Friday, January 21, 2011

Why Can't Finding My Passion Cost Less Than $330?

Over the last few years, something in particular has really been bothering me. Well, call it more of a jealousy thing I suppose… I find myself envious of so many around me that have a passion for something. Those I am most envious of are actually getting paid doing something they absolutely love. Others may not be in love with their work, but typically they have something else to look forward to throughout their day, something that gives them purpose. Something that when they think about it, they are instantly in a state of bliss. 

I get asked often about my art and many people find it interesting that I really don't have a passion for doing it. Just because you are good at something doesn't mean it is something you want to do all the time. Thanks to fifteen years of job hopping trying to find something I enjoy, I am now good at a lot of things - but don't want to do any of them. 

I do love to write. Every day I feel myself getting closer and closer to being able to finally marry something I love doing with creating an income. This pleases me. 

In the meantime, though, I still wish I was nuts over something the way Travis is about high school football or Jeremy is about poker. Nancy loves fashion as well as the idea of educating children to create a brighter future for us all. I definitely wish my passions were connected to that kind of do-gooder thinking… my brother loves sports, my mom loves crafts and my dad… well, my dad loves his freedom. And building bird cages. 

When I was in that leadership program a few years back, one of my coaches was helping me develop my personal strategic plan and wanted me to come up with a big, fat juicy goal to pursue. Something more exciting than my weight loss goal I had made and more fulfilling than learning a second language. She asked me to think back to when I was a kid and to remember the one thing that used to excite me more than anything else. It was at that moment that the memories came rushing back to me, almost as if I had locked them away in some closet in my head, along with many other things that I thought were useless as a responsible adult. 


When I was little, all I could think about were horses. I drew them all the time. I had a variety of toy and model horses that I played with and displayed proudly on my shelves. I created "Horse Clubs" with other children in my neighborhood and taught them everything there was to know about horses (or at least everything a ten year old knows about them). I grew up in many different varieties of Suburbia so having a horse wasn't realistic. However, I still dreamed about owning one every day. 

In fact, I was the only girl who joined a 4-H club for horses and didn't even own one. That was how crazy I was about them. 

When I was eleven or twelve years old, my dream finally came true. Through my 4-H connections, I was able to acquire my first horse, Rima's Marc. As I indicated in a previous post, I had her for a year or so and then ended up getting a younger, less stubborn Arabian named Lightning. I boarded him close to the house and spent many happy afternoons riding through pastures, trails and arenas. I even did a little bit of showing and barrel racing. It didn't matter what I was doing - I was just so happy to have my own horse after so many years of dreaming about it. 

From racehorse to pasture herding. I'm have a feeling
Rima was less than thrilled in her life choices

Remembering this particular passion, I thought that it might be worth looking into again. I honestly wasn't sure if I would feel the same way - I know that the brief time I had that horse up at Mt. Charleston was definitely a lot more unfulfilling than I had hoped. But then again, I leased the horse with the mentality of that fearless twelve year old that use to ride bareback around the neighborhood with nothing more than a lead rope and halter. 

I looked at this and thought - there is NO WAY I would
take this risk now. I must be getting old... 
That's me and Lightning on the far right. We actually
took a ribbon in this particular show. He was such a good sport. 
I was even confident enough to put my inexperienced brother
and fifty year old grandma on my horses. 

As I sat in the waiting area of the Emergency Room at UMC the day he bucked me off, I wondered if along with my courage, I had also lost my zeal for these amazing animals that I had dedicated so much brain space to for all those years. 

However, during the last few months, it started nagging at me again. So, I started doing some research online and found a few different local stables that provided lessons, boarding and a number of other services. I knew that I certainly didn't have an interest in having my own horse again - at least not right now - but I knew I wanted to be around them. I wanted so desperately to feel the way I did when I was a kid. 

I sent out some emails about possible volunteer opportunities. Grooming, feeding, tacking (meaning to help prep a horse for riding), even cleaning stalls. Yeah, I know… but I just wanted to be in the environment again and find out for sure if my feelings still existed. I figured if I had half the passion for horses now as I did when I was younger, it would still be more fervor than I had for anything else at the moment. 

I actually got responses rather quickly from a couple different places saying they would definitely be interested in having an extra hand to help out. Unfortunately, the life of a horse trainer is apparently one that requires a lot of attention, therefore pinning down a location, start date and expectations was extremely difficult. I remained diligent though. I certainly wasn't in any kind of hurry. Lucky for me, timing turned out to be everything. 

On Monday, I was performing the extremely tedious task of cleaning out emails, both on my Yahoo and my Facebook account. I found one of the November emails to the first place I had contacted and decided to shoot the girl who responded, Sarah, another follow up note… just in case. To my delight, I received a response from her the next day. Apparently, the girl who had been helping her out got a job and so she needed someone to begin coming by immediately. She asked if I could start the following morning. 

Three words. Pig. In. Shit. 

I was so excited a could hardly contain myself. As an added bonus, she was only fifteen minutes up the road from me. I had no idea what she wanted me to do, but I didn't care. 

As I was dancing around the living room, celebrating, getting what I am sure was the cat's version of an eye roll from Bailey, I realized that I didn't have any boots that could be worn around a barn. I was heading to the other side of town to play some disc golf anyway so I treated myself to a visit to good old Boot Barn. 

I walked in and began looking at the aisles and aisles of elaborate western style cowboy boots. I knew that the place I was going to be at was an English riding stable of which I know very little about. In retrospect, some research and forward thinking probably would've led me to a store that sold English riding gear. But alas, impatience and the need for instant gratification kept me from making a decision as smart as that. Instead, I just figured I would get a boot that could stand up to general barn conditions and could translate easily between both styles of riding. Being in a western wear store, this wasn't very easy. 

