The Space Between Dreams

Dreams are funny things.  You can dedicate everything to one, make your entire life revolve around it, and then in the blink of an eye it can disappear and everything you’ve done was for nothing.  It leaves you with nothing but this heart-stopping, soul-crushing disappointment that is seemingly impossible to recover from.  How do you recover from something like that?  You pick yourself up and move on with life, because you have no choice.  One foot in front of the other, you learn how to survive, even if it is in a different way than you are used to.  It is true that nothing will ever be exactly the same again, you may never find that same passion again, but maybe you will come close.  Other things take the place of that love you once had, and you begin to love something again.  You get new dreams.  Slowly, you begin to live again.

Then something happens.  You get another chance at your dream.  You can try again.  The thing is, this has happened before.  You have tried again, and again, and again, all to the same disappointing end.  You have been ‘trying again’ your whole life.  Now you have just begun to build your life again, this time with a safer dream.  You are afraid of letting go of this new dream in case this old one dies…again.

Yet this old dream…this old passion…you know in your heart that it is not really dead.  It is like a lover who broke your heart long ago, yet you never stopped loving; not really.  It has been a part of you for too long.  It has shaped you, built you, made you who you are.  It is as much a part of you as your heart is.  You do not know how to exist without it.  This life you have re-built, this half-life, are on the ashes of this old dream, so unstable.

So the question is, what do you do?  How do you try again, after so much heartbreak?  How do you trust that things will be okay, after you have seen how badly it can go?  How do you go back to believing in a dream that you have long since given up on?

Should you?

♦ ♦ ♦

I guess I should let you all know what I am rambling on about so melodramatically.  As anyone who has ever known me, met me, or even heard about me in passing from a friend knows, I have loved horses my entire life.  I was born into a horse family, so it is in my blood.  Sometimes I feel like that is more than a figurative saying, that there really is some sort of ‘horse gene’ or at least a strong genetic instinct that pulls me towards horses like a magnet.  Suffice to say, I developed a passion for riding, and some very big dreams, early on in my life.  Since then, nearly everything I have done has been dedicated to moving myself closer to those dreams.

Unfortunately, life (and horses) had other plans.  The thing about choosing horses as your passion is that it is a terrible idea.  I mean absolutely terrible.  I mean, I would probably recommend a passion as a target girl for a knife thrower over a passion for horses, it would be less painful.  (Probably physically safer, too.)  Not only do horses take all of your time and money, and then some, but they break easily.  Or they decide to be stubborn and difficult, which makes the process all the more frustrating.  Then they usually break anyway, probably right after you’ve finally made a little bit of progress.  This has all happened to me, multiple times over.  I know I’m not alone in my struggles, not by a longshot, and everyone has their reasons for giving up on horses.  Over the years I have seen friends and co-workers, all just as dedicated (or more so) to horses as I was, drop out of the sport like flies.  It is never because they can’t find another horse; it is always due to heartbreak.  Even so, every time it happens you still feel alone.  I am no exception.  Here is my most recent reason for (almost) giving up:

After struggling to keep horses in my life for years, and finally making some strides towards building a career with them (i.e. working with them almost every waking hour for a year and a half of my life) I decided to buy a young project horse to train and sell.  I spent all of my money on a young horse – the first one I had bought myself, that was truly mine.  Guess what happened?  You’re right!  She went lame.  Permanently.  I tried for a year and a half to treat her, rehabbed her a number of times (a very frustrating process that takes months) only to have her still be broken at the end of it all.  I was finally lucky enough to find her a home for her as a breeding mare, and though I still lost all of my money on her, I know it could have ended a lot worse if I hadn’t been able to find her a home and was stuck with paying her bills for the next ten-to-twenty years.  Even so, although I thought I had prepared for the worst (something like this) nothing could have cushioned the blow.

