How to Hit Rock Bottom and Come Back a Business Owner (Without Breaking a Nail. Or Going Insane. Or Resorting to Prostitution. Mostly.)

ash ambirgeI’m pretty effing honored to have Ash Ambirge of The Middle Finger Project offer up a guest post to Redhead Writing. If you don’t know her, you should. If you think I’m irreverent, she’ll flip you shit and then make you sit in it. ‘Nuf said. Grab a coffee and a Snickers – this post is one that requires some settling in (and it’s worth it).

It wasn’t long ago that devastation quickly and quietly ambushed my life, culminating one night in a deserted K-Mart parking lot in the slums of South Philadelphia.

I sat in my car, underneath the unforgiving glow of an insect-encrusted floodlight, alternating between holding back the tears and not being able to stop them, followed by sporadic outbursts of kicking, yelling, screaming, and wailing at the universe for handing me this monumental test of strength that I was not, in any way, ready for.

Fucking universe and its perpetual lack of good timing.

I had hit rock bottom.  Not just any rock bottom, but the mother of rock bottoms, one covered in glass shards, stale cigarette butts, and dirty diapers, accompanied by a thick aroma of dread laced with despair.  Though, in retrospect, that might have just been the scent of late-night Philly streets–hard to tell at the time.

In that moment–my monumental moment of failure–I had exactly twenty-six dollars and thirty two cents in my checking account, zero available credit, and, as of one harrowing hour prior, no where to sleep that night. I had always known this moment could come at any time, and for many years, I feared it more than anything. My parents were both deceased by the time I graduated college, leaving me without much support and the unexpected title of bad ass orphan. That’s what I like to call it, anyway, because orphan alone sounds far too pathetic for someone who was once voted Most Likely to Succeed by her high school peers.

Boy did they fuck that one up.

I had known that if I slipped up anywhere along the way, this moment would one day find me. And lo and behold, suddenly there the bastard was, staring me in the face, taunting me with the smugness of victory. Life had brutally defeated me, once and for all.

So, amongst the crying, and the sobbing, and the punching of car objects that weren’t meant to be punched (your dashboard is much more durable than you think) I did the only thing that seemed right at the time–something I had never done before.

There at the steering wheel in the K-Mart parking lot, I, Ashley Ambirge, prayed.

A funny sight to see, actually–a recently-turned-homeless agnostic who doesn’t even know how to pray, praying. But clearly, I needed help, and since there didn’t seem to be any men with white horses nearby, I figured this god character would have to do.

I started with a little something like this:

So…hey, man.  Errr…sir…errr…god.

It’s me. The girl who lit the bank dumpster on fire in the 6th grade. I know you remember that day, don’t you? I still can’t believe we didn’t get caught. By the way, just so we’re clear, we totally didn’t mean for that to happen. You know how it is the first time you ever light a match–you don’t know it’s going to burn your finger so fast, and in a moment of panic you might make the fatal decision of throwing it, rather than blowing it out. Whoops. How were we suppose to know the dumpster was full of paper? Anyway, that’s not actually why I’m phoning you tonight.

The real reason is because, to be blunt, I suck. It’s been made very clear that I suck. This moment is testimony to the fact that I suck. But here’s the thing–from this day forward, I’m going to try with all my might not to suck. Not anymore.  No more sucking here. (Within context, of course.)

So, with all due respect, I was thinking that if you were feeling particularly chipper, maybe you could pull some strings and help me out of this mess. I know you’ve got a whole bunch going on right now with the economy, the Middle East, starving people in Africa, and fucking with Bush as as your new favorite sport, but right about now, I could really use a member of your angel posse.  I mean, what do you think?

I was met with silence. Apparently this god character isn’t much of a talker.

I stop, let my head fall to the steering wheel, and sob some more.

I’m fucked.

Growing up, I had always been one of those annoying girls with the annoying list of accomplishments. Student Council President. Captain of the volleyball team. AP Calculus kiss ass. Prom Promise Princess.  (Which basically means you vow not to do the nasty in your $200 Jessica McClintock dress, and then go out and do it anyway because, ohmygawd, it’s high school, and like, Troy Collins will totally let you wear his varsity jacket if you do.)

Brownie-baking, fund-raising whores.

And yet, that’s exactly who I was.

So much so, that the founder of Monster.com awarded me a full scholarship to a well-known private university.  I went on to graduate in the top ten of my college class, with not one degree, but two. I even went ahead and got a Master’s degree for shits and giggles (because isn’t that why anyone gets their Master’s degree?).  Later, I worked my way up the corporate ladder in marketing, and then as an account executive in advertising sales, handling national accounts and being awarded high praise (and compensation) for my efforts.  At one point, I had the perfect job, the perfect car, the perfect outfits, the perfect life, and even the perfect home.

And yet somehow, it all came tumbling down, and the next thing you know, there I am praying. Just goes to show that anything can happen, really.

It’s a long story as to how I went from picket fence to K-Mart, but I think the words, “financial irresponsibility,” “illegal Mexican immigrant lover” and “nearly choked me to death” sum it up quite nicely.

I loved him.  Madly.  Passionately.  Irrationally.

Until the day I was forced not to.

Until the day he slammed me up against the wall of our apartment, his hands tightly gripped around my neck, my air supply completely cut off. I waited for him to let go, and started to panic when he didn’t. I looked him in the eyes, and pleaded with him with my own, but what glared back at me was a cold, unfeeling hollow shell of what once was. He gripped tighter. I cried harder. And in that moment, I was sure I was going to meet my fate.

That was one hour prior to my K-Mart moment of glory.

I had managed to escape, taking what little clothes I could gather, piling them into the trunk of my car, and driving away as fast as I could. Though, with a quarter tank of gas, and only $26 to my name, I knew I wouldn’t get very far. For years I hadn’t played it safe with my finances, and now it was finally time to pay in more ways than one. And I was scared.

