I’m envious of Ravi’s ability to sleep.
Partially that’s because I’m a lifelong non-sleeper. I come from a long line of neurotic people who’ve carpe diem’d their way through life. I can fall asleep anywhere, but staying asleep is a challenge, and even on my most raucous of youthful nights it was a rare thing for me to be able to make it past 7. These days, I get excited when I sleep to my alarm at 5:10.
I’m writing this at 8:30 on a Sunday morning. I awoke at 4:30, read for a bit, went to the barn for our usual 6 a.m. start (having brought my staff Starbucks), helped with chores, organized some things, and now I’m home, because Ravi, my boyfriend, has a fantastic weekend planned for us to celebrate my upcoming birthday. I’ve already been to work and come home. And he’s still asleep.
There’s no judgment in this: I’m delighted that at least one of us is a normal human, because I think if we were both annoying morning people we’d probably kill each other. I just sit back in awe of it. I wonder what it would be like? Because the other part of my envy of his ability to sleep is my occasional wondering what could have been, had my path taken me somewhere else, had I chosen another road.
My “weekend” is normally Monday, like most horse people, restaurant owners and chefs. The grocery store is pretty quiet on Mondays. So is the gym and the park around which I like to run. Ravi is a Muggle, someone with a non-horsey job (engineer), and as such keeps normal hours. He works five days a week and then has fun and does his hobbies and sees his friends on weekends, like so many do. He has been wildly gracious in learning to accommodate my nutsy lifestyle, not only in terms of how many muddy pairs of shoes I can own at one time, but also the early mornings, late nights and disappearing acts on weekends, as so many of mine are spent teaching clinics or attending shows.
But as I sit here, listening to him snore blissfully away, third cup of coffee in my hand, and thinking about the trials and travails of the last 18 months, I wonder what I would have done differently, if I’d done it differently.
I have a bachelor’s degree from Sarah Lawrence College, where I studied public policy and urban planning. I came into college thinking I wanted to be a journalist, and I left it thinking that I’d try the horse thing for a year and, if I didn’t like being a pro, I’d get my teaching certificate and be a high school teacher in the English or social science fields. I love teaching — unlike a lot of horse pros, I like teaching as much as I like riding, instead of considering it the burden I took on so I could also ride. And I like older kids, for reasons surpassing understanding, because they’re obnoxious, but I also like 7-year-old horses, which are sort of the same thing. Plus teachers get their summers off, so I figured I could still show and do my thing.
But on the worst days of the last 18 months, and of the 10 years before that, there is not one day that I regret this path, not one day that I think that I would, truly, rather be a Muggle. Would it be easier? Probably. Would I do it, even with the hours and the bills and the actual life and death? Nope.
Like a lot of trainers I know, and like a lot of Muggles out there whose lines of work require them to have a lot of employees in their early 20s, I’ve had my fair share of the oft-discussed Millennial attitude, the kids who don’t understand why the job isn’t just petting ponies all day; the kids who don’t understand why, after two days of work, I haven’t handed them the keys to a Grand Prix horse; the kids who quit with no warning after four days because they “don’t feel like a treasured member of the team” (this really happened). But I’ve also had a lot of awesome, diligent, hard working 20-somethings who do their time and then decide to go down a different path. And I bear those kids no ill will. I raise this coffee mug to them, because unless you love every second of this wild and wacky world in which we live — the shavings in your hair, the bruises from lord-knows-what, the tractors stuck in the mud, the hours on a zero-turn mower or with a broom or pitchfork in hand — it will eat you up and spit you out and suck the joy right out of you.
The night we put Fender down a few weeks ago, two of my longtime employees, Lauren and Skye, were at the barn before I got there. It was a horrible hour, keeping Fender up while we waited for the vet, and then the terrible sadness of letting him go. It was dark; it was sad, and every step along the way I told them they didn’t have to stay; they didn’t have to watch; they didn’t have to be there. They wouldn’t leave. And even after I’d gone home for the night, when our vet had to go back and do a necropsy in the dark for our insurance company (oy), those girls stayed with him.
And that’s remarkable in and of itself, eclipsed only by how they came in to work the next day, ready to go.
They couldn’t stand being a Muggle either. And I’m so glad they’re on my team.
So I listen to Ravi sleep, and I drink my coffee, and I will enjoy this rare day off from the bustle of my normal horsey life, because I know better than to not take the occasional day off to smell the roses and be a normal person. (Plus Ravi got us HAMILTON TICKETS because he’s amazing, and I’m going to turn 34 every year because this is great!) But I’ll come back to work on Tuesday morning, having enjoyed a little bit of the Road Not Taken, but not regretting one piece of my choice to follow this street instead.