Previous month:
August 2012
Next month:
October 2012

back in the saddle : doing what you used to love again



“Today was the best day of my life! (I think.) I got up at 8:30 to go to my show (horses) at the new stable. Guess what? I won 1st place. It's my very first ribbon and it's gorgeous."

An excerpt from my journal (June 4, 1995)


When I was about nine or ten years old, I fell in love with horses. Head over heels in love. I thought (and wrote) about them constantly, and I couldn't wait until the day I could own my very own horse. As you can see from the journal excerpt above, a good day in a ring could seem like the best day of my life (though you have to love the "I think" part ... always hedging my bets!). I was one of those little girls in love with horses -- decorating my room with horse-related items, tracking dirt into the house with my riding boots, reading The Saddle Club and Thoroughbred books endlessly, and even latching my small dog to a lead line and encouraging her to jump over sticks in the backyard. For a few years, I was obsessed with horses.

And then, at the age fourteen, I found myself in high school. Things like boys and parties and making new friends started to seem a lot more interesting than spending hours jumping a horse in a ring. As much as I loved horses, I was drawn away from them by the trappings of teenage life. Short skirts and makeup and wild nights began dominating over jodhpurs and riding boots and dusty rings. And so, after about four years of riding, I stopped frequenting the stable. 

Though I'd left the act of riding behind with my childhood, my love of horses has always remained strong. Over the past fifteen years (!!!) since I last rode a horse, I've thought about them often, wondering what my life would have been like had I chosen ponies over parties. I know I can't go back -- but that doesn't mean I can't get back in the saddle. For years I've thought, "I'd love to go horseback riding again..." but I never took any action. This year, when I made my 29 Things to Do Before 30 list, I decided that I was going to make it happen. I was going to get back in the saddle. 

And yesterday I did! My friend Juliana took me to ride her mom's horse, and it was so exciting to be back up there in the saddle, holding the reins again. Though I did little more than walk (slowly) around an empty ring, I was thrilled to be back on horseback. (I didn't quite have the guts to kick it up a notch to a trot, which I was okay with.) Getting back in the saddle made me realize the many positive benefits of revisiting old hobbies and interests. I'm usually not a fan of going back to the past -- "Stay in the present!" I always say! -- but yesterday's horseback riding adventure made me see that sometimes going back to the past is actually a very positive thing...


5 Benefits of Doing What You Used to Love Again

1. It reconnects you with (the old) you. Simply walking into the barn -- smelling all those old familiar smells and hearing those old familiar sounds -- brought me right back to some of the best days of my childhood. I used to love being at the barn, tucked in the stall with one of my favorite horses, and going back into a barn reconnected me to those old feelings of comfort that I had felt as a child when I spent time with horses. Whatever you used to love to do, you loved it for a reason. When you go back to it again, you'll be reconnected with parts of yourself you might have forgotten about. 


2. It feels excitingly brand new... Even though I had spent years in barns and in riding rings, going back to a stable felt like a brand new experience for me yesterday. Of course, the memories came rushing back, but I also felt as if I were experiencing my former love of riding for the first time. I was nervous and uncertain around the horses -- something I hadn't been since back when I'd first started riding -- and so a lot of what I was doing (even though I remembered how to do a lot of it), felt brand new. Just like anything, if you don't do something for a long time, it will seem new again the next time you do it, which makes it exciting.


3. ... and yet it feels oddly familiar. Even though it felt like I was doing it all again for the first time, I also had some idea of what I was doing. The brushes and the bridle looked familiar. I remembered how to pick a hoof and how to curry the dirt in circular motions. So much of it came back to me and, even though it was a new place and a new horse and it had been years since I'd done any of these things, it was all oddly familiar. I think this is what I loved best about getting back in the saddle -- the feeling of familiarity blended with the excitement of something new. Going back to an old hobby provides an odd but awesome mix of familiarity and freshness. 


4. It helps you conquer fears. One of the reasons I hadn't been on a horse for so many years was fear. I missed horses and longed to ride one again, but my inner voice kept asking, "What if you don't remember how to ride? What if you get thrown off? What if you hate it?" And so I let that fear hold me back from getting back in the saddle for years. Yesterday I was definitely nervous, but it felt great to get back on the horse. I didn't get thrown off. I didn't forget how to ride. And I definitely didn't hate it. Trying something again for what feels like the first time might seem scary, but conquering that fear is an amazing feeling. 