Since then, I have ridden some horses when I could, but always other people’s horses, situations I didn’t have to invest myself completely in…though they didn’t usually end well either and I ended up getting screwed over, which is still pretty heartbreaking.  I have gotten very frustrated, and little by little I have found myself giving up the fight to keep horses in my life, since it constantly proves pointless, and not worth the work without any reward.  Instead, I have invested my time and energy into martial arts.  Clung to it, really, as my only saving grace while the rest of my world fell apart (horses, job, school, living situation, friends leaving, etc.).  So now I’m pretty invested in it, I spend the majority of my time working on it, and have plans and goals…and I might even go so far as to call them dreams.

Now, I am in a bit of a conundrum.  I was approached about a horse that seems perfect to help me reach some of my goals.  A little while ago, I would have snatched her up in a heartbeat.  Now, I realize that I am scared.  Terrified, really, about what it would mean.  I know that if I buy a horse it will take most of my time and energy, and my martial arts will suffer.  Once I get a job (in this mystical future where I am actually a functional person) it will be even worse, and I am worried that everything I have put into martial arts in the last two years will go to waste.  I am worried that I will lose that new dream for an old one that may be impossible.

So, I don’t know what to do.  I don’t know if this is even an example of following your head versus your heart, because I do believe it is all my heart, pulling me in two different directions.  I am in love with two different things, and though hearts seem to have an unlimited capacity for love, lives do not.  I think I must make a choice, as to what I love more, and it is not an easy one.  This is not an easy place to be at all, stuck here, in the space between dreams.


An Introduction

How to Fail at Life, With Passion:

It’s pretty easy, actually.  Find something you’re passionate about, and let it take over your life.  Better yet, find two things.  The more the better, actually.  See, the more things you love, the more time you will spend on them rather than things you should[1] be doing…like work or school.  However, in my opinion you only really fail at life if you have no passions, take no risks and infallibly follow your brain before your heart.  That’s what I like to tell myself, at least.  You probably shouldn’t listen to me.

The point of this blog is mostly (hopefully) to convey the idea that there is no such thing as actually “failing at life.”  Even if you feel like you are, which I think quite a lot of people like myself (young, recently out of school, trying to figure out life but really just having a constant crisis) feel about themselves.  I think it’s easy to feel like a failure when you’re just starting out, in a society that tells you there’s one single way to be a success, and you’re nowhere near there yet; that in fact, you may never get there, especially if you don’t follow these specific steps that you’re probably not following.  It’s really easy to feel that way if you choose a non-traditional life path – i.e. chasing after a passion.  It’s easy to look at “everyone else,” meaning your more “successful” friends who seem to have their lives together, and think that you should be more like them: doing something different, something more, something better.  Obviously yes, our goal is to not end up homeless and hungry – but hey, even if you are, if you’re still alive you haven’t failed yet.  I really believe that there is a place for everyone in this world, even if it takes some people a longer time or a different route to find theirs.  (Just look at what J.K. Rowling says about failure)

Most of the time, I think people only share the good parts of their life with others.  How many Facebook posts do you see about your friends getting married or having kids, or getting a new job or car, or moving to an exciting new city?  Well they didn’t tell you about that last fight they had with their husband, did they?  Or how their kid threw up on their new couch, or that they were fired from their last job, wrecked their last car, or had to move because they couldn’t afford rent?  Of course not, people are much more reluctant to share those things.  They might be judged harshly, ridiculed by their peers, seem like they don’t measure up.  This makes it easy for anyone with struggles to feel like they’re the only ones having such a hard time.

They’re not.  We’re all in the same boat (most of us, anyway) and we should support each other.  I will do my best to be completely honest here.  You can judge me if you want, but I promise I won’t judge you.  There’s enough of that out there for my taste.  We’re human.  We’re allowed to be imperfect.  We’re allowed to make mistakes and bad decisions.  That’s what being young is for.  Heck, that’s what life is for; there’s no age limit on failure.  (But that means there’s no age limit on success either, right?)  So, for everyone who feels like their life is a mess, I want to share my messy life with you, too.  I don’t know if it will help, but maybe you’ll at least see that you’re not alone.

