Finding the Silver Linings

Photo by Emma Young.

There’s a silver lining to everything. At the time some things seem like the worst thing ever. Your horse comes up lame right before the show, you lose your job, you lose someone close to you … or maybe there’s a worldwide pandemic. No matter how awful something is, though, there is almost always a silver lining. This lining is sometimes just easier to find than other times.

Recently everyone’s lives have been changed to some capacity. I remember back in the spring when my whole world felt like it was caving in around me. I was sent home from school, I missed my friends, my family’s jobs were all affected, and everything once normal about life was no longer. It was hard to see any positives about the situation. As time went on things started to appear a little more normal. I was able to find a couple jobs, I started getting some lessons again, and I was able to see a handful of my friends. The world was starting to reopen.

Photo by Barry Jenn Petty.

As the summer progressed I was faced with a shocking reality. While my college said that we were going back to school I knew how quickly they could change their mind. There were so many unknowns about the entire year. I was faced with a choice: go to school and take the risk or take a gap year? I pondered the decision for a while knowing very well how much the decision might affect the rest of my life.

I knew if I was going to take a year off I wanted to do something meaningful with it and my first thought was working student. I had always wanted to be a working student for a summer, but I knew I would get even more out of it if I stayed for a year. I had a list of a few riders I was going to contact about working student positions. I figured I should work for someone I really wanted to if I was going to do this.

While I was finalizing who I should contact, a social media post appeared in my feed looking for a working student (from one of those riders). After several messages and lots of phone tag I had a plan for my year. I contacted my school, packed my bags, said my “see you laters,” and a couple weeks later my horse and I were on our way to Aiken.

In some ways there were more unknowns about this than there was if I went to school. I didn’t know anyone here, I didn’t know where exactly I would be living, I didn’t know where my horse would be living, I didn’t know how they ran their barn. All these things I knew at college. However, I told myself that by doing this I had a plan for this year. That’s something I feared going to college wouldn’t have guaranteed.

This is my silver lining of the entire pandemic. I can’t change what happened and if none of this had ever happened then I wouldn’t be sitting here right now, literally. I would be at school starting my sophomore year. I’d be hanging out with friends and probably worried about my new classes. We would have no idea how normal our lives really were. We would have no idea how lucky we were. But this year isn’t normal.

My silver lining of all the awful things that have happened is that I have the opportunity to be a working student for Doug and Jessica Payne. My silver lining is in just three short weeks my horse and I have already improved more than I ever could have imagined. My silver lining is that because I came here my entire future will be different, both in the irons and out. My silver lining is that while I miss my friends and family and home and school like crazy I never would have known what I’m experiencing right now and I wouldn’t change that for the world.

Photo by Emma Young.

While I have no intention of being a professional I honestly don’t know what I want to do with my life. Ideas of show organizer, marketing department of an equine company, equine journalist, and starting my own company have all been things that have crossed my mind, but I don’t know. This year has given me an extra year to really find that out. It’s given me the opportunity to work with top class riders, grooms, and horses. It’s given me the chance to see so many things up close that I have only ever seen through a screen or from a distance. If you told me only a few months ago some of the things I’ve gotten to do, I’m not sure if I would have believed you.

I am so thankful for the new things I’m learning and people I’m meeting. That’s my silver lining to this dark year we’re living. 2020 may be remembered as a year of pain but my 2020 is going to be the year I truly find my vision and what I want to do. I can’t wait to see all that I learn while I’m here? The best quote I think to describe this year so from Madeline L’Engle: “Maybe you have to know the darkness before you can appreciate the light.” I appreciate the good moments so much more because of the bad. Here’s to 2021 of being a year full of light for everyone!

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