guest post

Choosing Joy

June 22, 2016

Oh guys. I am SO excited for today’s post! One of my most favorite people EVER in blogland is stopping by to share parts of her story (and it’s SO good). This lady’s joy, optimism and positive outlook on life really shines through each and every blog post she writes, not to mention – she’s HILARIOUS. (I find myself LOL-ing often while reading her words.) I’m so happy to introduce you to this sweet gal & think you’ll love her as much as I do.

Hello new friends! My name is Ashten and I blog over at Just Go Left, a love letter to living my best life no matter what the circumstances may be. I just moved back to my hometown of Ventura, California after living in Atlanta, Georgia for six years… let’s just say I’m REALLY glad to be back near the beach (and my hair is REALLY happy to be out of that humidity!). I’m thrilled to be a guest on Emily’s blog today: I’m a huge fan of Emily and her incredible spirit. She’s pretty freaking great. Today, I want to share something near and dear to my heart: the story of how Just Go Left came to be and how my life changed when I started choosing joy. I hope you enJOY it!


Remember when we were kids and everything felt like a celebration? Birthday parties came with giant cakes, brightly colored balloons, and gift bags filled with goodies to take home (which, let’s face it, were the best part of birthday parties.) Our teachers at school threw parties for every holiday: classrooms decorated with streamers and confetti, cubbies stuffed with treats and the occasional afternoon dance party. Life felt like one big party when we were kids.

Now that we’re older the celebrations have dwindled, not because we wanted them to, but because life has gotten in the way. Meal prepping, commuting, and to-do lists have replaced balloons and gift bags; even cake has fallen by the wayside (much to my dismay). Our desks at work have replaced our schoolhouse desks and the afternoon dance party are likely frowned upon by your boss. Sigh. Adulthood can often suck the fun out of everyday life, and for a long time I found myself struggling to find any joy in it at all.

But, life has a funny way of giving you a wake-up call when you least expect it.

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Two years ago, my world was turned upside down when my dog Warner was diagnosed with an incurable, genetic disease called Protein Losing Nephropahy. The first few weeks after his diagnosis were some of the hardest I’ve ever experienced but on one particular day I found myself sitting in a conference room at work, listening to the vet tell me Warner’s most recent test results were bad and his prognosis wasn’t good. When we hung up the phone I sat in silence for a few minutes, tears streaming down my cheeks and the same questions running through my mind over and over: “why wasn’t this going right? Why wasn’t anything about this diagnosis going right? Why couldn’t anything go right?”

Suddenly, something quiet inside me stirred and a little voice said, “it’s not going to go right. So go left. Just go left.”

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It was just a moment. Just a quiet whisper but it changed my life forever. Rather than sit in sadness, rather than being angry or negative, I decided to go left. Warner and I made “choose joy” the battle cry as we bravely fought for a whole year. Everything in life became a celebration: when he ate a little bit of food, when he got good test results, when he had enough energy to walk around the block. Every little setback became another reason to choose joy, to look for the good things among all the bad and scary things.

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Warner passed away in February 2015. I held him as he took his last breath and celebrated the wonderful life I had with him, right up until the end.

But his story is not over, and neither is mine.

I’ve learned a lot in the last two years about life, about friendship, about grief, but mostly? I’ve learned a lot about joy and celebration; I’ve learned to make the best of things, even the really bad and scary things. I’ve learned how to turn life back into the party it used to be when I was a little kid. I’ve learned that life doesn’t always give us cake and balloons and that not everything is confetti and streamers but that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate anyway. I’ve learned to find little ways to celebrate in everyday life: with a good cup of coffee, a walk by the beach, a favorite show on Netflix (mine is Parks and Recreation, The Office, 30 Rock, or Bloodline at the moment) with wine after a long day or listening to a good playlist while sitting in Friday traffic. I’ve learned to create joy in the mundane, to find the good when things go wrong. Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of things that don’t deserve celebration in life (like car trouble, tests at school or marathon meetings at work) but I do believe in choosing joy and celebration over negativity and anger. Life is better when you’re celebrating, so break out the confetti every once in a while and have yourself a little dance party… even if your boss thinks it’s stupid.

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I have loved sharing my story with you today, and hope to see you on my blog soon!



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Ashten is the founder of Just Go Left: a lifestyle blog and a love letter to living her best life. She founded Just Go Left, not just because she not-so-secretly wants to be Oprah, but because she believes through the ups and downs of life we are given the choice to “go left” when things don’t go right. Ashten is an introverted extrovert with a penchant for sarcasm, and sass, who thinks most problems can be solved with a cup of coffee. Ashten lives in Southern California with her boyfriend Kyle and their dog, Gatsby. 

*This post was a guest post, written by Ashten from Just Go Left blog as part of EG’s Go the Distance ad spot. This post contains fresh content and was written specifically for Ember Grey readers.


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  • Thank you so much for having me, Emily! I always love working with you: you have the most wonderful spirit and I just adore you!

  • Ashton sounds delightful. My kind of gal, always finding the positive in the negative! Thanks Emily for sharing her with us. I’m heading over to check out her blog!!

  • I love this. I was already very familiar with Ashten, but it was nice to read her story once more. THANK YOU SO MUCH. With all the negativity in life, it’s lovely to see some people still choose joy.

  • I’m a big fan of Ashten’s outlook and blog! The stories about Warner bring tears to my eyes every single time, but usually it’s a mix of sad and happy tears- happy that he brought her such joy and continued to teach her life lessons in finding strength and joy, even after joining the big grassy puppy park in the sky 🙂

  • yay! I always love to hear Ashten’s take on life, because it is just so very refreshing! I love her lots and I hope that everyone who reads her words here falls in love with her too…because how can you not?

  • This is such a sweet and inspiring story! I can’t wait to share with my oldest daughter. My 10 year old has been the teacher in my life to celebrate the ordinary joy in every day. We are even throwing a birthday party for our dog tonight. 🙂

    • Hi Shelly! I love that you’re sharing this story with your daughter; that made my day! Happy birthday to your pup! I would love to see pics of him or her!

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