...I said when I was seven.
I pretend to be a fairly laid back person but inside I'm a ball of anxiety. It's been that way forever. Some things get me worked up, or used to, because my dad died when I was four but mostly, it's just because of me. Like whenever I really liked one of my mom's friends I would always ask how old they were. If they were in their 20s or 30s I would relax. It meant they wouldn't die soon. I'm completely serious. I never told anyone that this was why I asked but for a long time I had a morbid fear that everyone was just going to die.
I also felt serious concern about what I was going to be when I grew up. I felt like it was REALLY IMPORTANT to figure this out. It kept me up at night and made my tummy hurt, it made me so nervous. Seriously. So, since I fancied myself a smart person, I wanted to be something important. I wanted to have a real career. But I really liked the way waitresses can carry big trays of food around so I wanted to do that during the day and be a vet at night.
I also considered being an ornithologist for a while but I gave that up after I realized I don't give a crap about birds.
When I was about 10, I started getting worried about what I would later realize was my legacy. I looked at some of the people in my life and thought about how after they were gone, there would be nothing left to show they had ever existed. Sure, their friends would remember them, but some day they would be gone, too. I had to do something that mattered, I decided. Something that would make people remember me. My dad's company is still in existence and my mom is still involved with it. It was shortly after that I found out that you can be a writer. I didn't realize that was a 'thing'. My uncle is a very successful writer and he's the one who clued me in.
I had spent all afternoon writing a story and my mom was cooing over it, like a mommy should, and my uncle happened to be there. She asked if I wanted to be a writer like Uncle Jon and after they cleared up my confusion about that being an actual profession, all of my anxiety was suddenly lifted. That's what I wanted to be when I grew up.
I wrote constantly. My mom even let me have the crappy old computer and printer in my room and I would leave new chapters on my sister's pillow to edit. She was so saintly and gentle in her criticisms. She's still my first consideration when I write. I went to writer's camps in high school over the summer and I wrote a novella for a project in 8th grade and again for my honors college thesis at UVM. One of the professors at my defense was the dean of the honors college, and aside from being an intimidating and incredibly well-spoken individual, she said (I was pregnant with Charlie at the time) that I don't have to just be a mom. I should go to grad school and keep writing and that I have a future in this. Lately, with my growing stack of rejection letters, I try to remember that day and the encouragement those women gave me.
Aside from writing, I've got ponies in my blood. I'm a third generation pony-obsessor. Right about the same time as I was working out what to be when I grew up, I developed a fascination with 'bressage'. I was trying to say Dressage. I announced that I wanted to breed horses and have a huge barn. My mom laughed at me. She wasn't trying to be mean but it seemed silly, probably. We are an Endurance family and our ponies were tough creatures who didn't live in stalls or have blankets or constant treats or a well-groomed arena in which to train.
Well, that's what we have now. I spend hours and hours looking at pedigrees and pictures and videos of stallions I like. I stand and just watch my mares, developing a vision for the foal I'm trying to produce. Sometimes I just stand at the entrance of the barn listening to the sounds and inhaling the scents, and feeling the wave of contentment wash over me.
Something occurred to me recently, which is why I wrote this post. When I was at one of the writer's programs, the person assigned to help me with my project said I was the most prolific and dedicated young writer she had ever met. Aside from being honored by this compliment, I was confused. Doesn't everyone do this? She said she expected me to burn out at any moment but that the chapters kept coming. It was effortless. And lately, when I've been having trouble balancing these obsessions with my marriage, Tim said something to the effect that I'm pretty neurotic about everything I do. He wasn't trying to be mean or anything. He was right.
I thought about that for a while. I am neurotic. With the things I love, I dive in 1000%. He worries that I stretch myself too thin but I just feel good. And so as I'm settling into this life and as the anxieties of my childhood start to fade away, I'm realizing that this is who I am. The anxiety hasn't gone away. I've simply put it to work. I'm about to turn 25 and I'm living my dream. Sometimes (ok, all the time) I feel guilty that my dream has caused Tim to make many sacrifices. I only hope that in the end he thinks it's been worth it. When we look back on our lives, there will be so many stories (even if no one reads them) and generations of horses whose pedigrees have our names on them under Breeder. We've had two incredible children and we're still itching for more.
Tim's a practical person. He hasn't known what he's wanted to do his whole life. He works hard and he has hobbies but no passions, aside from the kids. He's the best dad and a loyal, patient, and faithful husband. If I was married someone like me, we would probably both burn out. He keeps me grounded and holds me back (in a GOOD way) so I don't go too crazy. He keeps my perspective grounded in reality, which is something I very frequently need. I always ask his opinion even about the silliest things. I hope that I, in turn, can help him find something to obsess a little about, aside from the Eagles and video games. I hope I can successfully show him that he's the reason any of this has come about. It sounds like an extended Valentine's Day project.
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