I think we all have an age that sticks out in our minds for one reason or another. An age that we vividly remember. For me, it was 17.
I thought I had my life figured out at seventeen. Seventeen was the year I graduated high school. This was something I worked very hard to accomplish a year early and in doing so, I learned on a personal level the direct correlation between working hard and the resulting satisfaction that comes from achieving what you’ve set out to achieve, in a way that impacted me greatly. In many respects, you get out of life what you put into it.
Seventeen was the year I left home and moved out of my home state of Michigan to pursue a dream I had been sitting on for four years. At age 13 I had set my sights on becoming a professional jockey. I had very little experience around horses and I lived in a state where horse racing was all but extinct. I spent those in between years reading everything equine related I could get my hands on, researching, sending emails, writing letters, developing connections in a world where I previously had none. I was determined and extremely passionate. Nothing was going to stand in my way and nothing was impossible because, well, 17.
I was told on more than one occasion how fortunate I was. I knew what I wanted to do with my life and I was full steam ahead. I spent the few years after graduation in Ohio, putting in the hours, getting as much experience around horses as possible, both on the ground and in the saddle.
At age 20 I moved to Versailles, Kentucky, right outside of Lexington. I lived with and worked for a very well respected woman who had moved a successful training career off of the track and onto a farm, where she put her knowledge and expertise into creating a Thoroughbred rehab and training facility. I was as green as could be when I started but I progressed quickly and was soon doing a little bit of everything on the farm.
I galloped racehorses in our fields, cleaned stalls, administered daily medications, kept track of and ordered a wide variety of inventory, and, towards the end of my time there, did my best to oversee the 30-35 horses we had, split between our two barns, as well as our small crew. The hours were long, the days were intense but I was prepared to put in my time. What I wasn’t prepared for was the realization that, after six months, the path I was on, the one I had been dreaming about for years, wasn’t one I wanted to pursue anymore.
A short stint in the hospital with a brain bleed due to a fall led to taking some time off to go home and regroup. Once home, I realized how burnt out and unhappy I truly was with the path I was headed down. I still loved the horses – I’ll always love the horses – but I didn’t love the lifestyle and I realized the dream I had been chasing for so long was no longer my dream. I had no regrets but I also had no idea what was next.
Fast forward three+ years and here I am once again, chasing a new passion. While it’s something vastly different from anything I could have ever imagined, it is, in other ways, ironically similiar. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over the past couple of years is that things change – people, passions, interests, ideas, our likes and dislikes. They’re constantly evolving with us.
Perhaps you haven’t found a real passion yet. On the flip side, you might have many passions and feel you need to choose between them. Maybe you too thought you had your life figured out only to find that reality was very different from the way you thought things were “supposed” to play out. Keep pushing. Eventually, you will find yourself on the other side, stronger and more secure than you ever were before.
One of my sisters just turned 17. We talk often. She’s entering her last year of high school and I know she feels the pressure to “figure it out”. I hope she knows – and I hope you know – that no matter your age, you don’t need to have it all figured out. In fact, the ability to live and experience life with an open mind, not bound to any one thing but taking the necessary time to experience many different things isn’t always a bad thing. Eventually, if you continue to put yourself out there, you’ll discover things you really truly love and maybe you’ll even decide to pursue them.