I have thought long and hard about writing a blog like this. How do I write about being criticized without sounding above someone? How do I write about my fear of rejection without sounding bitter? And how do I write about my own personal insecurities without making others feel bad for taking a stand for their own beliefs? I don’t know. But I will try.
This blog started as a way for me to write creatively while I pursued my doctorate in a science field. I never knew that I was a good writer until it took off and other media sources asked to publish it. To see my words in magazines that I have purchased since I was a little girl – like Horse Illustrated and Chronicle of the Horse, has been surreal. To read the supportive comments on websites like The Paulick Report, a news source that I read diligently as a member of the thoroughbred industry, has been so affirming. And yet, underneath all of my posts, there will be at least one rude comment. One naysayer. One Negative Nancy.
Last week I was told that someone thought that my blog was anti-racing, and that it was offensive for me to track down the horses that I assisted in breeding and raising and encourage their retirement. I was told that because I pushed for second careers that I didn’t respect their first. And I broke down. In front of both close friends and my boyfriend. I questioned my integrity, I questioned my path, and mostly, I questioned my writing.
My boyfriend reasoned with me in the most simplistic way. He told me that if I was going to put myself out there, and let others be a part of my life and this world, then I would have to develop thicker skin. He has told me numerous times now that he doesn’t understand how I can expose myself so intensely. I have reasoned with him that as long as it is something that I stand by 100%, as long as I know that I can back it up with science, or citations, or experience, I am willing to stick my neck out. To take the hits. To be the poster child. He responds by telling me that he supports that, but that I then need to stop reading the comments, or responding to the negative. To be stronger and more secure.
But I’m not there yet. I am still insecure and weak. I have moments where I think that I am doing so well with this blog. This thing that has spread farther than I ever thought it would. This platform that I have created unintentionally. I never wanted to be the voice of the off-track thoroughbred, or the insider to the thoroughbred breeding industry. I just wanted to write. To tell my stories. The same way I would over a beer with friends.
There are days where I pause my pointer over the delete button on this blog. Where I don’t understand why I willingly stick my neck out, ready for the guillotine. Why I answer the phone calls of the bitter old men, who only wish to tell me how naive I am. Why I click on the comments telling me that I am wrong.
Cyber bullying is real. And there seems to be some statistical correlation between extreme cyber bullying and horse people. I have now watched it happen to the youth of our industry, as well as the adults. And I see so many telling the teenagers that it will get better, that this is just a phase. But it’s not. The negativity will always be there. The comments will always come. And the more publicly you live, the more exposed you are, whether it be by fame or fortune, promotions or pictures, the more negativity you will encounter.
So how do you counter that? I wish I had an easy fix. I am 30 years old and still feeling insecure in my own place. I still contemplate throwing it all away, and wanting to crawl back into my unknown hole. I yearn for the days when I would show up to a horse show and happily sit in my lawn chair, drink a beer, and stare at my pony in blissful ignorance and peace.
But every time that I pause over that delete button, I stop. Why? Maybe, just maybe, because I am stronger than even I give myself credit for. Because I don’t know of many others who are willing to stick their neck out for the things that they believe so passionately about. And I take a moment to reflect and recognize the small amounts of good I have done. That person who told me that they had believe what Last Chance Corral wrote about nurse mares until they read my blog. Or the person who said that they didn’t know that the thoroughbred farms actually claimed their homebred back. Or even the person who said they signed up as a bone marrow donor because of my blog.
Those three people, to me, offset the woman who thinks I am anti-racing. Or the blogger who says that I am lacking real understanding of what I write. Or the man who hunted down my phone number just to tell me that a national governing body in racing would kill us.
So I guess I’ll keep writing. I’ll try to develop thicker skin. I’ll keep sticking my neck out. And I’ll try to use the negativity to make me a better blogger. If you think I’m anti-racing, I obviously didn’t write clearly or concisely enough. If you think I don’t understand how to retrain an ex-racehorse, I will spell it out more simply. And if you think that I don’t promote the thoroughbreds first career, I will make it more obvious.
But mostly, I will keep on doing what I’m doing. Because I believe in it. I love doing it – the actual writing aspect. And it seems like few else are willing to. I will keep on trucking along, one post at a time. This blog was started for the most simplistic reason – a love of writing. And it carried on into something much bigger than I could have ever dreamed. If at the core it remains the original goal of allowing me to utilize the passion of pen, that will be enough. If in addition to that it brings awareness to two platforms that I would take a bullet for – horse racing and cancer, then it was worth the insecurity.
I will continue to write. I will also continue to thank the thousands of you who read this blog, day in and day out, and support me with encouragement and kind comments. The ones who share it and support it, getting the message spread even farther.
It means more than you know.