in your hand was not a fly-by-night kind of thing. No, this film and media studies degree took more than 4 years to obtain. It was earned by taking classes year round, carefully managing your time so you could pursue all your other passions and learning in more ways than just academics.

It’s crazy to think that your education was spent outside of a traditional school; that you’ve literally studied various different subjects in all 50 states. Your classroom was anything from a tour bus, to a hotel room, a grassy hill or ocean side, sitting alone in your room or with others as you were all out and about. All you’ve ever needed to make this all happen was your laptop, a decent Wi-Fi connection and the determination to get the work done.

You should be proud to know that you are leaving this chapter of your life with so many new skills. You are now a writing machine! Those stories in your head now have a way of making it onto paper and can actually be transferred onto the screen! You can see the waves of change in communication and media before anyone else does. All the creative and analytical elements you love have finally melded into one.

Alongside that, look at the career you’ve built in hand with your education! How many people can say that they’re a national-touring country music singer, landing hits on radio and toting a bachelors degree? Not too many, I would believe. You’ve watched both your career and your education grow from little seeds into gorgeous trees.

Your beautiful fauna did not sprout by chance, however. Your growth came from the hard work of your hands, holding on strong to your roots when the storms of life almost became too much to bear, adjusting the elements in your life as needed to make sure you stayed healthy and sane and not being afraid to ask for help. Any sign of wilting was only a reminder that you needed to keep working on yourself and change what was in your hands.

I hope reading this has made you smile as big as I have while writing it. This letter is a testament to your perseverance and your village. Your family’s love has been so critical to keeping you going. Their constant reminder that learning always comes first is your foundation for life. Also, the love ASU has shown you is out of this world. You’ve been able to be an ambassador for the online program you love so much and show others from all different walks of life that it’s never too late or too impossible to go to school. The way you’ve been able to combine work with your loves in life is something so greatly admirable. It’s what you’ve always strove for. It is such an incredible blessing to have all the different elements in life fall together so perfectly.

It will be an interesting story, to see where your trail goes on from here. The world is full of so many possibilities; who knows what will come about! I hope you get to see every inch of the world you’ve wanted to explore, continue touching the lives of people through music and charity work. And finally, I hope you never lose that spark of joy that courses though you when you learn new things about the subjects you’re passionate and curious about.

The world is small, and you are even smaller, but I know you’ll make some ginormous marks on the world. Just you wait.

All of my love,

Ashley Wineland

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