♦ ♦ ♦

A bit about myself – I’m obviously quite a success.  I’m twenty-six, jobless, and just moved back into my parents’ basement.  Oh, and I spend money like a rockstar.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t spend on material things like clothes or cars that much, I really couldn’t care less about that stuff.  I’m a simple country girl in that regard, and hardly ever dress better than old boots and jeans.  Instead, I spend money on my passions.  My sports, mostly – horseback riding and martial arts.  Of the two, the horses are the biggest spenders; and of course they’re also my biggest passion.  In fact, I’ve been pretty set on making them my career, even though they are not really a viable career path, since they often like to cost more money than they make.[2]  Still, I have found myself (and for some reason continue) traipsing down that non-path, hell-bent on the idea that I can bushwhack my way through, fueled by passion alone, to somewhere financially sustainable.  I know, young people and their crazy ideas, right?

After I graduated college (a year and a half late, by the way), I was pretty happy that I had a job right away.  Of course, it didn’t pay me any money.  I got to be a working student for my trainer, which was the coolest job I could have asked for.  (For the non-horsey folk out there, working students are common in the horse world; though usually they are just out of high school or on summer break from college, not twenty-four-year-old graduates, but that’s beside the point.)  Working students help take care of the barn and horses in exchange for their own horse’s board and lessons.  If you think it sounds crazy, I’ll explain it to you the same way I told my non-horsey friends who thought the same thing: it’s like an internship, the idea is that you learn about taking care of horses and running a barn, and get experience for future jobs.  And yes, it’s crazy.  A lot of people don’t last; they think it sounds fun, until they start doing the work, and decide it’s too much.  They’re right, it’s too much work for too little pay, but for those of us who are really passionate about horses, it’s worth it.  I even considered it fun.  In fact, the almost-year-and-a-half I was there was one of the best parts of my life.  I had a blast and learned so much about horses and riding I could hardly believe it; I was getting to live my dream.  However, at the end, I found that I didn’t really feel that I was any further along in the rest of life than I had been when I started, and I began to question what all those skills I gained from that experience had gotten me, in the long run.  As I said before, horses are not really a viable career path, no matter how much I pretend that they are.

Anyway, the point of this post is not for me to rattle on about horses (trust me, I’ll probably do that enough anyway), the point is to explain what has gotten me to this spot in my life.  It has been a little over a year since I was a working student.  Since then, I have gone back to school to get licensed as a veterinary technician, worked briefly for four months at a small-animal clinic, hated it, and quit.  I’m still in school, with the hope that the knowledge will help me in my imagined future career with horses, and that being in school means I can at least pretend I’m doing something others might consider productive.  I am often quite hard on myself.  I said before how I felt like being a working student hadn’t gotten me anything.  Well, that is just not true.  That is the rest of society talking, telling me that anything you do that doesn’t fit into their nice little squares is a waste of time.

I told you I am writing this blog for you, for anyone who is having a hard time figuring out life.  That isn’t completely honest, and I said I would try to be completely honest here.  So, here is the whole truth: I am writing this for me, too.  I need this reminder as much as anyone, and seeing it written down somehow makes it feel more true than when I tell it to myself in my own head.  The only time I have ever wasted was in doing things I didn’t care about, trying to meet other people’s expectations.  The skills I got from the experiences I have had so far have gone well beyond the obvious, and I learned a lot more than just some stuff about horses and animals, more than I have room to go into now.  I gained things I would not have gained had I followed the more acceptable path out of college of getting a 9-5 job in the city.  I need to remind myself of this every time I start to panic that I have messed up so far, or that I am not where I should be in life, or that I don’t know exactly where I’m going.  I’m sure others in a similar situation can relate, it’s hard to keep faith that everything will be okay, when life right now seems so shaky.  So, for what it’s worth, here is my life advice, terrible as it may be: true success is what you make it, not what others tell you it is.  Think about what you want out of life.  Then go for it.  I know this phase of life is scary.  One step at a time.  You got this.


[1] One of my favorite quotes in the world was something a dear friend of mine said to me: “don’t should all over yourself.”  Wise words.

[2] A common saying in the horse world is: if you want to make a million dollars with horses, start with two million.