Find­ing bal­ance

Years ago I chose writ­ing over rid­ing, but now I re­al­ize that a per­son need not limit them­selves to just one pas­sion in life.

EQUUS - - Backpage -

When I was around 11, I came across a notepad among the knick­knacks in the lo­cal tack shop. I was drawn to it be­cause of a cartoon---a girl ly­ing on her stom­ach atop an un­sad­dled horse, with a pen and pad poised on the horse’s rump. “I’m a rider and a writer,” the cap­tion said.

That pad was made for me. It was through writ­ten words that I came to love horses. When I was in sec­ond grade, I got a chunky lit­tle chil­dren’s ver­sion of Black Beauty for Christ­mas. The story left me teary and de­ter­mined: Horses had to be in my life.

My par­ents re­quired some con­vinc­ing. I used words to my ad­van­tage, as I waged a cam­paign to con­vince them that I needed to ride. I bor­rowed books from the li­brary and wrote down nuggets of use­ful in­for­ma­tion, like “Rid­ing is not as dan­ger­ous as ski­ing,” and how good it was for pos­ture. The hard work paid off when I was signed up for lessons at a lo­cal barn.

Horses be­came a full-fledged pas­sion. I spent all my evenings at the barn, drop­ping my stir­rups or knot­ting my reins to ride hands-free---any­thing to im­press my trainer. At the same time, a sec­ond pas­sion was burn­ing more qui­etly each day in school. I worked equally hard in class, try­ing to catch the eye of my writ­ing teacher. Once I turned in a 1,000-word story when the word count re­quired was only 150. It worked, and the en­cour­age­ment was ad­dic­tive.

At home, I brought my two pas­sions to­gether. I kept a jour­nal with the name of ev­ery horse I’d rid­den and a tally of ev­ery fall I took. I had read that you weren’t a good rider un­til you fell off at least a few dozen times---so it was some­thing of a sil­ver lin­ing ev­ery time I checked an­other tum­ble off the list.

As I be­came a teenager, how­ever, rid­ing lost a bit of its shine for me. I be­came more in­ter­ested in talk­ing on the phone and writ­ing note­books full of poems---about boys, not horses. I had no idea that my par­ents’ di­vorce was loom­ing, and soon the de­ci­sion to stop rid­ing would es­sen­tially be made for me.

I never quite lost the urge to be around horses, but a fu­ture in the equine world seemed dis­tant and unattain­able. So af­ter col­lege I chose a ca­reer in writ­ing. I love the work, but the in­spi­ra­tion some­times wears thin. When I have th­ese cre­ative dry spells, I al­ways find my­self think­ing about horses and what could have been. What kind of rider might I have be­come? What op­por­tu­ni­ties would I have found? Would I have pulled out those barn plans I once sketched and started some­thing of my own?

Th­ese ques­tions haunt me be­cause I of­ten won­der if I made the right de­ci­sion. I’ve been long­ing to ride again but afraid to start. I had al­ways told my­self I just couldn’t af­ford horses on a writer’s salary, but it’s re­ally al­ways been the fear of lov­ing it---and los­ing it---again.

Well, no more ex­cuses. Why should a per­son have to choose just one pas­sion in life? Al­most 10 years since I left my col­lege rid­ing team, I’ve signed up for rid­ing lessons. So here I am, once again, both ex­cited to ride and in­spired to write. Maybe I re­ally am meant to be both a rider and a writer.

We’ll call this my sec­ond draft, and we’ll see. BACK IN THE SAD­DLE: Kel­ley Granger DiFilippo says a school horse named Scooby is “do­ing a fine job of break­ing me in again.”

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