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A Black Girl Reads Marcus Aurelius…

Updated: Aug 23

… And sees herself and the rest of humanity in its pages.


If my father’s death (2 months before his 50th Birthday) taught me one thing, it’s this: every second you spend alive is another second closer to death. The lesson itself is the universe begging me to be courageous as I navigate focusing on what’s intangible- how I make people feel, what The Courage Campaign actually does in the world, putting out good energy, radiating acceptance for others… it’s not easy and I fail constantly, but looking for fulfillment anywhere outside of my own being has never gotten me very far, anyway.


I got the chance to visit Zion last month, and in a little town called Kanab I bought two books from a coffee shop/ general store/ bookstore. The man who sold them to me was a friendly, joyful North Carolinian who had moved to Utah to escape the busyness of a growing population and a faster pace of living. Interestingly enough, he said more and more people were looking for books like these:


The Pocket Thich Nhat Hanh and Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.


To be frank (would you expect anything else anyway?) the more people I come into contact with who are unhappy, anxious, judgmental, fear-driven, misdiagnosed, medicated, unhealthy in mind, body, and soul, and mercilessly entitled- the more I look to find my own grounding. I learned about Stoicism through Tim Ferriss (The Tim Ferriss Show-podcast) and Ryan Holiday (The Obstacle is the Way) and I felt that the objective simplicity spoke to me. And this morning, it grounded me.


Here’s some context:

On Monday’s I work with 12th graders on what should be wellness and movement. Sometimes it’s that and sometimes I’m babysitting a room full of children who happen to be the same size as me. It gives me massive anxiety to stare into this mirror- this sea of brown faces and feel like our common ground is momentary and elusive. I always come back to something an old therapist said to me in my early 20s- “You can only change yourself”. In preparation for the day, I decided to seek the wisdom of Aurelius.


“The world is maintained by change- in the elements and in the things they compose.”


“…if you do everything as if it were the last thing you were doing in your life, and stop being aimless, stop letting your emotions override what your mind tells you, stop being hypocritical, self-centered, irritable. You see how few things you have to do to live a satisfying and reverent life?”


“Do external things distract you? Then make time for yourself to learn something worthwhile; stop letting yourself be pulled in all directions.”


Right now, instagram is littered with thoughts about this month marking the end of a decade. Soon, it will be time to set our resolutions and before January even ends, we’ll easily distract ourselves from ever achieving anything.


We’ll get scared.

We’ll place blame.

We’ll say “next time”.

I’ll start Monday.

2021 will be my year.

After I lose 15 pounds.

When my kids get older.

When I can afford it.


You ever meet anyone who says they need to get into shape before they go to the gym? When you allow fear and inaction to grasp onto your being, you look and sound as silly as the person who would say something like that. That’s not a dig, that’s a fact. It’s also a fact that life is change, time is of the essence, and that tomorrow isn’t guaranteed to you. Find your footing. Develop your WHY. Your purpose. Your reason for being courageous and fighting upstream every day. And, do it now. Today.


What exactly are you waiting for?




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©2019 BY ASHLEY MITCHELL