The lessons of a not so "Normal" life.
Before I was born my parents had concrete plans for me. Perhaps this is true of all parents. Perhaps they all envision future singers or politicians. Like most kids however, I didn’t take to their vision. In fact, when I was five years old a defining moment in my life occurred. I was placed atop an old quarter horse named Minimum Risk. A family legend says I turned to my mom and grinned, “I have found my thing.” Since then I have never looked back. For eleven years, I have trained. In the Texas heat, I have trained. With broken bones and strained muscles, I have trained. When my peers were going to football games and dances, I trained. Many of my friends and even adults still cannot comprehend my dedication.
Luckily my parents have always supported and understood my decisions to be an Olympic Dressage rider. They continued this support through divorces, remarriages, step-kids, career changes and other personal difficulties which often were in conflict with my goals. They supported me in spite of intense pressure to let me have a ‘normal’ life. They were often criticized for not putting me in ‘real’ school. They defended my social skills; they defended the level of education I was receiving at K12icademy.
In August, I had a life altering and sudden move to Washington from Texas. In a period of less than 2 weeks I left my parents, my friends, and my culture to relocate to cold, rainy Kirkland. When I tell people this story they often look at me with disbelief. They are amazed I had the nerve or independence to do such a thing at 17. Their regard befuddles me. When you are dedicated to a dream you must be willing to sacrifice for that goal. Your focus becomes quite clear and unclouded by seemingly ‘normal’ concerns. For example, I don’t wander from sport to sport or club to club. I still make many choices and face many obstacles, but those obstacles are made within a framework of my goals. So strangely, I don’t see the sacrifices as negatives. I see them as blessings and opportunities. I have been gifted with an early knowledge of my career path. Most people my age have no concrete vision of their future. I have had over a decade to work on advancing in my career to a high level of achievement. This lets me plan and structure choices toward that end.
When I made the move alone, my parents thought it might make the transition easier if I made friends quickly. They contemplated removing me from K12 International Academy to a local public high school. After only a few hours of observation there, I gained a new appreciation for my unusual educational background. My K12 experience allowed me to develop myself and my sense of identity separate from the intense peer pressure and need to conform of a typical experience. Everywhere I looked, I saw not compromise or healthy respect for diversity but pressure to submit. Everywhere I looked I saw pressure to change in accordance to preconceived ideas. This pressure interestingly came not only from students but teachers as well. If I had been in this environment for years perhaps I would not have become the confident, grounded and independent person that I am; that I realized in those hours was a truly unrecognized positive that came from sacrificing the ‘normal’ childhood experience.