Ashley Kelsch Takes Life Lessons and Deep Friendships into 2023
The relationship coach shares sage advice as she reminisces on ups and downs from the year
Well, dear readers, it’s official. In just a few short days, 2022 will be the year of our past and 2023 our present future.
As I sit here reminiscing about the year, I will admit that it wasn’t my strongest dating season. It was an endless series of dating disappointments — from one man not wishing me a happy birthday despite not being able to miss that it was my birthday to the guy that asked me out on a date only to cancel a few hours before, but then inviting me to an event along with “six of my hottest friends” — and a little bit in between.
Today, I can laugh at moments like these. At the time, I felt like I had lost all hope. In fact, I was rendered speechless. I believe I started dating a woman after all of this, but it didn’t take long to discover I’m not actually a lesbian or bisexual. This also proved disappointing because it meant I was back to where I started.
Throw in some identity theft that resulted from my purse and wallet being stolen, followed by the loss of my mother and I was happy to just allow whoever stole my identity to have my life. “Here… you manage all of this,” I thought.
Oh, did I mention the guy I dated who showed pictures of me to his friend, only for him to tell me they talked about how big my “cans” were? At first, I thought he said “hands” so I was confused. “What do you mean your friend thinks I have big hands?” I asked. Once he clarified, I was left feeling even more confused that I was talking to someone who would even say the word “cans” in the first place. For weeks, I interrogated myself. How did I let this happen?
I could go on and on with anecdotes like those I just shared. I could lament and spill tea about all the nonsensical romantic experiences I found myself in, but it would be pointless — with the exception of laughing so hard we would cry.
A few days before my mom passed away, I was in New York City for the marathon. I had seen that she called and returned her call from an Uber, unaware that she had also left me a voicemail. We were catching up about Faith and I running the marathon and the subject of my dating life came up. “I heard the excitement of possibility in your voice, Ashley,” said my mother. “I didn’t know you still had it in you.”
“Let’s try together. Shall we? Reflect and collect all you can that was good.
I joked with her, saying, “Mom, I’ve spent most of my adult life dating unavailable Taurus men. (Note: my mom is a Taurus.) I’ve decided to put a pin in it and just work stuff out directly with you.”
We laughed because it was true. That was the last time we talked on the phone. A week later, I saw that she had left a voicemail and listened.
She talked about how she’d be riding on my shoulder and be on the tip of my heart. She told me how proud of me she was and that she was with me in spirit. She finished by saying, “So do what you’re doing. Keep doing what you’re doing. And never look back… Well, just for a break because there are some pretty damn good things to look back on.”
This is actually what comes to mind as I think about 2023. Keep doing what we’re doing and never look back, except to find some pretty damn good things to take with us. Let’s try together. Shall we? Reflect and collect all you can that was good. I’ll go first.
I reconnected with the man I believed I would always end up with and who promised me no one was going to love more than he does. A story that started 20 years ago concluded with an understanding and ending neither of us predicted — we don’t work. Before that truth settled in, we found ourselves living out the things I always dreamed would happen between us.
I got to see and get to know my mother again, albeit briefly. I let down all my guards, and for the first time since my childhood, I received her and her love, which is a love that grows stronger each day. This also opened up a relationship with my grandmother. I’ve yet to find the words to describe what she and I are sharing but I know it to be healing and transformative for both of us.
I experienced unconditional friendships. Mark my words — I have the most beautiful, supportive, loving friends in my life. I don’t know what I would do without them. These relationships continue to grow and strengthen, even when challenged. I may not know how to pick men, but damn, I’ve got the friends thing figured out.
I could keep going. My mom was right. We don’t need to look back too long and for too much. Just grab those precious gems and go.
There’s no amount of dating douchery that’s going to take away from a year that also offered me deep connection and healing with myself and others — romantically, relationally and familially.
Though some of that left me with some major vulnerability hangovers, it also left me knowing that I didn’t leave anything in the margins.
Ashley Kelsch is the former owner of Teddies for Betty’s, a lingerie and well-being boutique that she ran for a decade. Kelsch is also a certified professional dating, relationship and intimacy coach. She works with ambitious women who have everything but their love lives figured out. Follow her on Instagram @ashkelsch and read more of her Tribeza columns here.