Fortunately, that whole bad ass orphan thing had an up side, principally in making me unapologetically stubborn. I might have only had $26, but I’d be damned if I couldn’t find a way to survive.

I knew I needed to draw on what resources and knowledge I had at the time, and that’s exactly what I planned to do. There would be no more reliance on opportunity to come a knockin’; it was time for me to start busting down some goddamn doors uninvited. So, I did the next best thing to praying.  (And drinking, of course, since that seems to be frowned upon while seated in an automobile.)

I opened my MacBook.

Beyond the freelance writing I had been doing, I had a little secret weapon that I had been building up, called a blog. It wasn’t just any blog; it was a blog titled–ahem–The Middle Finger Project (what? it’s classy, shut up), and it was a blog with about 2,500 subscribers at the time–something that, to me, was an accomplishment of sorts. On the blog, I talked about the importance of freedom in our short, short lives, and promoted entrepreneurship as a means of achieving that freedom. Freedom so we could do work that mattered to us, freedom so we could be with people that mattered to us, and freedom so we could focus on the things that mattered to us.

I knew that eventually I would turn it into a business, but wasn’t quite ready to take that full leap. I kept relegating it to a far off place called, “soon,” but the week I became homeless, I suddenly realized the sheer value of utter disaster:  Sometimes, you have to be on the brink of it, in order for motivation to override procrastination.

So right then and there, I decided to take a risk–I would try and leverage my blog and skill set to the best of my capabilities, in an attempt to create something of value for my audience that I could charge for. I wasn’t in the best mental state, and would need some time to develop said resource, but $26 surely wouldn’t last me until it was finished. So, I did something that, at the time, I thought was unconventional:  I decided to offer a pre-sale of the product I hadn’t yet made, nor had no clue how to make. I was nervous; I had never sold anything on my blog before, and wasn’t sure what the reaction would be, or whether anyone would even bother buying something that didn’t yet exist. I was even more nervous that I’d be laughed at, and that I’d lose every subscriber I ever had. But, I had no choice–it was sink, or swim, and I was determined to thrash my way through it, no matter what it took.

So in that very moment, there in the K-Mart parking lot, under the beam of the unforgiving, insect-infested light, I wrote this post. (Note: The original copy announcing the pre-sale has since been edited, which makes me sad, but the majority of the content is still in its original form.)

Throughout the post, my pain is hidden, buried deep beneath such encouraging words that, admittedly, I wasn’t sure I believed at the time. But after all, they say a blogger typically writes what s/he needs to hear most, and this is a prime example.

This blog post was a desperate attempt at me trying to save my own life.

The next day, I closed my eyes before pushing publish on the post from an internet cafe, and gave myself a quick pep-talk: It’s now or never, Ambirge. The worst that could happen is the no one pre-orders the book, and you’ll have to start asking friends to borrow some money and a couch. That isn’t so bad, is it? Surely someone will help. Won’t they?

I took a deep breath and hit publish.

And I sat, and waited, and gritted my teeth, and chipped away at my nail polish, refreshing my Gmail over and over, hoping to see the words “Sale – EJunkie” come through.

But nothing came.

Nothing within the first two minutes, that is.

Suddenly, right before my very eyes, my angel posse arrived, because the next thing you know, not just one sale came through, but several.  And more.  And more.  And even more!  I couldn’t believe what was happening; did my audience believe in me that much?

Within an hour I had sold 20.

Within two hours, I had sold 60.

And by the end of the day, I had sold 116.

At my pre-sale price of 50% off, at $12 a pop, that amounted to $1392.

I’d never been so grateful.

That $1392 did more than get me some gas money; it gave me the initial faith that I needed to continue, to start hand-crafting my own reality, rather than waiting for someone else to come along and give me the opportunities I wanted.  That was some time ago, but the lesson I learned that day–the value of creatively leveraging your talents–is one that has since helped me build The Middle Finger Project brand and turn it into the full-time business I had once only dreamed about. Fast forward to present day, and I just closed last month out with $10,132 in revenue, all from that little vulgarly-titled blog of mine–the vehicle that made all the difference in the world for me, the moment I finally started letting it.

And to think:  All it took was financial ruin with a dose of abuse mixed with a smattering of homelessness.  Funny how that works.

I haven’t told this story often, for fear that telling it would make me appear weak and somehow unworthy. Yet, as I’ve grown, and as my business has grown, I look back and reflect, only to realize that the only reason I’ve been able to reach the level of success I have today is because of the cracks in the foundation–as it turns out, those cracks don’t represent flaws, but rather, marks of character. Badges of honor. Street cred–literally. And the start of a journey that has only just begun.

For me, disaster was my saving grace.

Perhaps the universe doesn’t have such perpetual bad timing, after all. I’d normally insert some feel-good horse shit here about embracing your circumstances, and looking on the bright side, but at the end of the day, that’s a joke.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:  It isn’t about imagining the silver lining. It’s about taking the sharpest knife you can find, vehemently slashing through all of the bullshit, and yanking it out with your bare hands.

You have no choice.

And if, by chance, you ever find yourself in a K-Mart parking lot in the slums of Philadelphia, I have only one piece of advice:

Lock your fucking doors.

And then get to work.

Because truth be told? There is no angel posse.

This one’s all you.

303 replies
  1. Jolene
    Jolene says:

    I’m a first time commenter, long time lurker and this is exactly what I needed to read first thing this morning! Thank you for such an inspiring, well written post.  

