2018 was supposed to be my year, so forgive me if I sound a little callous when I say that this year wasn’t exactly all I had hoped it would be. Several dreams backfired in my face throughout the course of my year. I had all of these plans, items I would tick off of a checklist, and goals I would push myself to accomplish. While there is no doubt that I am closing out this year a better rider than I was in 2017, I failed to reach many of the goals I had set for myself. And, to be blunt, that totally sucks.
There are so many moving parts to make horse showing a reality, especially when you’re an adult amateur. We invest so much of our time, money and heart into fitting all of the pieces together that it is easy to get burned out when things go awry. It can be a hard pill to swallow when you look at your yearly expense sheet and realize how much you have put into something, only to feel like you invested in oil wells that were dry. That is exactly where I found myself earlier this month.
I was sitting at the bar in my kitchen, icing my aching knee and staring at a vet bill that needed to be paid, when it hit me: I didn’t do a dang thing I wanted to do this year. I spent the next week in a state of mental turmoil as I tried to make one of the biggest decisions of my life. Would I continue tossing almost everything I had at a teeny bud of a dream with the great possibility that next year would mirror this year? Or would I take some time off to enjoy my life, be a normal person, travel, spend money on myself for a change and not have to spend every waking moment of my life thinking about horses?
I have to tell you, after the year I have had, the alternative sounded so enticing.
If there is one thing I did learn this year, however, it is that throwing yourself an elaborate pity-party never really gets you anywhere. So I took a step back to re-evaluate my situation, and it dawned on me… this state of self-destruction was entirely self-inflicted.
Sure, a couple of things went to crap throughout 2018, but had I not set the bar so high for myself, I wouldn’t be feeling like such a failure. In all reality, I had accomplished a lot over the past twelve months. They didn’t exactly meet the high standards I had hoped to have met, but whose fault was that? In trying to set milestones for myself to accomplish throughout the year, I had actually set myself up for failure. Now, rather than seeing all the good things I had achieved, I was only seeing the fact that I didn’t tick a box on a list of things my fellow competitors were doing.
So I took the month of December off to refresh my mental state and give my body (and mind) some time to rest and do you know what I found?
I missed riding.
So here I am, ready to take on 2019 with a fresh state of mind. And as we approach that time of year where every Instagram post bears the caption, “new year, new me,” I am instead focusing on “new year, improved me.” You see, sometimes setting goals (when not set the right way) can be toxic to your mental health. Sometimes, in setting goals, you are actually setting yourself up for failure. So rather than create a list of things I want to do this year, I am going to set my focus on one big goal: improving myself.
No lists of shows I want to attend. No set fence height I want to conquer. Just me, myself and I, making positive strides towards being a better rider. If in my quest for growth I make my way to a show venue I have always wanted to compete at, fantastic. If I somehow manage to survive bumping the fences up to the next level, consider it a bonus. My primary goal is going to be focusing on bettering myself in 2019.
Of course, you have to find some way to measure a goal, and I intend to do so by speaking closely with my coach about my desire to be better without the pressure of an ever-looming deadline. That is the beauty of being an adult amateur, we aren’t working against a clock! We don’t age out like juniors do. The majority of us aren’t hustling to win the U25 championships before we reach 26. We all do this because it is fun! And why suck the fun out of it by setting goals that a variety of outside circumstances can impact, leaving you feeling like you somehow failed?
So here is to 2019 and here is to the rest of you out there who are going to focus on “new year, improved me.” You got this.