It’s 6:30 a.m. and I am standing in an open pasture. The grass, coated in dew, makes my journey out to its center all the more difficult in my damp sandals.
But regardless of difficulty, it is beautiful, and as I slide from side to side in attempt to keep my ankles from rolling, I cannot help but admire the peace of the mornings here. The earth coated in natural glitter, which reflects and dances as the summer breeze swims through. Outside of the morning doves cooing, there is a still silence in the air. In the distance, a black and white mass gazes in my direction, flicks her tail, and puts her head back down to graze. I approach slowly, put my hand out, and wait. She walks over, and presses her nose into my hand, her large nostrils inhaling deeply and breathing steam into my palm. I rest my head on hers for a moment, before we make the trek back to the barn to start our day.
This is the feeling I have been longing for since I left; one that took leaving to appreciate every single aspect of. I didn’t realize it was something I needed, until I was bereft of it and discovered it once more–a child’s mentality of witnessing things for the first time and being in absolute awe.
What a powerful feeling that is.
Graduate school and beyond, has been an adventure in identity for me, as I think it is for many people in their mid-to-late 20’s. Or probably everyone, really. I was so focused on journalism, a thesis defense, and a career shrouded in ambiguity that I stopped horseback ridding completely, with the exception of the occasional holiday trail. Despite it being a part of my life for over 20 years, I just stopped, seeking new experiences in the process.
I knew I wanted a career as an educator, but I wanted to make sure that it was exactly what I wanted. So I dabbled: traveled, did things in video games and marketing, and when I finished my Master’s decided to take a job in Washington, D.C. And let me tell you how hard it is to find open pasture and horses in our nation’s capitol.
I’ve said in the past how much was learned in living in these different places, and working in these different fields–about values and relationships and passions–purpose and goals. And it has been a difficult blessing–living in two different places for only a year at a time. A year gives you just enough time to start feeling at home; it gives you enough time to start establishing yourself in a community of friends, rapt in the comfort of activities and routine, before you rip yourself away in guilt, because it another decision you have made (and you pray it is the right one)–then you are back to square one again. It makes you feel distant from you friends. It can be lonely. And as the move date approaches, time becomes an even more present enemy, because there is never enough of it–the somber reality of saying goodbye to friends, and a life you were becoming familiar with, lingers. I don’t understand how families who must move constantly cope with such emotions, but they have my respect. I suppose I am homebody.
In Charleston, my routine there meant gripping onto a lovely barn community where I was able to help train and exercise horses and befriend some amazing women. Initially, I was skeptical of getting back into riding, largely due to the amount of classes I was teaching at both the College of Charleston and a local community college. But the moment I stepped into the barn, and the smell of hay and fly spray hit me, I forgot anything else existed but the here and now, and I was hooked. The only other thing that can do that, give me that sensation of being in a moment, is standing in front of a classroom (or being with loved ones)–and from that point on, I swore to myself I would never let either of those things go. Because that feeling of being in the present moment shows us that what we are doing matters to us. We love that thing so much that we fight the nature of our broad focus, our worries, to live within it and experience it fully.
Though my time in Charleston was shorter than expected, though once again loneliness lingers and there is a space in my heart for my friends there, I have found a career I wish to sustain. A career where I see my kids every single day. Where my efforts can leave an impact, and the efforts of my students can impact me…and time has slowed its grip. I am home. And I have learned that the best days, when that childhood curiosity is being fulfilled and you are fully invested in what you are doing, those days make you feel as though you are floating on time. Rowing over it, unaffected. Not counting the minutes or seconds, not thinking of what is next, but flowing. Where I can stand on a paddle board and glide over the water with friends. Where the days of dewy morning pastures are not being crossed off a 365 day calendar, and the horizon is infinite.
What moments make you feel that way? Try to remember them, relive them, and embrace them. They can provide so much peace when your life feels like it is running in different directions.