    Reply
  2. Leah_M
    Leah_M says:

    Wow, what a wonderful, insightful, and deeply personal post. I haven’t hit rock bottom yet, but I’m on my way down and I wonder what my point will be. I know others have come out alive and thriving, but in the moment you never really know or believe it can be you. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Reply
      • Anonymous
        Anonymous says:

        I was going to say, “There’s always a new day to start fresh,” but then realized what total BS that was. There isn’t always another day. Make the best of what you’ve got today, baby. Creativity is king. XO.

        Reply
  3. Debra Lazar Schubert
    Debra Lazar Schubert says:

    Unfreaking believable. I’m in awe. I’m also in the burbs of Philly, but I’ve seen the slums. From a distance. A distance I’ve always been grateful for. However, now I see that maybe being in the heart of the slums of your life is where the real power lives.

    Erika, tx for having Ash take over your blog. Can’t wait to share a veggie meal with you in a couple of weeks. 😉

    Reply
    • Anonymous
      Anonymous says:

      Well, funny, when I was in ad sales + life was grand, I lived in Chester Springs, up by West Chester, as well as Exton. 🙂 Then, I had a house built in Phoenixville – brand new construction in a gated community. With stone fireplaces. And vaulted ceilings. And a jacuzzi. And a TV mounted on every room in the house, including all of the bathrooms. HA. Funny to go from one to the other!

      Reply
  4. kara rane
    kara rane says:

    hi Ash & Erika-
    You truly define beauty.  Lately been reading a lot about women who despite all odds- living in war zones, 3rd world countries, survivors of violence, who rise up beyond their circumstances and do fly, who succeed, and are able to discover freedom,, the Power of Being.  It is time for value and the money that our hard work so deserves.  Congratulations**
     

    Reply
  5. Joyce
    Joyce says:

    This post is a refreshing rarity to discover in a world wide web filled with useless S#%t. Absolutely love it! I’ve honestly never heard of your site or blog before today after noticing the link on my friend’s facebook page (sorry for the name drop). Pleasantly surprised and deeply thrilled to discover that at least one person our there speaks their mind. Keep up the wonderful work!

    Reply
    • The Redhead
      The Redhead says:

      Joyce, delighted that you found the blog. I’m so grateful for Ash being willing to share her words on this site and uber grateful to your friend for sharing my site so that you could find it! There’s no BS allowed on this site – something you might find refreshing 🙂

      Reply
      • Anonymous
        Anonymous says:

        Yes, I do believe BS is strictly prohibited over here. And on my site, too, unless, of course there are Mediterranean men involved, in which case I will probably gloss over the details to spare you the envy! 🙂 

        Just kidding. I definitely don’t get enough Mediterranean ass.

        Who wants to change that?

        XO Joyce. 

        Reply
  6. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Holy fuckamazeballs. As a fellow chick who escaped from a similar shituation with a 2.5-year-old kiddo in tow, I fully understand the guts and strength it took for you to not only do what you did, but share this with the universe. I applaud you, lady. You inspire me. And you rock, hardcore.

    Thanks for the kick in the brain this morning. Dammit, I gots me some work to do…

    Reply
  7. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Ash, thanks for sharing. I’ve only recently discovered TMFP, and never knew its genesis.  Inspiring story.

    Erika, thanks for posting this.

    Reply
  8. MegCarpen
    MegCarpen says:

    Ash, this is exactly what I needed to hear this morning! While I’m not where you where, I’ve been pretty damn close. Too close. And I feel like a bit of an ass, because yesterday I tweeted to you that I was “(slowly) starting” my business, and there’s no excuse for slowness. This is another kick in the ass that says life is too short to make my dreams come true slowly. So thank you for the multiple wake-up calls, the pure honesty, and for the kick in the ass. 
    And thanks Erika for bringing this kick-ass chick to your blog. I really needed her story today.
    Now, I have some shit to get together, thanks again ladies! You two rock!

    Reply
  9. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    I can hardly believe how much this mirrors the life of a dear friend of mine: high achievement, abusive relationship, escape into homelessness and poverty, reinvention and redemption through the help of friends and her own very hard work. Only in her case, it happened twice.  I hope you never go there again. Thank you SO MUCH for sharing this.

    Reply
  10. SL Clark
    SL Clark says:

    Hello Ash,
    OMG, we were -that close- to having your brilliance snuffed out! Holy Crap!
    Thanks for the “Redhead Sanctioned” ass kick, -Steve

    Reply
  11. Gillian Duffy
    Gillian Duffy says:

    I was just at the World Domination Summer and heard John T Unger say that we should look for the opportunity in every disaster. I think you’ve done an awesome job in that regard!! Don’t be afraid to tell your story Ashley…it’s what makes us unique!!

    Reply
  12. John Falchetto
    John Falchetto says:

    There are posts and there is this, raw emotion. I had heard about TMFP and Ash from my friend Srinivas @skooloflife:twitter but this is beyond anything I expected.

    Ash I disagree when you say “all it took was a mixture of abuse, homelessness and financial ruin” a lot of people go through this and don’t bounce back. You did it because you simply rock, you’re not a product of your environment.

    Erika, thank you for bringing Ash to the RedHead’s house.

    Reply
    • Anonymous
      Anonymous says:

      Hey, John! Ha – I seriously need to buy Srini about 8 cases of beer, because he’s always been one of my biggest cheerleaders. The male kind, of course. 

      And maybe you’re right. I always say that being successful in life requires a tad bit of arrogance. Thanks, mom, for always telling me I was the best growing up. I still have a card from her, one of my most cherished memories that says, “Ashie and mommy sitting in a tree. Ashie looked at mommy, and said, ‘What will I be?’ Mommy said, ‘Ashie, you’re going to be a winner. A big shot CEO, never cooking dinner.'”

