The Road to Enlightenment
It took a rough road, a pilgrimage and a 9-year-old’s fondness for chocolate milk to show Ashley Jansen the way out of depression. Now she’s here to tell you that every day is a special occasion.
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“She was saying heartful, moving, funny things,” Jansen says. “She was open and real. I was standing in the back of the room and had a deep knowing that ‘That’s where you belong, Ashley.’”
Jansen had the spark, but she needed a place. It didn’t take long for her to choose: The Delaware Theatre Company. “The theater is my first church,” she says.
Jansen had been an athlete until she spent a year at Franklin College in Lugano, Switzerland, where she met Peter Firmin, a theater professor. “He spoke about theater not as fame, but as a deeper healing art,” Jansen says. That was enough for a young woman who was searching for a path.
Jansen earned a degree in theater from the University of Vermont in 1988. Six years later, after working in New York, in Connecticut, and with a friend’s theater company, she earned a bachelor’s of fine arts at North Carolina School of the Arts. She served as a director in San Francisco and San Diego. She connected with the Delaware Theatre Company upon moving back.
Jansen has spoken at DTC five times, always without a script. No matter what route the talk takes, it lasts about 75 minutes—before questions.
Jansen tries to convey the struggle to understand her mental illness and how she has overcome it. It’s not a how-to or a vindication, but a way of asking questions of herself and her God. “It’s a conversation with the world,” Jansen says.
Jansen has given her talk in New York and at the North Carolina School of the Arts. She can see herself delivering it elsewhere, inspiring others. “My husband asked me, ‘Are you sure you want to start in Delaware?’ It would almost be easier to sit down with a group of strangers.”
It’s a really special occasion, every day I’m alive.”
That’s Gates Jansen, age 9. Young Gates was referring to the fact that his sitter serves him chocolate milk only on “special occasions.” To procure the treat more frequently, Gates tried to create incentive by imbuing every day with the “special occasion” seal. Nice try, son.
But to Jansen, it was an epiphany. To have undergone so much gives one a special gratitude. That’s why she gives back through her coaching and speaking. Her blog response to Gates’ declaration shows her desire to learn more about herself and her life:
“To some it may sound like I’m exaggerating. I am not. Maybe it comes with age, maybe with experience. I don’t know, but life is good. More accurately, life dazzles. Sure, there are challenges. Yes, we are sometimes asked to grow in ways we’d rather not. But—hello—have we noticed the geese soaring across the fields? Have we been catching snowflakes on our tongues? Did we sing in our car today—I mean really sing? It’s a really special occasion every day you’re alive.”
Page 4: The Road to Enlightenment, continues...