I found two pairs of boots. The first were made of hard, inflexible leather and had a boxy toe that I wasn't sure would hold up well in English stirrups. They were $135. The second pair were a beautiful brown color, made of soft leather that fit perfectly over or under my jeans, clung to my feet like a glove and had a nice heel that I thought would marry very well to either style of riding. They were $330. 


I paced around the store for a while. I tried on the cheaper pair four more times, hoping they would magically turn into a pair of workable boots. They didn't. I really should've left. But I had already had a full day of spin class, disc golf, and a trip to the chiropractor. Additionally, Chipotle's quiet whisper from across the street had turned into an agonizing shriek as I hadn't eaten anything since breakfast. (You know how they say don't shop on an empty stomach? This doesn't just apply to the grocery store.) 

I took a deep breath, grabbed my $330 boots and walked to the cash register. Sigh. 

That night, I made sure I went to bed at a decent hour. I felt like I did the night before the first day of school. I wanted to be well rested for whatever the next morning had in store. 

My alarm went off at 7:30am. I didn't even hit snooze. I was up, in the shower and ready to walk out the door at ten after eight when I received a text from Sarah asking if we could make it 9am instead. No problem. I sat down, did a few things on the computer and had a cup of coffee. 35 minutes later, I got in my car and headed toward the exit of my apartment complex. Just before I turned onto Rainbow, my phone buzzed again with another text message. Can we do 10 instead? She wasn't feeling well and wanted a little bit more time to rest. Sure… I turned the car around and went back upstairs to my apartment. 

Please don't cancel, I kept thinking. We made it this far! Just let me get the first day under my belt so we can set something up on a regular basis. Please… PLEASE!! 

Come on, Tina… the girl doesn't feel well. Maybe you should just text her back and reschedule. 

Hmm… no, how about you let her cancel if she doesn't feel well enough to have you there. Now is not the time to be passive. Do you want this or not? 

I often watch Jeremy from across the table when we are eating having full on conversations with himself. I tease him in my head… perhaps I'll lighten up on him a bit. 

I got back in the car at 9:45am and began my drive, watching my phone the entire time. I got to her house and hadn't received a text message yet. Score!! 

I walked to the front door and knocked lightly. A few seconds later, the door opened and there stood Sarah, fully clothed in her pajamas. I am a horrible person. However, she smiled, stuck out her hand and introduced herself. She pointed me around back and said she'd be right out. 

And we were off. 

I'm still learning about everything she does, but basically she has thirteen of her own horses that she uses for various reasons, mainly showing and giving lessons. She also boards horses for other people. Additionally, she has a tack store not too far from her house. The girl leads a very busy life. 

What she wanted from me was help grooming, tacking and exercising the horses - meaning, riding them!! There would be no stall cleaning necessary. Call me butter… 

Sarah and her stallion, Rascal
I liked her instantly. She was super mellow and very sweet. Her patience with me was extremely important as I realized almost instantly that I am not the all knowing, president of Horse Club, Inc., fearless barrel racer that I once was. 

Everything I did seemed erroneous, from how to put on an English saddle to how to mount and dismount. I put blankets on backwards, grabbed the wrong size riding helmet and pulled incorrectly on the reins. I even parked my car in the wrong spot. 

To add insult to injury, with three other riders in the arena, my foot slipped out of the stirrups during a trot and as I fished around trying to get situated again, the horse I was on stopped abruptly and I tumbled forward, falling to the ground. I looked up and the horse was staring at me, telling me with his horsey eyes "nice job, moron." 

Sarah asked if I was okay. I assured her I was and climbed back onto the horse. I told her I had simply fallen out of the stirrups and that the horse hadn't done anything wrong. 

"Do you have different boots?" she asked. 


Another stallion she calls Moo-Moo. Not sure why... 
I'm pretty hard on myself and was feeling less than stellar as I began to wrap things up for the day. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea… then again, her horses were awesome. Each one I interacted with had such a different personality than the one before. It's what I remember loving so much about them. I always thought it was fascinating that these huge, strong and unpredictable animals were, in general, sweet, docile and eager to please. Even the spunky ones responded immediately to a stern voice or a light pull on the lead. Plus, I really enjoyed watching Sarah with her stallions - her fearlessness and love for them reminded me of how I used to be and how I'd like to be again someday. 

I stole this picture from Sarah's
Facebook album. Isn't it wonderful?

So, we settled on two days a week - Wednesdays and Fridays in the morning. I would spend about four to five hours doing whatever she needed and in return, I would get to reconnect with an old passion that I almost stored away forever. No major commitments, no obligations, any changes in schedule just communicate via text. Pretty simple. 

As I drove home, I held a good firm conversation with my ego. I was very lucky to have found someone that demonstrates as much patience as Sarah does. I got exactly what I asked for and even if I wasn't "good at it" yet, I would be a fool if I didn't realize what a great situation I had created for myself. So, I let go of everything I felt bad about and told myself to treat it like a new job. I never knew what I was doing on the first day of a new job. Within weeks, however, I was typically a top producer. I imagined this wouldn't be incredibly different. 

And in fact, I was right. I went this morning and felt much better about things. I left my ego at the house this time. I still did everything wrong but managed to stay on every horse I rode and made mental notes about all the corrections Sarah gave me. I was determined to make mistakes about things only once. Driving home today, I couldn't help but feel giddy. And sore. 

So, I have one resolution under my belt and it's not even the end of January! More importantly, though, I have cleared a bit of a path that I am hoping might lead to that mystical "passion" that I've been in such a desperate search for. I figured that even if I don't find exactly what I had in my youth, I am still doing something that I enjoy. 

In the meantime, that's good enough for me.

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