5. It makes you more present. Oddly enough, in going back to something I used to love doing in the past, I found myself feeling more present. Even though I was familiar with the barn and the horses, it felt new to me in so many ways that I found myself being very aware of everything about the experience. I was very conscious of the feeling of the reins in my hands, the movement of the horse's ears, the smells and sounds of the barn. Doing something new -- even if it's something you used to do a lot -- really heightens your senses and makes you more aware of what's happening in the now. While revisiting what I used to love doing, I found myself very in the moment -- and loving it. 


I had such a great time getting back on a horse, and I'm so glad I added it to my to-do list for this year (without having it on a list I surely wouldn't have been motivated to actually do it...). Going back and revisiting an activity I used to love so much made me much happier than I'd expected it would. Being at the barn brought back a rush of memories, but there was also the thrill of doing something for the first time again. If there's something you loved doing that you haven't done in awhile, consider giving it a try again. You'll be surprised by the benefits that come along with getting back in the saddle. 

4 steps for falling in love with your flaws


"Most of us are taught to hide our flaws. To be embarrassed (or deathly afraid) of that which isn’t perfect about us, even though it is the very thing that makes us human and connects us to the world. Our flaws are the ground of our being, the very things that make us who we are. If we hide our flaws, if we run from them, we are denying our very being, that which makes us unique."

Alexis Yael


Like it or not, we're all flawed. Not a single one of us is perfect. And that's one of the great things about life. We all have so many wonderful things to offer -- and, yet, we're not always so wonderful. Not only do we have flaws, but each of us struggles with feeling flawed (which is, perhaps, a flaw in and of itself). But whether the flaws that plague you are emotional, mental, or physical flaws, the key to overcoming them is knowing how to accept them -- and ultimately fall in love with them. Because, as the Alexis Yael has so wisely stated, our flaws are what make us unique. They are what ground us. They are, in a sense, what keep us in the present. 

Of course we all know how difficult it is to accept (and love!) flaws. It's a difficult thing to do when it comes to other people and when it comes to ourselves, well, it's can seem nearly impossible. But, hard as it might seem, it is possible to love even the most flawed parts of yourself. And not only is it possible, it's essential to living a positively present life. To live positively in the present, you must love yourself for who you are -- and loving yourself means loving even the not-so-great parts of yourself. Learning to love your flaws might feel like a constant battle, but that acceptance, that love, is worth fighting for. Here's how to get started... 


How to Fall in Love with Your Flaws 


1. Decide if there's something you can do about it. 

First and foremost, you have to decide if the flaw that troubles you is something you can actually do something about. Some flaws -- like a bad temper or wicked impatience -- should not be accepted, but should instead be worked on. Loving your flaws is not the same thing as throwing up your hands and saying, "Oh well! That's just the way I am!" about a characteristic that's negatively impacting you and your life. Ask yourself: Does the flaw negatively impact others? Does it impact the amount of positive energy I'm giving off into the world? Is there anything I can do to change it?


2. Determine if you actually are going to do something about it. 

If you've determined that a flaw is, in fact, something you can (and should) change, now it's time to be brutally honest with yourself. You can change it, but will you? Just because you can change a flaw, doesn't mean you necessarily should (take, for example, a less-than-perfect nose or a sarcastic wit). Only you know (and you will know, deep down) whether or not the flaw that bugs you is something you really need to change -- and if it's something you actually will change. If you know it needs to be changed and you're going to put in the effort, awesome! Go for it! If it's something you can't or won't change... 


3. Imagine it from an objective point of view. 

Often our flaws are magnified by our own perception. We're so close to our flaws that they seem so much larger to us. In your mind, take a step back from the flaws you see and try to imagine what they would look like from an outsider's perspective. The things you see as horrible or offensive might not look so bad when you try seeing them from an outsider's point of view. When it comes to flaws, we imagine ours to be much bigger than others'. Consider your flaw and contemplate how you would react to it if you spotted it on someone else.


4. Accept it it for exactly what it is. 

Finally -- and most importantly -- you must accept your flaw for exactly what it is. Having imagined what it would look like from the outside, now it's time to take that concept one step further and simply accept it for what it is. Strip that flaw of all societal standards and internal judgments. Don't compare it to others or rate it on a scale of good/bad. Your flaw is what it is. Accept it for what it is and realize that it is a part of you. If it is something you cannot (or will not) change, acceptance is the only option for truly loving yourself (all of yourself). Your flaws make you who you are, so embrace them!


