What are you going to be when you grow up? And other questions not to ask.

This was written on Facebook today by one of our riding friends. Michelle is the same age as Lauren. I think her message and frustrations are important to all of us with children as we try to guide them in their future direction. I thought Michelle did a great job expressing her concerns, her options and fears. I hope we can all share this as for ourselves or with our children as appropriate. My daddy (Harvard grad and airplane exec) always said find what you loved as a child and do it your whole life. Good advice! Thank you Michelle for letting me share this.

There is so much riding on college students who are preparing for their careers. Not to say that there shouldn’t be – you should definitely be focusing on your studies. But what’s really difficult and what I’ve come to disagree with is knowing what you want to be when you grow up and exactly how you’re going to get there. By the time I was able to talk, parents, relatives and teachers were always …asking me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and it was never socially acceptable to NOT have an answer to that question. By the time I turned ten it was “What do you want to be when you grow up so you can make money?” and I thought, “I want to be a jockey!” or “I want to be in the rodeo!” or “I want to be a horse trainer!” and everyone says “No, no, you can’t do that. You won’t make much money.” And so it goes.
Then by 16 or 17 you’re prepping to go to college and it seems like you’ve got to make this decision on exactly what you’re going to be and how you’re going to get there in a very short time frame. In your mind you’re going to be XXX and you’re going to go to XXX school for four years and study XXX and do XXX internships. Then after college you’re going to get XXX job and then you will move up the rankings and things will be holly and jolly.
Except that’s not actually how it goes. My dream was to be a horse trainer so I went to a liberal arts school with a great equestrian program and if I really applied myself and persevered, everything would work out. But again, that’s not how it goes and life changes and you find yourself in one of the darkest places of your life even though you worked very hard and did everything you were told to do.
You see, that’s just the thing. Instead of raising your kids to follow this 4.0 plan where everything goes according to XXX and if you get off track then you are lost forever – you’re a failure, you’re nobody. Instead of teaching your kids that, why don’t you let them find something their good at, encourage them to stick with it and let them figure it out? Because let me tell you – speaking from first hand experience – going to what I thought would be the college of my dreams where everything would settle into place and then having to transfer out and leave literally everything I ever knew about my plan for life? That is the scariest, most anxiety provoking experience that still haunts me every time I make a mistake at school or take a spill off my horse. Feeling wave after wave of disappointment because that big shiny plan that I, my teachers, parents, relatives and peers cooked up shriveled up and died.
Then I moved back to Houston in hopes of creating my own type of equestrian program and the sound of it is much easier to hear than it is to walk out each and every day. I no longer have a university spoon-feeding me lessons on equine health and first aid, or scheduled ride times, or whatever. My future in the horse world is now relying solely, completely on me and that is so terrifying.
I’ll admit the expectations that others had for me and that I had for myself nearly caused me to crash and burn. I started to hate horses; I even began to be disinterested in my own horses. Riding horses began to be unappealing and I would dread a lesson hours in advance.
It took a shocking spill off my horse two weekends ago for this all to hit me and to understand all my anxiety about making mistakes. My endless fretting and worrying before and after each and every round, scrutinizing my every flaw because surely I wouldn’t be able to be a horse trainer if I made this many mistakes. How would I make money like this?
That is not going to be the case any longer. I don’t know where I’m going. I don’t know how to get there. Everything is a mess right now. I’m going to make mistakes, big ones. I’m going to go careening off my horse into jumps in front of my prior trainers. My heels will sometimes turn up and my leg won’t always be quite right. My back might arch and I’ll miss my spots and sometimes I’ll fold forward. Sometimes I’ll fold forward before every jump. Sometimes I’ll forget a course or two or three. Sometimes my confidence will be so dented that I won’t be able to look my horse in the eye.
But I have been riding horses for almost fifteen years and if that has only taught me one thing it is that I love horses. I want to be a horse trainer and I want to ride in the Grand Prix. I don’t know how I’m going to get there but somehow, I’m going to make it happen.

Please leave any comments or inspiration you might have for Michelle.

4 thoughts on “What are you going to be when you grow up? And other questions not to ask.

  1. I have been reading your blog now for the last several months and want you to know how much I love it! I grew up in Houston and rode from the age of 8. I owned two hunters and sold them before I moved to Atlanta with my husband. I have ridden off and on but long story short I have let all those things that Michelle wrote about take over…I still haven’t sold any of my tack or other horse stuff though b/c my plan is to be owning another horse in the next 2 years…With all that being said, my advice to Michelle would be to look at life as a journey. You have a goal/destination; you plan how you to get there and then take it one step at a time. Break big goals down into smaller obtainable ones. If you make a goal to big withotut smaller milestones you will always feel like you are failing and miss out on your successes! Like any journey or trip you may get lost along the way or take detours but sometimes that is what can make a journey into an adventure! As long as Michelle knows who she is and what she stands for and uses those things as her compass, she will do fine. I have had the opportunity to meet allot of different people, and I would also tell he that surrounding herself with good people with good values and morals are important. Surrounding yourself with the wrong ones will drag you down before you know it! She can’t beat herself up over the past; just learn from mistakes and use what she learns for the future. Henry Ford said, “failure is simply the opportunity to begin again. This time, more intelligently.” Just like when you fall off, you get up, dust yourself off, and get back on…Didn’t mean for this to be so long, but hope it helps! Candace

    • Thank you Candace, for reading what I write and the great advice! I am always surprised and gratified to find I have “unknown” readers. I went through a horse hiatus when I first got married and had young kids, but the saddles stayed stored close by. You are much appreciated and I hope you continued to ride along.

  2. Cindy: Tell the young lady to be patient and “literally” apply the last two paragraphs to horse training and to “figuratively” apply them to life and she will be okay. Also tell her the clearest days usually have a few clouds and on the most overcast ones if you look close there is almost always occasional rays of sunshine.
    Thank both of you for sharing.

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