Lessons from My First Pursuit of Passion
Say what you want about equestrians. I guess I fit the stereotype; I’m white and I came from a family with means and a willingness to support my expensive hobby, but I wasn’t permitted to take it for granted. I was blessed enough to be given my own horse - two actually! First Barney, then Fhoenix. I worked with some extremely talented and well qualified trainers and was provided with some of the highest quality equipment available. I was spoiled, but I'm not ungrateful. I credit horseback riding -my first passion- with laying the foundation for building and owning my strength and I feel more gratitude for the experience with each passing year.
Prior to riding I played soccer, took dance classes, was a Girl Scout for about a month, and begrudgingly took flute and piano lessons. I spent most of my soccer playing days picking daisies from around the goal net and brought an equivalent level of focus and dedication to the other aforementioned ventures.
Riding was different. I loved it. Everything about it.
In riding I found passion and it demanded grit as ransom.
For about a decade, my life revolved around "barn time"- whether actually riding or engaged in lessons, grooming my horse, cleaning tack, or completing other chores around the stable. Wake up, school, barn, dinner, bed was my regimen and I flourished within that structure. I competed in the Hunters division for several years and later transitioned to Jumpers. While I’ll cherish the happy memories forever, the lessons learned were invaluable.
I've found each of these bits of wisdom to be recurring themes in my life...I frequently lose my way, but I always manage to return.
1. You WILL fall. Get back up.
o I used to pride myself in having great “stick” to the saddle. I might fall once in a while, but I wasn’t going down easy. Develop all the stick you want, physics gets the last laugh sometimes. HELLO MY WHOLE ADULT LIFE. Turns out that while preparation and practice is all well and good, falling is inevitable and real strength is demonstrated when you bounce back. This comes from a girl who’s taken some spills! The worst of which included a fractured rib and broken wrist. I would have had a great excuse to quit right then, but I was friggin' DETERMINED to see this thing through. By whatever means necessary, always dust yourself off and get back up.
2. You might not know if you’re gonna make it over that jump, but you sure as hell better act like it
o I’m not a big fan of “fake it till you make it” but there’s something to be said for confidence and a game face. I have no statistical proof, but anecdotally it’s been my experience that nervous riders run into trouble more often than their ballsy counterparts. There are times when it’s appropriate to stop and ask for help, but in those “do or die” moments, I aim to embrace challenge and KNOW that success lies ahead.
3. Sometimes you’re just not good enough. There’s strength in identifying your weaknesses
o Let's ban participation awards! Seriously. I’ve participated in lots of activities without “winning” and you know what my prize was? A magnifying glass on my weak areas, a healthy dose of realistic expectation, and growth. Sometimes you deserve to win, but you don’t, that’s life. Hunter class in horseback riding is judged subjectively based on style and movement. Judging can be incredibly political and at times feel like a rigged game. I was forced to either use the rejection as an opportunity for improvement, or go ahead and quit.
4. Embrace Constructive Criticism
Joyce Mcdonald was my trainer during my early years riding. Joyce Mcdonald scared the shit out of me. At the time, she was 60-something. Tough as nails, blunt, and without regard for the nuances of a politically correct society. She could make you feel like a rockstar, and just as quickly humble you. I THANK GOD for my exposure to Joyce. Looking back, she was hard and critical of her pupils because she knew that they could be better. At every opportunity, I remember her and I try to accept criticism as a chance to rise to my potential, rather than allow myself to be knocked down.
5. No one is too good to pick up poo
o Horseback riding was my hobby, but it was work. I was expected to get my hands dirty on a daily basis whether by grooming my own horse before and after riding, mucking a stall, or helping with other various barn chores. The most successful riders still had to scoop up giant piles of dung. It wasn’t exactly glamorous, but you know what? It keeps you humble.
6. Know when to walk away
o Horseback riding was my first love and breaking up with it was what I like to call "emotional heavy lifting." As I approached high school graduation and started planning for the future, it became apparent that horseback riding no longer fit into my life. I'd decided to pursue a degree in Dental Hygiene. Between the cost of tuition, a full-time class schedule, and a part-time job, I had little time or money to continue my passion. It’s been 10 years and I still miss it- the smells, the sounds, and the quiet companionship of a horse. On the other hand, I now have a fantastic career, new hobbies, and plenty to be thankful for. Reality is that sometimes the strong choice is heartbreaking, but it might still be the right choice.
What is YOUR passion? What ignites your fire?
For me, learning to employ my strength started with finding what makes me hungry. What drives me.
Contrary to popular opinion, I don't think doing "what you love" to make a living is always the right path. I enjoy being a dental hygienist for a variety of reasons, one of which is that it affords me the ability to pursue my personal interests. I make more than enough money to pay my bills and I have a schedule that allows me to do the things that light me up like write this blog!
I'm nuts about my health and fitness! I'm 100% dedicated to never binge-eating myself overweight again and I'm completely hooked on the competition with myself that the gym provides. It's the passion that is my source of motivation to continue make healthy eating choices and push myself physically on the days that it's hard as hell to get it done.