I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned that I worked in a book store? Not as a kid, funnily enough. I would have loved to work at a bookstore as a kid, but it never seemed to be a place that wanted to hire me. I always ended up either in malls or offices. Maybe bookstores were different enough back then (in those dark days before wikipedia) that I just wasn’t old enough or schooled enough. It certainly wasn’t because I wasn’t well read enough.

I grew up reading. There’s no other way to say it really. I read while other kids played. I loved the escape a book gave me, and how it focused my thoughts away from everything into one single point. I was good at reading, getting through a 300 page book in about 5 hours with comprehension good enough to earn me a perfect score on the reading portion of the ACTs.

It wasn’t until I started riding that I found anything else that could focus my mind…or that I was so competent at doing.

So anyways, I wasn’t a kid working at a bookstore. I was a far too disillusioned twenty-something who’d become completely overstressed working in sales and customer service for an international company. I’d been told, frankly, that I cared too much. So there I was, suddenly applying and being accepted to every university I applied to, trying to figure out what to do to make some money while I studied. I went to the bookstore almost everyday after work, so It seemed so obvious that I should spend time there actually working.

I met my husband there, as well as some of my best friends. My husband and I are so well matched that our combined book collection can’t be contained by 11 billy bookcases. (The walls of my living room look like the header photo.) So while it was a bit of a poor decision career-wise, it certainly had it’s positives in other ways.

I can’t promise all bookstores are like this, but mine allowed you to check out books like a library. Basically as long as the book looked new and they could sell it, you wouldn’t get charged for it. It helped keep up with new titles and honest recommendations without spending everything I made on books. I read a lot of crap, but found a ton of great gems as well.

Not long after I started, 13 Reasons Why was released. After wave and wave of dark cover, vampire/werewolf/alien/superhuman teen novels, there was something about the book that seemed so honest and real. It had a simple enough cover, smart without being flashy. The whole design was fairly clever, exactly the type of book a kid who’d grown up preferring to read than playing out side would buy into. The story was better.

I cried a lot. Not just because the book was sad, but also because I don’t know how many of us actually get out of school without experiencing something that happened within its pages. Completely false rumors ruining your day or week or year. Loosing friendships without really knowing how it happened. Bullying. Assault. Watching terrible people be rewarded for athletic ability or dumb luck, while really good kids are just lucky to be treated fairly by their classmates and staff.

Netflix has taken on the book in what looks to be a multi-season endeavor. It’s well done; very different from the book while keeping the heart of it intact. I watched the entire 13 episodes over a weekend and found myself talking about it–and the book that preceded it–a lot.

I kept saying the same thing, over and over again. “Human beings really only need one thing to anchor them.” They don’t need a whole list of reasons to be happy. Usually most of us need one good friend or one solid activity. One simple thing to keep us sane.

In some of the worst days of my school days, I had riding. In the worst year of my adult life, I read a lot. And not all that long ago, when I looked up and realized I was a mother of a 1-year-old and had nothing really left that was simply mine, I went back to horses.

I’m certainly not trying to say that depression doesn’t hit the horsey set. But there can’t be much argument against the positives to weekly workouts and interaction with a 100% non-judgemental animal can be hugely helpful in healing mental woes.

I think that’s why through the soundness issues, the green-horse days, the pain of falls, and the disappointment of not achieving my goals; I’ve never once looked back. I’ve never regretted riding. Like the books that line my living room, riding and all the experiences around riding has helped make me who I am. It’s something I’ve stuck with, that I’m good at–or at least good enough at–and it’s mine in a way that nothing else can be.

I’ve had a hard time getting to the barn in the last two months. Part of it has been illness and car issues, but a lot of it is just the slog of the long drive in iffy weather. I realized today, though, that I really need to go. I need to see my pony and talk to my barnmates and just have that connection. It doesn’t matter if I’m tired or under the weather; I’m better then I was before I went.

The days are getting longer and I have so many plans ahead for this year. Somehow, watching a TV show that was a book I loved reading helped remind me of my own reasons for being me. We all have our good and bad that we have to navigate through. And it honestly doesn’t seem to matter if you’re 10 or 40, life will give you something you think you can’t make it through. But those of us who have a pair of ears to look through as we fly and a long furry neck to hug have it better than most.

Pat your pony, quiet your mind, saddle up and leave all the reasons behind.

 

Christine Sharpe is a Canadian who grew up riding Hunter/Jumper in the Southern USA. Now living in Toronto, she is a thirty-something who is back to riding after four years off and having her first child. In 2017, Christine is planing to breed her Thoroughbred jumper mare, Star, and buy her first home on land. She struggles daily to juggle family, work, and her equine lifestyle, with occasional success.

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