Here we are in the last few hours of 2018. I may be one of the few people in the world who wants this year to hang on a little longer. This has been the best year of my life. Nearly nothing in my life looks like it did 12 months ago and I couldn’t be happier about that. I love the changes this year brought to my world: new state, new house, new job, new horses, new friends. It is hard to believe so much has happened and I wanted to make sure I took away the lessons that were meant for me in each transition. Looking back each month or so life decided I needed to be schooled. Here is what I learned (or was reminded) in 2018.
January – Pay attention to that little voice inside you
I have spent 48 years fighting my weight. I have been bullied, teased, degraded and humiliated for what I weigh. I have spent most of that time as an obese anorexic. Despite how I look to the world I often go days without eating and take in very few calories. I have always known there was something more behind my weight, even if no one else would agree. Late in 2017 I started playing around eating Paleo (to deal with some stomach issues) and weight started to fall off. It fell back on as soon as I “cheated”. I finally knew what that voice had been saying all along, there are foods my body just doesn’t tolerate and I don’t play by the normal calories in calories out math that others do. I knew it all along, but I let others tell me they knew better. Listen to your intuition, especially about your own body and never let other voices be louder than your own instincts.
February – Follow your passions
Picking up and moving cross country to somewhere new with very few people I know doesn’t scare me. I had done that before when I moved from NY to MN. Living in the south, now that scared me. I have lived my entire life in the north. I have never known an existence without four solid seasons. In my DNA Spring is green, summer is warmish, fall is bright colors and winter is snow. I had always professed that it is easier to live somewhere cold than hot, because you can always put more clothes on and I am incredibly sun sensitive. A million times I had said I would never move to Texas. So I should have been surprised when I decided on a plane ride home from a riding trip that I was up and moving that month, but I think my heart already knew this was inevitable. Heck I had looked at houses in the area 4 years earlier on my first riding trip. Moving to be able to ride regularly, to have a longer show season, to be nearer to the big shows was the best decision I have ever made. Too often in life we roadblock our dreams by what it would take. Make the investment in yourself! Go where your heart leads!!!!
March – Find your tribe and hold tight to them, they will get you through anything
While moving to Texas was meant to be, it apparently wasn’t meant to be easy. I sold my house, I found another one. That all went really easy. My bestie and the cats and I drove across the country and it was all going great. Then my closing blew up, to a level that looking back was truly comical. Long story short, the buyer on my house in MN had their down payment wire hacked and lost all that money. Nothing like sitting at your closing (with 2 cats in the car) and finding out that until the FBI figures it out you have no home anywhere (which btw took a week to sort out). This was the week I found out who my true friends were. I could not have mentally handled all that went on (and the stupidness of it all) without the friends who offered us to stay at their home, who put me back together when I came fully unglued, who came up with money in a pinch, who helped me unpack an entire house in 8 hours before they left. Life tried very hard to do me in with that plot twist but the people who really matter in my life made sure I got through it and I am forever grateful for that.
April – Everything worth having is worth waiting for
I moved in March, my horses didn’t follow until late April. It felt like forever. In a new state, with a limited number of friends and without my main emotional support. Seeing that trailer pull into the barn was beyond words emotional. I thought it was the best things were going to get, until 2 days later my trainer and barn owner looked at Jas and told me she was sound and we would be showing her. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Three years earlier she had been kicked and I was told I would probably never ride her again and we definitely wouldn’t show her again. It was soul crushing but she was alive and I had made peace with it, to a point, but my heart had never stopped hoping. To hear that three years of hope had a purpose made life complete.
May – Trust, even if it makes you vulnerable
Trust is never easy for me, but it is especially hard in areas where I have been burned before. I got burned bad by my previous horse trainer. It cost me a lot of money, a lot of heartache and most of all a lot of self esteem. When my current trainer told me it was time to buy Lilo I will admit it was hard. Not because he was a Paint (well ok because of that too but…) but because I knew I was chancing I was being used again. It’s a struggle I have had the entire time working with my current trainer, but has nothing to do with her, it’s all about the past. Because riding and horses doesn’t come naturally and easily to me, like intellectual pursuits do, I have to put myself out there in a way that makes me very vulnerable and easily, in the wrong hands, taken advantage of. I still fight those thoughts some days, but I made a choice and make it regularly. Yes maybe my vulnerability sets me up to be played the fool by someone, but I am not missing out on the amazing chances life puts in your path because it might end badly. I bought the horse, it was the right choice looking back, and it either built trust or set me up to place false trust more, but either way I am glad I took the risk and continue to.
June – Never let other people define what you are capable of
“You’ll never be what the judges want to see”. Those are words I don’t think I will ever lose from my head. I remember the time, place and situation my previous trainer in MN said them in and relive it all the time. I was crushed but also pissed off, and anyone who knows me knows pissed off Pam usually comes out trying to prove a point. As much as those words hurt me, they have driven me in the 4 years since they were said. I knew I could do it. I knew riding was so hard for me but if I put my mind to it, found the right mentors who believed in me and the right horse I could be successful. That picture all came together at Pinto World in June. And I bawled like a baby on my horse when they called out my number as the World Champion. I am so grateful I didn’t let the perception of one taint my dreams.