With these four steps, you should be on the road to either changing or loving your flaws. Only you will know which flaws you should probably work on -- and which ones you really need to accept and love. Remember: we are all flawed. Everyone has something (and maybe many things!) he or she feels is flawed. But only some people take those flaws and proactively choose to accept and love them. Be one of those people. Love your flaws! 

the back-to-school mindset : how to keep it positive


A couple weeks ago, my boyfriend's mom told me about the hilarious-yet-so-true 2016 Mindset List created by Beloit College. This annual list provides a look at the cultural touchstones shaping the lives of students entering college this fall. This year's list -- for the class of 2016 -- had me feeling very, very old. According to the list, students entering college this fall don't remember tan M&Ms (what?!). They've never needed (or seen) an actual airline ticket (I miss those). The idea of a hardcover encyclopedia is foreign to them (oh, the hours I spent at the library with those in grade school!). 

Those things (and many of the others on the list!) sound crazy to me, but then I took at the 2005 Mindset List (for my graduating class) and I imagine that those who had already graduated years before me probably would have thought my graduating class was also quite astounding (especially "They have never experienced a real recession," which was true back then...). Reading my own list and imagining it being read by someone much older than me made me realize how -- despite our annually Beloit-depicted differences -- we're all very much alike. We all enter our college years with "more" than the year before us -- more technology, more innovations, more ground-breaking history having happened in our lifetimes.

Each new year comes with new breakthroughs, new history, new collective experiences. But with all that newness comes the same back-to-school mindset that has clouded the minds of every new student -- from kindergartners to college freshmen. The back-to-school mindset is a mix of excitement and fear, worry and thrill. A new school experience is exciting -- so much to learn and experience -- but it's also frightening as well -- so many new faces and places. And the back-to-school mindset doesn't end when school is over. It's with us any time we start a new job or embark on a new adventure. It's the mindset that we take on every time we're on the brink of something new, something both thrilling and a little bit terrifying. 

Though this back-to-school mindset can hit us at any point in our lives, it seems particularly daunting to college freshmen who, for the most part, aren't only going to a new school but who are also leaving home for the first time. Here are some tips to help them (and anyone else facing a new environment that's both exciting and scary) stay positive: 

5 Tips for a Positive Back-to-School Mindset


Be open-minded. When entering a new environment, it's essential to keep an open mind if you want to make the most of it. Things in the new school / job / etc. are bound to be different from what you had experienced before, but try your hardest to hold off judgments. With an open mind, you may find that the newness is not only different, but better. And even if you don't find that to be the case, with an open mind, you'll at least be giving the new place a chance. (And there are many other benefits from having an open mind!)


Embrace the newness. Newness -- whether it's a new school, a new grade, or a new job -- is just as exciting as it is terrifying. If you're heading back to school or heading off to a new job, embrace that excitement. Soon enough, that feeling will fade. That new place will become simply a backdrop to your everyday experiences and the memory of your first day / week / month will grow hazy. Celebrate the experience of being somewhere new, with new people. As scary as it is at times, the thrill that comes along with it is something you should embrace. 


Smile + Say, "Hi!" Silly advice? Perhaps. But a smile or a "Hi!" goes a long way when you're in a new place. Other people may also be new and will appreciate your gestures of kindness. For those who aren't new, they probably aren't sure whether or not to make an effort with someone new. A smile is a small thing but it can have a big impact on your back-to-school mindset. Not only will it open up communication with others, but it will make you feel good. As Buddy the Elf said, "Smiling's my favorite!" 


Show enthusiasm. Nothing's worse than someone new who seems like he or she doesn't want to be there. Even if you're scared or unsure or don't feel like you know as much as those who have been there for awhile, don't hold back your enthusiasm. Ask questions. Give answers and feedback. Join in. When you're in a back-to-school mindset, it might be tempting to hold back and wait until you feel more comfortable. Don't wait. Dive right in and show everyone how happy you are to be there. 


Give yourself time. No matter where you're experiencing a back-to-school mindset -- a new job, a new school, even a new grade -- it will take time to adjust. Give yourself time to get used to the place and the people. Don't expect to feel at home all at once. It's okay to have a bad day from time to time when you're getting into the swing of things. Don't let those bad moments get you down. It will take time, but eventually the back-to-school mindset will be replaced and you'll feel settled in. Give it time. 



Adjusting to a new school -- or new environment in general -- is difficult for most of us. While there are few of those wonderful, gregarious people who thrive in brand new situations, most of us struggle to find our place, to get to that point where we feel as if we are meant to be there. It takes time, but it will happen. Every time I started a new school or new job, I was nervous. I felt out of place and wasn't sure whether or not it was the right fit for me. But eventually I found my place and those memories of the first days (filled with so much uncertainty!) became hazy. The hazier those memories become, the more I want to hang on to them, recalling the excitement that comes with a new desk, a fresh pen. You never get that scared-but-excited feeling back so embrace it while it lasts -- and do what you can to make your back-to-school mindset a positive one.