Until My Comeback: Lessons In Horsemen, Hardships And Hope

Sep 5, 2018 - 10:27 PM

Five years ago, I went from freelancing the occasional story for The Chronicle of the Horse to being offered a full-time position. It was nothing I ever anticipated. My background is in the art world, and I ran a gallery and was an adjunct professor of art history prior to becoming a stay-at-home mom to our three sons.

Although I always loved writing, making a career shift in my mid-40s into the equestrian magazine world—a world I semi-understood (OK, knew nothing about)—seemed a bit absurd. I rode for pleasure, nothing like my soon-to-be colleagues with their impressive riding resumes and backgrounds in journalism.

I worried, when I accepted the position, how I would juggle work and being a mom in addition to my ignorance on all disciplines.

I mean ALL.

I honestly had never been to a grand prix, did not know to call dogs “hounds” while foxhunting, had to google “steeplechasing” and had no idea what a hunter derby was, but with the guidance of great editors and a lot of pre-interview research on my part, it worked out.

Actually, it worked out better than I could have imagined. Sometimes I think my stupidity was a plus rather than a handicap. It was genuine, my uneducated questions, and perhaps those I interviewed took pity on me. The answers to some of the most basic (and I assume, unexpectedly simple) questions evolved into paragraphs as they explained things to me. And the more they explained things, the more they revealed about themselves.

The people I was assigned to interview, some legends in various sports, others artists or writers or doctors or humanitarians who either also rode for pleasure or incorporated the animal we all love in their work, fueled and inspired me. As did the incredibly hardworking colleagues who I’m now proud to call friends.

But I am burying the lede.

I am leaving the Chronicle due to a personal family issue.

On July 2, Matt, my husband of 18 years and father to our three sons, ages 12, 13, and 17, took his life.

JenCalderIt has knocked me—us—completely off our axis. He didn’t suffer from chronic depression. He had lost his job nearly a year ago following years of professional ups and downs, and we had a lot of debt. More than he shared with me.

I later learned, from the letters he left, he believed this was his only remaining option to “save” us from financial ruin.

Perhaps I’m being too candid and should have left it with a simple “my husband unexpectedly passed away,” but if I’ve learned anything the past five years, it’s that being honest is always the right option. Sometimes it’s the scariest, because you’re laying yourself bare, but I feel it only fair to share my personal story as so many people I profiled shared equally difficult moments with me, and hence, allowed me to share them with you.

For now, I must focus on our three sons and try to navigate them through this horrific and terrible time. My husband, Matt, was an incredibly involved and committed father, coaching all three of their hockey teams and reveling in spending as much time with them as possible. At the moment, I cannot see a way to fill the void he has left and balance it with the amount of energy I give my stories in the Chronicle.

And I already miss my job.

It was more than a job—in hindsight, those I’ve written about actually have provided me with a road map on how to navigate this challenging time, whether they know it or not.

Our hardships may differ, but those who reached the pinnacle of their various disciplines faced obstacles and adversity and yet prevailed. They demonstrated resilience and perseverance. I hope I am as successful with what lies before me, guiding my boys from the remarkable young men they are into healthy, happy adults.

Thank you, The Chronicle of the Horse, for taking a chance on an unproven writer and sending me all over the country to meet and share the stories of fascinating, accomplished, driven people. I have loved every single adventure and have made more memories and friends than seems fair.

Thank you to my subjects, who allowed me into their homes and lives over the years, who shared private and tender memories, many of those encounters evolving into true friendships. You allowed me to write stories that resonated with our readers.

Thank you to my colleagues who started as strangers and became friends. Your collective work ethic and the product you consistently produce is nothing short of remarkable, and I have learned so much from you.

It has been a privilege to work for the Chronicle and a great source of pride for me.

I hope to be back as a freelancer. If I have learned anything from this crazy equestrian world it is never to underestimate a comeback.

But for now, my boys need me.

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