I’m sure you’ll read several reflective pieces over the next few days on how everyone has grown and changed, for better or worse, over the last 365 days.
As a writer, reflection is the key to the production of new work. So take a knee with me for a moment.
For me, this year has been one of immense changes, but almost all were positive. Every year was not always this way for me. I’m not saying I haven’t had some real crap things happen, but my ability to absorb these negatives and keep putting one foot in front of the other is the first real sign that I’m growing up. That, and I finally paid my 2012 taxes…
I reflect back to the year 2005, when I was a senior in college at Towson (Md.). I had put riding on hold, and I was knee-deep in a thesis for my Law and American Civilization major about the constitutionality of the Westboro Baptist Church. (What a bunch of psychos. Actually, “What a bunch of psychos” was pretty much my thesis, and that’s probably why I got a C+ rather than the A I was capable of. But they are real cray, for the record.)
I was barely 21 years old, and my capacity for analytical thought and reflection hadn’t matured. Tuesdays consisted of a total of three hours of classes, followed by exploration of the phrase “Tuesday Boozeday.”
I had no idea where I was going in life; all I knew was that I was never going to the Westboro Baptist Church. My academic career was on a path toward law school, but I also wasn’t sure I was ready for that. I needed more real-life experience.
The total volume of what I call my “Life Box” was small. Some people call this their World View. I knew I wanted a bigger box.
I think I’m both blessed and cursed with a deep-rooted curiosity and need for more, and because of this, I feel sad for people who are content. This doesn’t mean I’m saying they need to feel bad themselves, but it’s an uncontrollable reaction I always experience in response to people in their daily grind. Some people are just so damn content! How does that happen? Like those people who know exactly what they want from Day 1. For the record, I hate you.
After college I booked a one-way ticket to the U.K. The next eight months ended up being an adventure I will never forget. While I was there, I began working for retired top British Eventer Helen Bell. If you’ve never have the opportunity to go ride and event in England, I can tell you the CliffsNotes version of what I learned there: “Just bloody get on with it.”
Beyond just riding, I was exposed to a very different culture in general. Not the London culture that might come to mind first, but the Yorkshire culture. Not only did I make one of my best friends there, I shot my first gun, ate my first grouse and slept on my first pub lobby couch. I also dated a gamekeeper who I’m pretty sure lied about his age. This became apparent after our public domestic dispute one night in the very, very quiet village of Thirsk.
I’m not sure if it was that particular night, or on Halloween, when I went dressed up as creepy Santa (see Exhibit A), that I earned the title “The American.” Or it may have been my incessant need to teach every reserved Yorkshireman the meaning of the term “ballin.” They loved me there.
Fast forward through some awesome adventures and experiences around Europe and the expiration of my visa to me landing back in Maryland without a job, not to mention extremely depressed and longing for Black Sheep Ale and Yorkshire life.
But my Life Box was a little bigger. My opinions were evolving. I thought I was growing up.
In fact, I had always thought I was really grown up. As a little kid, my mom used to tell me, “Megan Rose, stop trying to grow up so fast. You’ll have plenty of time for ‘X thing’ in a few years.” Of course, this silently trips the “must grow up and be super mature” alarm in your brain, so I was pretty much 7 going on 35 (a 35-year-old corporate lawyer, divorced, with three dogs and a lot of equity, to be exact).
With that new year, I found a new job in Washington, D.C., at a well-known PR and marketing firm. It was the beginning of one of the most exciting political cycles this country has ever seen.
Aside from horses, my next passion is politics. Whether you’re Republican, Democrat or the non-voting horse hippies that I know so well, I think you can appreciate why working with the 2008 Obama campaign and all the subsequent congressional and senatorial races was the most amazing year of my life. The Life Box got a whole lot bigger.
But alas, about 18 months later the cycle was long over, and I was again out of a job. I had been accepted into two masters programs overseas and was on my way back to the U.K. when I realized that the only reason I was about to go $100K in debt was so that I could be back in England.
That’s pretty dumb. (I think my dad was pretty proud of my realization… it’s the small victories!)
So now, here I am in New Jersey, nearly five years and counting. When my Life Box was only Towson-sized in 2005, I would have never even been able to draw the map from there to 2009. Probably because I was too drunk, or running from the Westboro Baptist Church. And even in 2009, I would have never been able to draw the map to the end of 2013.
I imagine the people who are content (I try really hard not to use the more derogatory synonym “complacent”) are born with a Life Box that suits them, and they just rearrange the furniture inside throughout as life goes on. To these people, I raise my glass of club soda that I just made off my new Soda Stream.
But for the ones like myself who always need to knock down walls just to see what’s waiting for them on the other side, keep going.
Since college I’ve gone through some pretty crazy extremes. We’re talking Eiffel Tower vs. some creepy cave that I can’t reference in detail because geography and I really don’t mesh extremes. I’ve experienced death, life, failures, successes, and I pretty much singlehandedly won the 2008 presidential election. (You can thank me later.)
My point is, the life you lead is the life you know right now, in this moment. And no matter how good or bad it was yesterday or is today, you can push toward a different path at any time.
Especially remember this when you think you cannot. Never settle down, ever. What a waste of life that would be. There are so many great things about this world and this life, and yes, horses are a giant part of that. But make sure you don’t just accept your life at face value.
They say the only constant is change, so embrace that. Reflect on how you’ve changed in the last five years. It helps when it’s time to look onto the next five. If you were to ask me now, at age 28, if I could tell you where I’ll be in five years, I will most certainly say, “I have no idea.” To some, that answer makes them raise an eyebrow. But for me, it just elicits a smile.
Happy New Year, everyone, and remember that the bigger your Life Box gets, the more horses you can fit!
What Meg Kep is eating: The Breakfast of Kings! Try ½ cup of steel-cut oats in the morning with a handful of blueberries, 2 eggs and ½ cup of fat-free Fage yogurt.
What Meg Kep is listening to: “Black Skinhead” by Kanye (You don’t have to like him to like this hot jam!)
What Meg Kep wants you to buy: The Misto Olive Oil Sprayer. Changed my life. GET ONE! 10 bucks, pretty much everywhere.
What Meg Kep is doing in the gym: Start doing Captain’s Chair leg lifts, 4 sets of 25, every other day. Summer is around the corner! Well, sort of…
“Meg Kep” as she’s best known in the U.S. eventing community, resides in Chester, N.J., and works as head groom and manager at Sinead Halpin Equestrian. Meg, 28, is also committed to sustainable avenues promoting good horsemanship and the sport of eventing, and her recent dedication to fitness has inspired her to share her story and help others toward “the path of awesomeness” at MyBodyTutor.com.