The big decisions of adulthood come upon us so quickly. One minute you are playing in the mud and looking for fairy rings and the next it is time to make college choices. What do you want to be? Where do you want to go? The pressure and choices seem limitless and limited at the same time. Family, friends, dreams, finances and horses all rolled into trying to decide. I think so many of the junior and young riders want the same things but we feel torn apart. Over the years I have observed that dressage youths tend to be quite good students. I know from my Region 9 days, girls studying engineering at Rice, at UT, SMU and A & M. Some of my East Coast friends are headed to Georgetown, Columbia, and NYU. I don’t know what it is about dressage that so many science oriented brains are drawn to it; maybe it’s the geometry of our tests. J
But does this mean we have to by necessity decrease our riding time or leave the horses or dressage? For the sake of our industry it seems that we spend so much time and money training top riders as youths and then they head off to college and disappear for years. Some come back, some don’t; but either way, momentum and resources are lost. I know it was discussed at EDAP that perhaps college could be deferred. But given most of our high achieving parents and the pressure of paying for this sport that is not a likely scenario. Even my mom, a college professor who sees people ‘return’ to school all the time (and is trying to be supportive no matter my decision) has to swallow bile any time I hint at taking any time off. So what do we do? How can we have both?
I think the answer is planning. Two years ago as a high school junior I wrote to Jeremy Steinberg about my long term goals. I wanted riding and college. I reviewed colleges that had programs I thought were a good fit for me (and that my parents would let me go to). I drew a one hour drive circle around those colleges; and determined what trainers were available within that distance from those schools. I found 5 in the US that I considered as having the skills, training style and character for a good match with me. I then wrote to Jeremy about who he thought would consider training me. I wanted to move before senior year in order to get in state tuition to whatever school I picked. This would be a five year commitment.
After some emails back and forth and a visit to Kirkland, I left my parents, friends and beloved Texas and moved here. Last fall I applied to five colleges. You know the for sure school, the dream school and a few in the middle. I found out this month that I got in to all of them. I also found out that I got enough money from scholarships to pick wherever I wanted. After a day of basking in the fact that Cornell even wanted me, I face new quandaries. Wouldn’t it have been easier to only get one acceptance? Then I wouldn’t have to make choices. But now, I have a crossroads again.
In the last year and a half I have changed my decision on what to study. I originally was planning on genetics, but after meeting and being helped by Dr. Susser the sports psychologist; I have really been considering following in her path! This slightly changes the schooling plans but I refuse to go where my horse isn’t within an hour from school. I refuse to go where I can’t have a top trainer near. So I have to compromise. I contacted Cornell and they have agreed to let me have a guaranteed transfer later if I want to attend at a later date. So I don’t have to give up that connection or possibility forever but for now (at least the next two years minimum), I will stay in Kirkland.
I went with my Grandma to visit Seattle University’s campus today. I took a tour a few months ago of UW. I think they will be very different types of schools. UW will have the big college experience, over 40,000 students and a football team! Seattle has only 7,000 but has much smaller class sizes, and is ranked in the top ten by US News and World Report. Either way, to keep riding I will have to live at home and not in the dorms. But compromise is perhaps the part I have learned about growing up. If I want to succeed and I want both an education and riding; I can’t have dorms and parties and Cornell. But I can have something different. I can have something that gives me pieces of both and allows me to continue to move forward with my love of dressage, horses and my long term goal for the Olympics!
So I guess the point of this blog; fellow young people, is that your life is your dream. Planning, research, commitment and a willingness to compromise and sacrifice can make it come true. Just stick to your vision, not others. Be ready to be bold for your dreams.