      The dinner thing definitely worked out, evidenced by the pizza I just ordered. 🙂 

      Reply
  13. Dan Riha
    Dan Riha says:

    Things have been going into the shitter for me for a while now.  I’m living with a palpable fear that makes my inner voice say, “I have no idea how this is going to turn out.  I have no confidence that everything will be ok.” 

    Two things I’m taking away from this post.  1. “Rock bottom” does not mean “end of the line.”  2. Someone I greatly admire did not get a single thing handed to her by good fortune or serendipitous circumstance. 

    Thank you, Ashley.  You’re a fucking superstar.

    Thank you, Erika, for letting the nice lady guest post.  Now I can read you, too.

    Reply
  14. Cherry
    Cherry says:

    Well Ash, you keep coming across my radar screen and I’m so glad. Powerful, vulnerable post. THank you for sharing it.
    Funny to me, looking in, that you would think it could be seen as weakness; quite the contrary.

    Good guest post Reds, not surprised that you’re a middle finger kinda gal.

    Reply
  15. Purple Panda
    Purple Panda says:

    I know bits and pieces of your past but I didn’t know the whole story like this! wow, I am so inspired. trying to figure out my rock bottom 🙂 YES about creating your own opportunities. we don’t find jobs, we MAKE them!!

    Reply
  16. Brian Watkins
    Brian Watkins says:

    Wow, what a powerful post! I’ve been pretty damn low myself before, ready to throw in the towel and say screw the whole thing, and it’s really inspiring to see in your story what some perseverance will do when it otherwise looks like hope is lost.

    Thanks for sharing this! Really moved me and energized my afternoon.

    Reply
  17. Steve Rice
    Steve Rice says:

    Loved hearing your story. Thanks for sharing such a vulnerable time.  It does give ya street cred, but real credibility and helps inspire the rest of us to believe that we can do it too! 

    So glad you didn’t stop and that you decided to make it happen.

    Reply
    • Anonymous
      Anonymous says:

      What’s that song? “Don’t stop, get it, get it…just do it…do it…do it do it do it.” Bonus points for anyone who actually knows which song I’m referencing. 

      Reply
    • Anonymous
      Anonymous says:

      What’s that song? “Don’t stop, get it, get it…just do it…do it…do it do it do it.” Bonus points for anyone who actually knows which song I’m referencing. 

      Reply
    • Anonymous
      Anonymous says:

      What’s that song? “Don’t stop, get it, get it…just do it…do it…do it do it do it.” Bonus points for anyone who actually knows which song I’m referencing. 

      Reply
  18. Caroline McGraw
    Caroline McGraw says:

    MAJOR congrats on your guest post here, Ashcakes. I’m a little at a loss for words (in the best possible way) but I just want to say:  thank you. I had tears in my eyes. (I was supposedly filing invoices as I read this, so I’m sure the sight of me tearing up over billing had my coworkers confused.)
    ANYWAY. Well worth it. As you say ~ angel posse or no, you certainly had saving grace from without + within.

    Reply
    • Anonymous
      Anonymous says:

      HA. I’m seriously laughing out loud at your comment, re: tearing up over billing. HA. Thanks, McGrawcakes! XO

      Reply
  19. Jackie Lee
    Jackie Lee says:

    Speechless. Ash this is the best thing I have read in years.  I can’t thank you enough for all you do.  The last lines… my favorite. Lock your doors and get to work. Priceless advice whether in a Kmart parking lot or the corner of your bedroom that serves as your upstairs “office”. Thank you thank you thank you. 

    Reply
    • Anonymous
      Anonymous says:

      This is the best compliment I’ve received in years. Thank you for taking the time out of your day to read + interact! Thank YOU.

      Reply
  20. Farnoosh
    Farnoosh says:

    Incredible and seriously inspiring. Not that I need to hear more inspiring and ridiculously touching stories from either of you, Erika and Ash – you two amazing fabulous women – but here it is yet again. Ash, you know I adored you before you spilled your guts and I hope that you truly consider writing a book and finding a way to share this story beyond the wonderful space here in Erika’s page. Love to you both. THANK YOU for completely messing up my concentration today for a very good reason! 🙂

    Reply
  21. Brad Holland
    Brad Holland says:

    Well, that kind of explains your choice of your blog title. I hope that mother trucker is locked up for his ungentlemanly conduct and being sodomized by Alejandro and his gang merry men.

    Keep on rockin!

    Reply
  22. Mazarine
    Mazarine says:

    Thank you Ash, for writing these words, and being true to your honest self. I was homeless once too, and now my blog and business around it is providing me with a stream of income that I could not have conceived of even two years ago. Thank you for telling your story. You inspire me to do even more.

    Reply
  23. Tina Cincotti
    Tina Cincotti says:

    So grateful to have been introduced to both of you righteous women in the past two weeks.  F’in amazing stuff, ladies.  Amazing.

    Reply
  24. Kathroberts
    Kathroberts says:

    yup -I’ve been there, not quite the Kmart but that utter down and out feeling where you pray for a break. Good on you Ash for getting back up there, me too!

    Reply
  25. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth says:

    I never use this terminology, but OMFG!!!! That’s right, four exclamation marks. I did it. What.

    Ash, I LOVE reading your blog and LOVE the services you provide for us enterprising somebodies. You are a devilish angel and I love that you own it.

    Rock it forevah.

    Reply
  26. Leon Noone
    Leon Noone says:

    G’Day Ash and Erika,
    Bloody hell! Great yarn—that’s Aussie slang for story. I’ve gotta say that it’s remarkable how inspiring that supermarket car parks can be. It’s also reassuring that the God person came through for you.

    Ash, I don’t care how many qualifications you have or in what. You can really write. That’s a gift. Goodonyer Erika for giving that girl space.

    Be nice Erika. Don’t say “takes one to know one” like that.

