A few weeks ago, I broke down in front of my PhD advisor. I felt lost. Trapped. Confused and unsure of where to go.
And we spoke for hours. About what had brought me to this place, and which direction to take towards the future. Mats had moved past the place of boss and had become something of a father figure to me. At times employer, at times a kick in the ass, but also now friend.
And he ended the conversation not by demanding I do a specific something, or by asking me where I saw myself in the future. He didn’t ask me what title or what career I wanted. Instead, he simply asked me what my goal was.
It wasn’t whether or not I wanted to teach. He didn’t demand I stay in research, or that I should strive for the highest tier journal to publish. He just wanted to know what I wanted. Not on paper, not in salary, but in life.
And I told him that I didn’t get this doctorate to earn millions. I didn’t need to publish in Science or Nature. And I didn’t need to be sitting in an endowed chair in 20 years.
I just wanted now what I wanted six years ago when I started school. Ten years ago when I moved to Lexington, Ky. Thirty years ago when I swung on my first pony.
I wanted to have a positive impact on horses.
And as the year of 2018 ends and 2019 begins, I’ve begun to think about this more and more. 2018 was a year of ups and downs. I have not felt more lost since my last vet school application was rejected. I have not felt more confused since I graduated college.
For 6 years now, I have had an end goal. And alongside that end goal, I had personal goals.
I wanted to earn those letters behind my name. I wanted to publish my findings. I wanted to prove to the world that you didn’t need DVM behind your name to help the industry in its entirety.
I also wanted to ride. I wanted to retrain horses that had finished their first career for their next. I wanted to move up the levels and tackle the goals I hadn’t checked off in my teenage years.
I never knew I wanted to write. But once this blog took off, it travelled along an uncontrollable path that even I couldn’t guide. It has allowed me to speak on panels, attend conferences as a journalist, get published in magazines I had read since childhood, and brought me into the barns, homes, and cars with all of you.
But in between all of these things is a proud, sensitive, educated, and confused woman. I got those letters. I moved up that level. I wrote those articles.
But I don’t know where to bring those things together. What is my identity? Where are those silver linings? Who am I? All 2018 has shown me is that I do not know.
Am I an equestrian? A scientist? A blogger? A writer? A reseller? An activist?
I have applied for jobs that utilize my degree only to find out they will eliminate my time in the saddle and my ability to speak my mind. I have found so much joy and pride in my posts that utilize my knowledge of science only to be told by academics to quiet my voice. And at the end of the day, I have thought long and hard about burning my degree and going into horse sales full time. Because if ignorance is bliss, than a doctorate is hell on the mind.
I was trail riding with some of my girlfriends the other day when this topic was brought up. How do you summarize a year? A life?
In ribbons? Publications? Monumental life moments?
Because to the outside world, it would look like I had it all this year. If you polled anyone who follows me, they would smile and say that I got engaged. Sold a bunch of really nice horses. Jumped big fences on Mak. Finally evented Nixon. Got to travel to 4 different countries on 3 continents, all to speak of equine science.
But the outside world doesn’t see the lows. We speak or write of our triumphs without explaining the set backs. The falls. The refusals. The reprimands. And the feeling of failure. Over, and over, and over. My social media doesn’t see the meltdowns at the trailer after another bad trip on XC. My blog doesn’t get to witness my vent sessions to my PhD advisor. And no one sees the long talks in the car with Luke.
I don’t know what the answer is. I know that many near and dear to me have had their own trials and tribulations in 2018, and I just hope that they all know that they are not alone. Loved ones were lost, relationships ended, diagnosis given, and goals set back.
It was a year of hardship. A year of confusion.
There were highs. I can still taste the fish and chips on Raglan Beach in New Zealand. My fiancé’s eyes when he saw the Pacific Ocean off of those cliffs. And knowing that my adventure into science and academia got us to that moment. I’m so lucky to have experienced moments like this.
But there were lows. Lows that nearly kicked my ankles out from under me, and yet still I kicked on. Did that next trot set. Galloped that next table. Wrote that discussion and faced those naysayers.
My 2018 can only be described as confused. It was one of ups and downs. Mountains and plateaus. But at the end of the day, I made it. You made it. We all got through it.
So as this year ends and the next begins, I don’t feel able to set any big resolutions. I learned from 2018 that what I can write on paper and you all can visualize alongside me aren’t what makes me happy.
I don’t want a big salary, or a blue ribbon. I don’t want a huge wedding, or the launch of a business.
I just want to do what I set out to do all those years ago. What I told Mats I wanted to do.
I want to have an impact on the industry that I love. Whether that is by teaching students how to induce ovulation, finding biomarkers for ascending placentitis, selling a 4yo off the track Thoroughbred to a 4* rider, or blogging of my stories in the breeding industry, I am not sure.
I hope it is all of the above, and I hope it brings me happiness. I hope your 2019 is full of happiness too.