We are Human: Moments

Harris Beach (Photo Cred: Ashley Johnson)
Harris Beach (Photo Cred: Ashley Johnson)

This is the part of a weekly column by Ashley Johnson surrounding the struggles she has faced in her own life and the concept of being human.

Warning: some entries will contain strong content regarding abuse, addiction, self-harm and eating disorders. 


My heart is pitter-pattering with vivacious beats. Only this time, unlike the description of my anxiety-ridden insides I hit you with last week, it’s that good feeling. The “I am alive and I love life” feeling of contentment deep in my soul. I ran across a vast array of my poetry recently, in my attempts to finally organize it and publish a book. Among them are many from when I was in deep addiction, depression, and hopelessness. I know you just can’t wait to read those ones. I’ll save you from that until further notice, but definitely stay tuned. In my state of warm fuzziness, I sought out the few uplifting and positive poems I have composed. In finding them, I was reminded of the moments in life I will never forget. The ones that took my breath away, and that still take my breath away when I remember what it felt like inside. Moments make up life. The exhilarating ones full of peace, excitement, and love are what keep me going when I feel like I simply don’t want to push forward.

 I love the ocean. I love everything about it. Well, let me take that back. I have never really enjoyed swimming in it, mostly because I can’t see the bottom or what is lurking below. Spending my entire life as a swimmer staring at black tiles on the bottom of the pool is what I’m used to. Any variation to that instills a sense of child-like fear of sharks and whatever lives in lakes, rivers, or streams. I literally stay horizontal in those bodies of water. I digress. The ocean brings me peace and comfort. The vastness, power, and beauty make the world around me stop. Without further ado, I give you a poem I wrote while sitting on Harris Beach in Brookings, OR, last year.

 Tears of gratitude

Flowing down my cheek

I almost traded it all.

With clear eyes I see God

In crashing waves

In shining sun

I’m in awe that I am here.

His whispers are the wind

Blowing through my soul

I once was dead, and am now alive

Those words, they ring so true.

The mighty ocean

The gliding birds

Show me that He’s here.

I stand in awe of where I was

And where I am right now

God transformed a heavy heart.

No place Id rather be

Hes ever here with me

Love is shining through.


Alone on that beach in that moment in time, as the warm sunshine penetrated my skin, I was overcome with gratitude, joy, and peace. My higher power, whom I choose to call God, was all around me. I remember taking in deep breathes, tasting the salt air as waves gracefully crashed around me. Even now I can revisit that in an instant. Those moments give me hope. They remind me how alive I am and how much richness is available in life. I simply need to choose to let it in. Sometimes I choose not to, and I sit in my self-pity and misery. But let me tell you, the times I allow grace, peace, and beauty to enter my soul I feel as though I’m flying.

I’ll tell you what else reminds me of flying: Michael Phelps. For those of you who don’t know who that is (I can’t even fathom that), he is the most decorated Olympian of all time. He swims with grace, power, and determination. Yes, some of you may be thinking of the headlines he made for smoking marijuana. Do I need to remind you that we are all human? I rest my case. Give the guy a break, he’s a legend. Watching Phelps compete, or really anyone for that matter, reminds me of moments. An entire swimming career of moments that fill me with passion, excitement, bliss, and some sadness.

I’m sure most of you can think of a time when you achieved something you worked incredibly hard for. The feeling that comes with that accomplishment is indescribably wonderful. I put all of my energy, heart, and soul into swimming competitively from age 5 to 19. While there are many unforgettable moments that often drive me to want to compete again, a few in particular stand out. I will never forget my preliminary 100 butterfly race at the Oregon High School State Championships my junior year. I had been trying to break the one minute barrier for quite some time. I powered through each stroke and gave everything I had. As I drove my hands into the wall to finish and looked up at the clock my heart felt like it was going to stop and beat out of my chest all at the same time. I had done it. It was one of the best feelings in the world that I will never forget. Writing about it now still gets me emotional. Those are the moments. They are the ones that make it all worth it. That let me know I am worth it. That let me know I am alive. I am human.

What are your moments?