    Make sure you have fun

    Best Wishes 

    Leon

    Reply
  27. Mike Stankavich
    Mike Stankavich says:

    That is just one hell of a story.  So glad you made it through to share your glorious irreverence with you.  Thank God you didn’t wait around for Jesus to make it all better for you and took matters into your own hands. 

    Like many other commenters said, it makes my excuses for not getting off my ass look downright pathetic.  If you’ll excuse me, I have a database application to go debug now…

    Reply
    • Anonymous
      Anonymous says:

      Ha – I’ve never been a believer that everything happens for a reason. Shit happens because you either make it, or don’t.  Usually.  😉  

      Reply
  28. Katie
    Katie says:

    Can I just say that I know EXACTLY the KMart parking lot that you had that breakdown in? If I were still living in that, uh, less than lavish area, I’d have taken you to the Chinese Buffet.

    But seriously? You are nothing short of amazing.

    Reply
  29. Moon Hussain
    Moon Hussain says:

    You’re a f’in rockstar Ashley!  It seems like I’m reading only things that have lit a fire underneath me.  Like MegCarpen, I feel like an ass because I have let laziness and stupidity hold me back. 

    Thanks for sharing this story, couldn’t have been easy to do.  But if it helps any: you’re a badass.

    And Philly is scary.  So can be Delaware. And Maryland. 

    Reply
  30. Nathan Agin
    Nathan Agin says:

    not only your story, but your WRITING makes me want to be a better person.

    thank you for opening up that one. as i sit here in an internet cafe throwing all my effort into something i hope people will pay for (yet i know has value and i’m excited about), it really helped reading this.

    my crush on you has just doubled.

    and now i have further confirmation that K-mart sucks. 🙂

    Reply
    • Anonymous
      Anonymous says:

      1) K-Mart totally sucks, and I will never be able to see one ever again without thinking of this day.
      2) This is an incredibly high compliment – “your writing makes me want to be a better person.” That might be my new goal.
      3) *blush!*

      Reply
      • Nathan Agin
        Nathan Agin says:

        i mean it about your writing, not just fluff. my intention is to communicate through my work and in my life with such honesty, integrity, humor, clarity, and awareness as you have demonstrated.

        and since i used to make girls just feel awkward when i was around (that period of my life IS over, right?), then i’m thrilled to offer a blush or two your way.

        Reply
  31. Jess Webb
    Jess Webb says:

    Ohhh, miss Ashcakes, you have inspired me even MORE now, and you can rest assured that I will be a regular stalker from here on in. 😉 Your story is amazing, encouraging, and REAL. Thank you for sharing it, and for sharing YOU, with us. 🙂

    And P.S. I hope you really don’t mind being “Ashcakes”, cause ever since your last blog posts, that’s just what I keep feeling like I should call you! 😉 It’s all endearment and admiration, I assure you…! 🙂

    Reply
  32. Go-Go Rach
    Go-Go Rach says:

    Wow.  Substitute my mother for your boyfriend and we have the exact same story, except I am homeless, broke, alone and turning forty in less than one week.  Your story is inspiring.  Thank you. 

    Reply
    • The Redhead
      The Redhead says:

      You, Rach – you can kick this thing in the ass. Why don’t you use my contact form and drop me a line and tell me what you need? I think Ash and I can come up with something that might help get you from where you are to where you want to be.

      Reply
  33. julia
    julia says:

    Really amazing story. I had to read it twice, sit back and reflect to make sure I got all I could out of it. I love the last statement. Such a good way to explain that you have to make shit happen, it doesn’t just come to you because you ask for it. So glad we met (online anyway!) and we definitely have to hang out in central america at some point hehe I really look forward to following you on your blog and definitely learning a lot from you! pura vida!!

    Reply
  34. JeffK
    JeffK says:

    Ash I’m old enough to be your father and I have no idea how I ever stumbled across your blog, but I had been a long time reader when your had your pre-sale. I purchased your book as soon as I got the email, with no idea what to expect. I only knew that for what ever reason, I liked you. Your energy and irreverence were infectious and I wanted to help support your efforts. The book, along with your weekly ass kicking blog, have got me fired up to start on a few projects I almost forgot about these past many years. You are a helluva writer and I look forward to more. Keep it up!

    Reply
  35. Dollydoormatdoesntlivehere
    Dollydoormatdoesntlivehere says:

    In a world of fake-ass “reality” tv, it is refreshing to come across someone real who puts it out there  for the right reason…to help the rest of us realize how lame our excuses are and to get busy LIVING! You’re the epitome of  “if you’re handed lemons, make lemonade”. Thank you for sharing and inspiring!

    Reply
  36. Michelle
    Michelle says:

    Totally blown away. I agree with you, though, as someone who has had similar things happen (I think I mentioned the whole “talking the electric guy out of turning off your electricity” incident once before!), that it gives you a lot of strength and sheer tenacity that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. And as we all know, those are pretty effing essential in business – right? 

    Reply
  37. Bibliophile Girl
    Bibliophile Girl says:

    Amazing post, and amazing attitude. I read Readhead Writing for this kind of kick-ass stuff. So glad to have another blog to help light that fire under my ass when I really need it! 🙂

    Reply
    • Anonymous
      Anonymous says:

      Ms. Ross! Can it please stand on record that this commenter is one of my high school teachers? Thank you for giving me my foundation!  And thank you for taking the time to comment. It means a lot.  <3

      Reply
  38. David Stehle
    David Stehle says:

    “I’m going to try with all my might not to suck. Not anymore.  No more sucking here. (Within context, of course.)”

    I know I’m not the only one who dirty giggled to that.

    Reply
    • The Redhead
      The Redhead says:

      Hey Ash: welcome to my world. Half the people who read my blog think I’m being dirty no matter what. I could write down the numerical sequence for Pi and they’d say something like, “Yeah…you like pi. Say it. SAY IT!”

