Why the Bee?

That squiggle you’re seeing everywhere is actually a bee – clearly. I don’t remember why, when, or where I first saw it, but the design always stuck with me, so I decided to start 2020 by getting it inked on my skin forever.

Here’s how I described my new tattoo at the time:

It’s hieroglyphic for, “I just really like bees and wasn’t sure how much I’d like bees when I’m 90 or if there’d be any left on the planet so I wanted an interpretation of a bee instead of an actual bee, found this on the internet, and had a very cool dude put it on me, totally on a whim because our cab just happened to drop us off out front of the best tattoo shop in New Orleans and I was in the mood to feel alive.”

There was more to it than that, though. If you know me, then you already know, there’s always more to it.

The past couple of years have been challenging in some wonderful and some soul-weathering ways. The most wonderful part of all is that I married the other half of my pea-pod and love of my life. Then together, we’ve faced down every obstacle life launched our way:

  • We helped our aging (but still willful, spirited, and stubborn) 110-lb bulldog through back-to-back, bank-busting knee surgeries.
  • I took a leap of faith and left a job at a well-established, Ivy League college for a small, scrappy, startup non-profit. (Best risk I’ve ever taken! But it was still stressful.)
  • We moved halfway across the country, back to my hometown, which came with its own surprising set of challenges – mostly feeling like a stranger and an outsider in the place I grew up for the full first year we were here.
  • My husband dealt with extreme burnout that had built over 18 years as a chef in high-intensity restaurants.
  • We navigated some much-needed boundary-setting with loved ones, with the help of our amazing, professionally trained, emotional spirit guides…aka therapists, which I highly recommend.
  • We went through a painful court case after suffering a major, shocking, and heartbreaking breach of trust by a family member.
  • I withdrew from my PhD program and parted ways with my doctoral cohort after completing 3 years and 9/10 residencies because my heart wasn’t in it anymore and I got tired of going deeper into debt just to fight against myself.
  • My husband made the equally difficult decision to leave his full-time career as a chef to venture out on his own. (Related bright spot: We started our own business!)
  • We said goodbye to my grandma and an uncle I loved dearly.
  • My younger brother deployed overseas with very little notice or information during an incredibly tense time in the middle east at the start of this year.
  • And finally, we’ve faced some unexpected ups-and-downs, stress, and disappointments in our (still undecided) decision on if/when/how to start a family of our own.

There’s been an unbelievable amount of joy mixed in with the pain of the past few years, but being a person is just hard sometimes, and we don’t always say that out loud.

So, why the bee?

Bees are said to represent strength and bring good luck. They’re also responsible for basically all human survival by pollinating the food supply. They remind me that tiny things matter a lot, that sometimes you’ve gotta get stung to get strong, and that as humans, we’re all connected by the same basic needs. The design also looks a lot like my journey so far:

If I’ve learned anything in life, it’s that the path that leads anywhere worth going is never a straight line.

And also, I’m Ashley Bee, so there’s that 🐝