I strongly believe everyone should have a passion they can completely pour themselves into that’s separate from work and parenting and everyday life. Doesn’t have to be fancy. Could be running or playing clarinet or nude crazy quilting. Just something that’s all your own. Something that brings you joy and keeps you sane, when everything else seems crazy-nutso. And, this is important; you shouldn’t feel one tiny bit guilty about it.
I think it’s hard for most of us to justify doing something simply for ourselves. Work and kids and spouses and friends and gutter cleaning always seem to come first. But being selfish, in small doses, is vital. Because it helps you get your “you” back. It allows you to win tiny victories. It gives the big, heavy things in life less power, because while still important, they aren’t your everything.
My passion is horses. It began with an unrequited love at age 4, but then kicked into hyper drive when I got a pony for my 10th birthday. Now, so you don’t hate me, you should also know I had open-heart surgery shortly after my 9th birthday to correct a heart murmur I was born with. So it kinda makes sense on the karmic pendulum.
I also fell off a lot at first. In the mud. If that helps.
For me, my horse hobby is not just a passing fancy, but a definitive part of my life. It taught me responsibility and dedication and empathy and teamwork from a very young age. Because you cannot convince a 1000 plus pound animal to do what you want if he’s not on your side. So while other teenagers were learning how to French kiss and fake their IDs, I was spending hours in the saddle, conditioning my horse’s tail with Infusium 23 and learning how to clean a sheath. (Google that if you want. I once cleared a room of male co-workers explaining it. Super proud moment.)
But while I love horses in general, (Morgan horses and dressage, specifically) as an inherently competitive person I love showing horses even more. I love it so much that the actual event of a horse show is like air and food and water to me. In fact, I need very little else to exist the entire day/weekend/week I am doing it.
I can easily get up at the crack of the crack, have a donut and coffee on the way to the show, and then go all day on just the anticipation of competing and a room-temperature Fresca.
This single-minded focus makes me passionate! And driven! And a really horrible horse show parent. The worst. Because children, being small and motivated by annoying things like low blood sugar and the need for love and attention, can really cramp my style.
Son: “Mama, I’m hungry!”
Me: (To Dave, sighing like I’m an impatient teenager.) “Why are they being so needy?”
Dave: “I dunno. Maybe ‘cause it’s 3:15 and we haven’t had lunch yet?”
Me: “Oh. Well, there’s yogurt pretzels and a Costco bag of horse carrots in the cooler...”
Dave: “If I don’t eat real food soon I will chew my own hand off.”
Me: (More pubescent eye-rolling.) “Fine. But I need to be back in 25 minutes so I can (insert time-sensitive horse related activity here) before I show tonight.”
Now, the realization that I was doing neither showing or parenting well when both kids were small forced me to take a break for a couple years. Instead of bringing me joy, my passion was causing me stress. And that’s just dumb. Cause showing horses is expensive and I can get stress for free from work or by hearing the words “Mama, my leg is stuck.”
So during my hiatus from showing, I have had a chance to reflect on how important my horse hobby is to me. How my accomplishments on horseback, both in the competitive arena and out, have led to successes in the rest of my life. I have a deep well of incredibly proud moments to draw from when I’m feeling less than kick-ass. I have an amazing network of “horsey” friends from around the country. And my kids have grown up surrounded by this village of people who watched me win, lose, fall off, get back on, mature, succeed and have a family of my own. It’s pretty special.
I’m thrilled to say that my daughter now loves riding and competing as much as I do. My husband is as patient and supportive as ever. And both kids are old enough to carry their own snacks.
So this year I plan to be back out there, pouring myself into my hobby with selfish gusto. Getting up before dawn, feeling the butterflies, giddy with potential.
It’s a feeling everyone deserves. So if you don’t have a hobby, get selfish and find one. If you’ve got a passion that’s been on hold, reignite it. Give yourself permission to do something just for the joy of it. (And give yourself permission to take a break if joy is not what you’re finding.) You’ll have more to offer the world when you do.
Here’s to hobbies. I’m raising a room-temperature Fresca to them right now.