      Reply
      • Anonymous
        Anonymous says:

        I should hope that if you’re writing down the numerical sequence for pi, you’re getting laid for it in some way or another. That shit is just out of control. YES, I’M REFERRING TO MATH.

        Reply
      • SL Clark
        SL Clark says:

        I claim Bullshit! You like cake, not some artificially flavored Pi concoction. Oh, and count me in that special half, even though I TRY to lurk through these moments?

        Reply
  39. Annie Sisk
    Annie Sisk says:

    Powerful and wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing – both of you! I’ve been there, too (though it was in the southeastern US, and I did it with an eleven year old daughter in tow). In some ways I’m still there. I’ll get to the other place soon, though, and I couldn’t be happier. 

    Reply
  40. Mick Moore
    Mick Moore says:

    A truly outstanding post.  Thanks Ash for sharing.  I love your gutsy attitude.  Erika, I’m a huge fan of yours and I think you’re a total rockstar!  Have a great day, ladies.  🙂 

    Reply
  41. Jazz Salinger
    Jazz Salinger says:

    A truly outstanding post.  Thanks Ash for sharing.  I love your gutsy
    attitude.  Erika, I’m a huge fan of yours and I think you’re a total
    rockstar!  Have a great day, ladies.  🙂

    Reply
      • Anonymous
        Anonymous says:

        I’m the queen of changing hair color on the fly, so, why not? With my pale skin, I’d probably look amazing. 

        HI JAZZ!

        Reply
      • Anonymous
        Anonymous says:

        I’m the queen of changing hair color on the fly, so, why not? With my pale skin, I’d probably look amazing. 

        HI JAZZ!

        Reply
      • Anonymous
        Anonymous says:

        I’m the queen of changing hair color on the fly, so, why not? With my pale skin, I’d probably look amazing. 

        HI JAZZ!

        Reply
      • Anonymous
        Anonymous says:

        I’m the queen of changing hair color on the fly, so, why not? With my pale skin, I’d probably look amazing. 

        HI JAZZ!

        Reply
      • Anonymous
        Anonymous says:

        I’m the queen of changing hair color on the fly, so, why not? With my pale skin, I’d probably look amazing. 

        HI JAZZ!

        Reply
      • Anonymous
        Anonymous says:

        I’m the queen of changing hair color on the fly, so, why not? With my pale skin, I’d probably look amazing. 

        HI JAZZ!

        Reply
  42. Linda
    Linda says:

    I’ve just discovered you Ash–and what a find!  love to be reminded how much power is really inside of us just waiting to be unleashed.

    Linda

    Reply
  43. angelaarmstrong
    angelaarmstrong says:

    Ashley as I said before I fucking Love you!! You are a rock star!   Although I do believe in Angel Posse’s because you are one 🙂  thanks for this kick ass post..right on time!   Now to get started on my own empire 🙂 

    Reply
  44. Bill Dorman
    Bill Dorman says:

    Hey now, just slam me up against the freakin’ wall. That was some powerful chit; but you hit the nail on the head, at the end of the day it’s all you baby. One caveat however, you had taken the time to build community and there was some power in that.

    Good to see you at Erika’s place…………even though I’m still the invisible guy to the both of you. That’s ok, it took me awhile to see what matters and what doesn’t in this crazy social ‘universe’ and I do appreciate the up in your face attitude you both bring to the table and only wish you the best of luck.

    Reply
  45. Big Girl Branding
    Big Girl Branding says:

    Well the only thing I’d have to disagree with is call bullshit on no angel posse.  I’ve had too many of my own experiences tell me differently!  God uses our circumstances and the people in our lives to work inside of us and mold us into the people he wants us to be, but damned if we can do it without a little divine help from him!  Excellent post Ash love, I’m so proud of you! 🙂 You’ve always made me smile and think harder on things I may not have considered before on TMF, and you deserve all the success and happiness in the world!  I’m so glad that you’re finding it, both on the inside and the outside and I’ve been happy to watch the journey!  BIG hugs lady! XoXo!

    Reply
  46. Tawny Broadbent
    Tawny Broadbent says:

    a deep respectful bow to your general awesomeness, and a heartfelt thank you for whipping my ass out of complacency.

    Reply
  47. Anthony Middleton
    Anthony Middleton says:

    Ash is THE blogger who got me off my arse and actually do something, instead of just bitching about my life not being how I want it.

    *smashes violin with hysterical laugh*

    Epic story and I hiiiiiighly recommend “You don’t need a job, you need guts.” 

    Reply
    • The Redhead
      The Redhead says:

      I just love all of the new faces I’m getting to see thanks to Ash – and I’m grateful she chose this place to share her story. Great to meet you and appreciate you stopping by!

      Reply
  48. Sandi
    Sandi says:

    I know that rock-bottom place. I know it well. Thanks for telling your story! I loved it, and I am inspired. 

    Reply
  49. spencerspellman
    spencerspellman says:

    *Stands and applauds* Wow. Love the honesty and find strands of my own story in this. I love the honesty and telling your story when many people wouldn’t because of the fear of weakness and so on. You’ve been a favorite of mine for a few months. I love the honesty, the “realness”, and living YOUR dream. I love it.
    I found myself 13 months ago beating my dashboard, cursing God, lying on the top of a financial meltdown mountain, and facing a divorce. I didn’t create a product per se, but for the first time in my life I took control of my life, did what I wanted to do, and did life on my terms. It was a year of taking risks and was the best 12 months of my life. I’ve never felt so happy, free, and content in my life and doing exactly the things I want to do. I’m living my dream. It’s been somewhat therapeutic though to be open about it and write about my story on my blog. The world needs more people that don’t do what’s expected of them or what they “should” do, but what they want to do and how they want to do it. BRAVO!

