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On the inside door of my kitchen cabinet there is a newspaper cutout that I have had taped there since at least 1997. It’s from an Erma Bombeck story entitled LIVING OUT YOUR DREAMS TAKES WIDE AWAKE RISK.
I kept it there for motivation when I was just beginning my dreams of owning my own salon, and I sent it to a friend from Los Angeles when she talked about her dream of opening her own doggie bakery; and I was able to put it back into action again this month when my favorite – and bestest – equestrian trainer was to set off on one of her ‘out of my reach’ long-shot dreams.
And this is where we begin.
I met Emily Hamel while I was on a country drive nearing the farm where I spent over a decade in riding lessons and thought “Why not stop in and say “Hi”?”.
I pulled in and Emily was standing there talking to someone about their lessons. “Oh, goodie, they are still doing lessons here, I thought.”, and asked if I could come back and start riding again. “Sure!” was her reply.
That day, for me, was my entry into the REAL world of Professional Equestrianship. Not just a trainer shouting ‘more leg’ as my horse veered off the circle line, but ‘do you feel what each leg (of your horse) is doing, what your horse’s shoulder is doing, which foot is on the ground now?’ HOW to ride correctly so that horse and rider maintain balance, rhythm, propulsion --- and so much MORE!
I don’t want this story to dive into all the intricacies of that world, but suffice it to say that I got to watch a young, excellent rider, move her way up toward achieving her goal of becoming a 4-star eventer (and later go beyond her wildest dreams)!
As a teenager from Wisconsin on a 4-H trip to the Kentucky Horse Park to see the "Rolex Kentucky 3-Day Event", young Emily looked at those World-Class riders and said, "I'M GOING TO DO THAT ONE DAY!". For those of you not familiar with the sport of eventing, "The Rolex" as we always called it, is North America's ONLY 4-star event, same as The Olympics. These are the best of the best riders in the world. A lofty goal for a kid to make for herself wouldn't you say?
[In 1998, the Kentucky Three-Day Event was granted 4-star status, putting it on a par with the two preeminent events in the world, Badminton (since 1949) and Burghley (since 1961) in England. https://eventingnation.com/a-complete-history-of-eei-and-the-kentucky-three-day-event/].
I met Emily in what might be the middle of her career. She was already a 2-star eventer, and was working her way up --- all the way up!
Emily was literally ‘born to ride’, and in the last 13-years, has worked her way from instructor, competing when she could at 2 and 3 star level events, to, in the year 2020 not just entering “The Kentucky” as a 4-star level rider, but entering it as a 5-star level rider --- a dream that didn’t even exist when she was that young girl attending as a spectator dreaming of being one of those riders one day! And they not only competed along side the top International riders of our time, but did so well, they were in the prize-winning finale!!!!! Ah-mazingly EXCITING!!!!!
* Dreams fulfilled beyond a child’s wildest imagination.
* Mission Accomplished, right?
* Nope. Not even close!
Just this week, Emily and her bestest bud, Barry the horse (unicorn!), are on a plane flying together to England to compete in their SECOND 5-star event at Badminton!
Sounds easy and fun, right?
Again, not even close. Put it this way, I’m too chicken to even trailer my horse to a local park by myself. Imagine all the details and complications getting you and your horse and all your stuff over the pond for a summer in a foreign country. It’s intense. And expensive. And tiring. And takes massive attention to detail … and you still have to keep your horse in top physical, mental, and emotional shape … and yourself, too! It’s EPIC.
And, she’s doing it!
And THIS is what brings me to my little tear-out from a newspaper long ago.
I thought of how this applies to Emily and her courageous journey, how she doesn’t let any obstacles get in her way and follows her dreams and ambitions. Oh, did I fail to mention that just a couple weeks before their departure she turns her knee the wrong direction and has to have surgery? Yep. Still going. This won’t stop her.
But, knowing what I know about how much it takes to have that much courage, I still thought it would be a nice idea to send her this clipping to remind her she’s not alone and to be proud of her courage even though it’s hard and lonely sometimes. And … that not everyone can or will muster the courage it takes to make their dreams come true.
I told Emily that I had sent this to my friend in L.A. whose dream was to open a doggie bakery. Does she own a doggie bakery today? No. She doesn’t. What was her response to my encouraging clipping? Sadly, it was an “I can’t follow my dreams. I don’t have the advantages you’ve had.” blah, blah, blah. She let excuses stop her well before she even tried. Did you look for a space? No. Just go ahead and say “No, I can’t” before you ever see if maybe you CAN.
Then I think of two other people whose lives would have turned out very differently if only they had grabbed that opportunity when it swung by them. One was a beautiful girl I went to school with. This was in the 1980's - the days of the SuperModel - and she was actually picked by a scout to go to New York and test to see if she could make it. Is she standing along side Cindy Crawford today, resting on her residual checks? NOPE. She’s STILL in the same small town we grew up in; ‘doin’ hair.
Maybe if she had gone to NYC and met with Ford Models, they might have rejected her.
Or – maybe NOT.
But now she will never know what trajectory her life might have taken. Pity.
Same goes for a drummer I knew back then. As I was gearing up to move to L.A. to pursue my dream of becoming a “Hollywood makeup artist”, he could have come out with me and pursued his career fantasies, too. But at the last minute, he backed out. Too chicken to even try. Well, guess what? I went. AND I met at least one famous drummer who could have given my friend a leg-up into that world; befriended him; introduced him around; and who knows how far he could have gotten.
He also could have gone out there and gotten on drugs and died. Or just been a session player with a good steady salary … or been the drummer in a Late Show band … or …..? He’ll never know because he was too scared to try, even for a year.
And this is the point of my writing today – and the point of Erma Bombeck.
It’s (expletive) SCARY pushing yourself. Terrifying at times. Lonely. Hard. Challenging. Difficult.
But, it’s also elating. Exciting. Fulfilling. Confidence boosting.
So the next time you’re faced with a life-changing challenge, what are you going to do with it?
Are you going to be like Emily who is sitting on a plane, with her horse beneath her in cargo, headed overseas to a competition she’s never even seen before? Or will you be like my friends, who, all three of them, chickened out on life’s opportunities?
Living out your dreams takes wide-awake risk.
And it’s always worth the trouble!
My Thoughts on this subject continue .......
As I sat here thinking about Emily; her fears, her courage, her determination, her luck. I thought how lucky all of us women are today. Ask your Grandmother, or Mother, if they ever had the luxury of ‘following their dreams’. I bet most of them were just trying to get by. Get through the day. Get food on the table. Survive.
In addition to applauding Emily for not just chasing her dreams, but MAKING them happen, I want to say a HUGE THANK YOU to ALL the female trailblazers out there who have made this generation’s journey so much easier and wide open for exploration!
We owe you so much.
PS - Emily DID make it to Badminton and completed the final jump off on Sunday!
CONGRATS, EMILY. You are now Officially an INTERNATIONAL 5-STAR EVENTER,
AND SO IS BARRY THE WONDERHORSE!
"Run and Jump and PLAY™"!!!!!
I have been involved in the beauty and spa industry since I was a teenager.