July – Surround yourself with people who understand the value of your dreams
My trainer and my barn family here in Texas knew when I moved down here that Jasmine was the center of my universe. That I had dreams for her and things I wanted her to prove to those who have doubted her and they made them come true. They took a very out of shape, injured horse and rehabbed her into a National Champion in mere weeks, not because it mattered to them, but because they knew it matter to me. For as much of an introvert as I am, and as much as relying on other people terrifies me, I realize more and more that success requires you to find the right tribe and let them fill in your cracks.
August – People care about looks a whole lot less than we realize
I have lived my whole life in the north. I have survived in layers of clothes and not needing to show skin to the world except on rare tropical vacations (where my theory was I will never see these people again so who cares). Moving to the south meant a new wardrobe of life; bathing suits, shorts, flip flops and tank tops replaced my hoodies and hiding clothes. This scared the crap out of me as a plus size person. Every day at the pool with people I knew was paralyzing at first, but I very quickly realized I was the only on thinking about how I looked and I needed to let it go. People look at us a lot less than we think. Whether it is because they are dealing with their own paranoia, or are busy being self-centered their thoughts are much more inward than out. I will also say I love that I moved to a community where not everyone is a “pretty person” and every shape, size, color and demographic feels welcome.
September – Find gratitude, especially in the tough times
September was hard, I’m not going to lie. For many reasons I had to keep it quiet at the time, but I was burned pretty bad by my boss and “downsized” out of a job. It wasn’t a surprise, I had seen it on the horizon, but it still hurt when it happened. It hurt more that colleagues I thought were friends turned out to be on the other side and didn’t come to my defense, but just like everything else in life I can see now that it was all to move me forward. It was a toxic environment that I needed to be out of and out of financial fear I probably would have hung on a lot longer. Life gave me the out I needed and I am grateful for that. Everything for a reason and a purpose.
October – Winning isn’t always about the color of the ribbon
For the 5 years I have had Jasmine I had one dream. Show her at a big Appaloosa show in the John Justin Arena. Looking back now I realize I never in the dream saw a ribbon or a trophy, that was never in my thoughts. Weird I never realized that. For those same 5 years life tried REALLY hard to take that dream away from me. Trainer issues, kidney issues for me, her injury, me almost being killed by a drunk driver, god awful winters and very short riding seasons in Minnesota. We were making no progress and most of the time moving backwards. With all we had been through riding her into the Justin at World was winning. I’m not sure I knew that going in (Although when I saw us on the monitor waiting to go in I did point it out to my trainer and giggle like a 5 year old. I may have even said “look that’s us” as I was giggling.). The ride was less than stellar, my fault as much as hers. But it didn’t matter we didn’t place, and still doesn’t 2 months later. I won that night, Jas and I won. We did what so many said we couldn’t and never would. I lived my dream and while many others looked at it and called it a failure (some even said so to my face in the hours afterward), I won that night.
November – Be Authentically yourself
I found a wonderful new job in November, thanks to a previous colleague/boss who had left my old company months before me. When I was offered the job I was also interviewing for another position. It was the interview with my now boss that helped me realize what mattered to me and which job to take. Normally in interviews we all try to pretend and give the right answer, but I decided I wanted to work where I fit. Where being me was not only ok but embraced. When I learned that he was interested in me partially because of the brutal honesty on my website I was intrigued, and when I interviewed and told him I would never apologize for being smart and he supported that I knew I had my new home. It was a pay cut and a bit different direction than I had imagined going, but it was the most me I had felt professionally in 15 years. And I have loved every day since.
December – Accept what isn’t working Life is short, love hard and don’t wait
When I started outlining this blog about a week ago I had planned to talk about some relationships that I had decided weren’t working and I opted to exit in December. But the year still had lessons to teach. A friend lost her heart horse unexpectedly at only 3 years old and last night I learned about the 22-year-old intern tragically killed by a lion at a wildlife conservatory in North Carolina. The young lady was the niece of one of my closest friends. Both of these fall on the backdrop of ongoing conversations about loss and grief I have been having with another dear friend since her losses a few months ago. It has all, once again, brought into focus how short life is. We are promised nothing but this moment. Too often we wait to say we care or we value or love someone, we put off visiting or calling until it is convenient. We always think there will be a ‘later’. At some point there is no more later. Live for today, live as if today is all you get with those that matter, because at some point it will be. Buy the horse, eat the cookie, give the hug, spoil yourself. Even when it isn’t great for your calendar or wallet go to lunch with a friend, take an unplanned road trip and make inconvenient memories. They will matter!!!!
I am sad to see 2018 go. It was probably the first year in my life that I would opt to relive again because it was so great. But I am ready to see what 2019 has to teach me. Happy New Year!