    Reply
    • The Redhead
      The Redhead says:

      You said it, Spencer – the Oulda Sisters (shoulda, coulda and woulda) should be kept ay bay in favor of DOING. And way to fucking go to grab like by the nads and tell IT to deal for once 🙂

      Reply
  50. Sara
    Sara says:

    Ash…Thank you for sharing your story.  And as for the universe’s perpetually bad timing…not today, my friend.  I have a similar story, and yours encourages me to use mine to leverage MYSELF forward.  You effin’ rock.  But you already knew that.

    Reply
  51. Camila
    Camila says:

    “hand-crafting my own reality, rather than waiting for someone else to come along and give me the opportunities I wanted.  That was some time ago, but the lesson I learned that day–the value of creatively leveraging your talents–is one that has since helped me build The Middle Finger Project brand and turn it into the full-time business I had once only dreamed about.” 
    I need to copy and paste the above into my brain.

    Reply
  52. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    This is an awesome post.  I would only add that God was certainly there with you, on that pivotal night, whether you acknowledge it or not.  I don’t say this to discredit your incredible effort and truly impressive resolve.  In fact, it was because you didn’t just pray and sit there waiting for a blessing to fall from the sky that you were able to claim your God appointed destiny.

    Reply
  53. Dara
    Dara says:

    I am so glad you shared this story! We are often hesitant to share our messes, but our messes in life is what makes us relateable and gives us credibility. This make you MORE relatable, not less and makes what you are doing even more inspiring. On many levels- that you had the self esteem to leave that relationship, when so many women stay in abusive relationships. That you had the cojones to come up with the idea just hours after going though that. That you rejected the role of victim and took charge of your life. Knowing these circumastances helps those of us who are aspiriing to create a similar type of business (or at least me, anyway) see that pretty much any obstacle can be overcome. I’m still struggling to figure out what my topic will be – and how to get anyone outside of my immediate friends and family to read my blog- but stories like this keep me motivated. Thanks.

    Reply
  54. Stephanie Watanabe
    Stephanie Watanabe says:

    FUCK yeah girl. Fuck yeah.  That is some seriously inspired goodness here.
    Intellectually I understand that anything is possible. But it takes stories like this, people like YOU, to help me to really feel it, straight down to the core.
    Thanks for opening up to your own fears and promptly kicking their ass, so that we can all be inspired to do the same.
    ROCK ON!

    Reply
  55. rachel
    rachel says:

    I love it. In my house we call it the “Cousin Sylvia” method, named after a cousin who once told a legless man, “I don’t care if you don’t have legs. Run faster!”

    Reply
  56. rob
    rob says:

    i fucking love you ash, which is why i made you my homepage. cuz i want that attitude as soon as i wake up my ibook. sadly, i am NOT mediterranean. 

    Reply
    • Anonymous
      Anonymous says:

      Wow. Wow. Wow. Well good news – there will be a funny video on your homepage tomorrow. 🙂 Muah. Ah. Ah. 

      P.S. Mediterranean is overrated.

      Reply
  57. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Well yes. The prospect of trying to find an outlet for my hair dryer in the homeless shelter was just too much to bear. I had to do *something.* 

    P.S. Use Twitter. Your blog will get read.

    Reply
  58. James D. Burrell II
    James D. Burrell II says:

    I’d say Ashley’s story brings an inspirational tear to my eye, you know, the same tear that wells up at the end of some dramatic sports film like Rocky, The Natural or Remember the Titans…. well at least for the males out here. I’d say that but I won’t fearing Ashley’s retort telling me to stop being a cry baby and start getting out there and making something of myself. The Middle Finger Project was one of the first blogs I ever visited when I began my blogging adventure nearly 8 months ago, and without fail, she renews my drive each time I stop by.

    My dad uses the saying, “if a frog had wings, it wouldn’t bump its ass so much” ad naseum to illustrate, that we have 2 options: 1) sit around and bitch about our plight/our situation or 2) embrace it and go out and live life to the best of our abilities. Clearly, Ash is one of the poster children of the latter. 

    Reply
    • Anonymous
      Anonymous says:

      Can I be a pin up instead? 🙂 

      But no, seriously, thanks so much, Jamey, for all of your awesome support + participation over at the site for all this time. You are a cornerstone of the TMF community! And your comments always, always, always inspire ME. And sometimes make me snort out loud, but don’t tell anyone.

      Reply
      • James D. Burrell II
        James D. Burrell II says:

        Clearly, you’d be flicking off the camera while striking some sexy pose though.

        Thanks for the cornerstone comment; I’m seriously blushing, and I do form superb right angles and wield my protractor like a damn pro. There’s no way I could be any more inspirational than you. Honestly, if I could spread your words on a piece of toast (like a nice homemade jam) and eat them, I’m pretty sure I could derive enough sustenance to survive.

        Hope you’re having an ass-kicking Monday. 

        Reply
  59. Steve
    Steve says:

    This is one of the most incredible stories I’ve ever read! Ash, you have a gift not only for writing, but for inspiring, motivating, and drawing out true emotion. Awesome post!

    Reply
  60. Regina Smola
    Regina Smola says:

    Wow, talk about encouragement beyond the norm. Riveting! I remember living in my car at the age of 17 and sleeping in it parked on a country road behind a prison wondering, “what the heck do I do now?” I worked 3 jobs at minimum wage and wondering, “does it get any better than this?” Now I work for myself doing what I love, finally, at the age of 46.

    Thanks for sharing your story,

    Regina Smola

    Reply
  61. Paul Jones
    Paul Jones says:

    That freaking rocked.  I read a Bitch Slap and an Ass Kick in the same day, and my brain fills with a little bit more drive.  Life will deal cruel hands, and its how we rebound is what makes us.  The old quote about being knocked down 7 times, but getting up 8 kept coming to mind as I read your post. 

    Thanks again for that swift kick.  I sure needed it.

    Reply
  62. Priya
    Priya says:

    This is awesome! Thanks for sharing this. I love your writing! I don’t know what it feels like to be homeless, but I do know what it feels like to be broke and jobless. So glad you found a way to make things work for you! but I mean, really, who needs money when there are plenty of  nice bridges to live under? 

    Reply
  63. Anna Long33
    Anna Long33 says:

    Wow, I had no idea. Thanks for sharing Ash. I know some of the best breaks in life have come from circumstances that no one is envious of. Call it what you will (angels wings or not), but thanks for sharing regardless.

    Reply
  64. Tracy Neely
    Tracy Neely says:

    Wow, this was powerful and while reading this Erika, I was rooting for you. I think God brings you things just when you need to hear it. In talking with someone about some tech stuff on FB, I noticed that someone else had posted your blog post on her page. Miracles happen all the time!

    Reply
  65. ThisLoser
    ThisLoser says:

    This is very cool and inspiring story, and I am a subscriber to your blog. It’s interesting, no doubt. But… I just can’t help but think that your rock bottom was several miles higher than mine and other’s.

    Reply
  66. michtravels
    michtravels says:

    You are a goddess. Not like I need to tell you that, but if you ever need reminding…I just signed up for your blog and read some of your postings, and it hit home in so many ways (I’m wearing my mom’s ring today, too – she died 20 years ago, and it took an act of sheer will and several years for me to even say DIED), and I’m always learning, living, loving, occasionally testing the waters with a sharp stick, and searching for my most authentic self and how to express it within the boundaries of the most healthy relationships I can create, and in which I find myself. ON-going. Here’s to passion, and I look forward to reading, learning and sharing more!

    Reply
  67. JasmineCabrera
    JasmineCabrera says:

    I love when people who are experiencing haymaking success share their story of the trek to where they are. It shows us that what you live and breath for, what makes your heart beat everyday, does not happen overnight and it isn’t always lined with rainbows and lollipops. A valuable lesson to learn at any age, but especially when young and rearing to go like myself.

    Reply
  68. soulareeyes
    soulareeyes says:

    Despite the tears in my eyes of my own situation, your site… your mission really – and [the virtual] you seem to serve as the only ‘umfff’ to light whatever depleted source I have to do something productive today that will get me out of the fucking hole I’m in. I speak this from the other side though. 44 wasn’t supposed to be this low, lonely and hard – at least that’s what I thought. Chapter 13, two kids – one a senior and no further plans for what will happen with her next mostly due to our financial state and probably the lack of guidance we’ve provided as parents along the way because we were too caught up in our own bullshit to get out of our own way. Friends who I’ve stopped chasing after, frustrated by their lack of commitment and understanding of what it means to be a friend. A husband who’s been in a perpetual state of mid-life crisis who I’ve watched attempt a number of jobs that led him to be a vacant hole of a person with barely, if any self-esteem left and left him making only 25% of what he used to and who is probably on the brink of getting fired because that’s the sort of self-sabotaging model he’s grown familiar with. And a ’96 Honda Civic that acts up every few weeks leaving me to wonder if I’m going to make it to my next money making opportunity or at least get my kids to where they need to be so they don’t feel the embarrassment I feel.

    There are some positive nuggets (at least that’s what my head tells me some days) like, I managed to complete my EMBA in 2013 and was feeling top of the world for most of the year following. I thought I found the true me and real happiness after spending a month in Southeast Asia. But then I let myself get sucked back into the trappings of Western culture and social expectations and that once ‘connected and conscious’ feeling I had to myself, my husband and the world seems like a distant memory.

    I’m depleted. More depleted than I ever been.

    There are few things that get me through a day.

    I meditate… everyday – not just that once a week bullshit attempt. I really attempt to – some days I really suck at it. But I know that for the past 21 days since I started that it’s made the rest of life’s suckier moments a little more tolerable. I probably say fewer mean things in a day and able to shrug it off with a ‘fuck it’ vs. letting it consume the rest of my day. But I don’t swear any less. 😉

    I exercise… not everyday, but every time I almost don’t I remind myself, sometimes saying out loud, “I promised me I would.” Even when my Achilles, knees, hips, back or eyeballs hurt.

    I try to find something motivational – usually online because I can’t afford much else. I think I reached the end of the road with TEDTalks though and was getting to the point that even some of those annoyed me because many of them represent only ideals that have meaning in short, unrealistic moments.

    Then I found your site. I’m not much into angels either. But I could sure use the wisdom of one bad-ass bitch’s insights and inspiration. 

    I don’t know which of my 3, 4 or 5 ideas to focus on first. Or whether any of them line up with my husband’s or if I should even see. But maybe I shouldn’t worry about his role in it anyway and follow the path meant for me.

    To be continued…

    Reply
  69. Erika Napoletano
    Erika Napoletano says:

    soulareeyes I think the most powerful words you’ve shared here are “to be continued.” Wise words and I have no doubt you’ll come out the other side of this thing kicking ass and taking names 🙂

    Reply
  70. soulareeyes
    soulareeyes says:

    Erika Napoletano soulareeyes 
    Thank you Erika. You brought the first genuine feel good smile to my face I’ve had in a long time. When the reservoirs are dry, it’s about digging deeper and finding that perserverence to muddle through the muck 😉
    Finding sites like yours and the Middle Finger Project have lifted me the past couple of days and give me hope that there are ways to be discovered yet.

    Reply
  71. AkshayaReddy
    AkshayaReddy says:

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  72. AkshayaReddy
    AkshayaReddy says:

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