Wednesday, January 5, 2011

With small actions comes great reward

I'm a self-described city girl. I have always lived downtown or close to downtown on a main street in a vibrant area. I like the energy, diversity, culture and people watching that comes with a busy neighbourhood. I always found some form of motivation or inspiration in the changing scenery of my downtown corner coffee shop by the seawall. I could hang out there for hours just letting my mind wonder as runners ran, cyclist cycled and before I finished my first latte, I'd hear conversation in three different languages pass by. The noise from beeping crosswalks, trucks backing up, buses stopping, sirens or the inevitable "disagreement" between an otherwise (I'm sure) lovely couple outside my window at 3am was never something I considered changing. It was all part-and-parcle.

I also started riding horses around the age of 9 and since then have spent many days, nights and weekends in a barn in the country. I clean stalls, scrub buckets, toss hay bales, fix fencing, lift heavy equipment and haul hoses. And oh yeah, I can drive a pick up truck towing a horse trailer and park it anywhere you need it.

I love having that kind of diversity a part of me.

But I hung up my chaps in 2003 after a couple of years working with members of the Canadian Equestrian Team. I travelled with them all over eastern Canada in the summer and spent the winters showing/training in south Florida. It was the first job I ever had that I really loved. We worked like dogs everyday of the week, and even though my gas and rent (or hotel when on the road) was covered, I think I only made $350 a week. Good thing I never had any time to spend it.

At some point, I got worn out and run down. Even though this was a job I loved entirely, eventually I decided that it was time for me to leave Montreal and "get a real job". 

Fast forward eight years.

I recently brought horses back into my life. After Ironman and six weeks of travel, I found myself a bit passionless (momentarily). I thought about riding again but didn't know where to start. I didn't know anyone in the horse world anymore, I had no contacts or horse network to get me started. And without an income, I certainly didn't have a budget to just buy a horse of my own.

I googled "horse riding, Langley".

That's all it took to get me started. After that, I found the barn that had what I was looking for and as it turned out, the barn was looking for me too. I took a lesson with a woman who coincidentally was looking for someone to ride her horse over the winter while she's in California. I turned out to be that someone and now I'm riding a few times a week.

Having left the barn in 2003 and not really being back in the saddle since, I had no idea how much I had been missing it. I look forward to my time at the barn every week. I love the quiet of the country and smell of winter air. I love the paddocks filled with horses and how my horse whinnies when he recognizes my voice. I love the cold air and the freezing finger tips. I love the warm blankets I pile on my horse to make sure he's well kept when I'm gone. I love dumping the dirty water buckets and hauling the refilled fresh ones down the aisles (even when I end up wearing most of it). I love the sound of opening grain bags. I love coming home still smelling like hay and wood shavings.

Bringing horses back into my life very well could have been something that stayed on my "someday" list for a very long time had I not done a simple Google search. It was that tiny step that lead me to such great reward.

I don't think that the riding I'm doing now is going to be life changing (but who knows), but it got me thinking about small decisions I've made in the past that lead to huge monumental events.

Looking back, I can point out a few significant events that ended up being momentous turning points in my life. For me, leaving the horses and getting my first office job in Toronto was one. Deciding to move across Canada to Vancouver on my own was another. Quitting my job with a booming young software company without a new job secured. My experience with the Olympic games. Completing the Ironman.  My first marathon in Honolulu HI. All these things brought new opportunity and change the course of my life. Each one was incredibly difficult, scary or seemingly impossible at the time, but how different my life would be if I hadn't had the courage to make these decisions.

*Leaving the horses to come back to Toronto was the first huge decision I made on my own. I remember crying over it as I told my bosses that I was leaving. I had always loved that job and the people I worked for so I was sad to say goodbye, but that's not why I was so upset. The truth was that I was terrified that I didn't know what was coming next or that I was making the right move.*

What I love about these events, is that for the most part, I can remember the day, even the moment, I decided to make them happen. These are defining moments that in a blink, can change your life. The thing about defining moments is that they themselves are not the monumental event. They are tiny. They are daydreams and small actions.

It was a morning in Florida and I was cleaning a stall when I decided I'd had enough of the horse life. I was exhausted and I was standing ankle high in horse s*#t.

My Mom told me about her friend Rudy who was running his 4th half marathon in Iceland and I decided then that if he (at the age of 50) could do it, so could I. Shortly after, (with zero running experience) I registered for the Honolulu marathon.

I was on a bus going to Mt. Tremblant in Quebec for a ski weekend with friends, and the girl behind me was reading Triathlon Magazine. I spoke with her about my marathon and she told me she was training for the Ironman. I thought only professional athletes did the Ironman, but she was just a normal girl. Before I got off that bus, I had decided that I too, would complete the Ironman.

Every huge milestone or event in our lives starts with a defining moment. It's just a tiny little moment. But it must be followed with a small action that seals the deal. A phone call, a conversation with a stranger, a (course or race) registration or just a google search... It all starts somewhere.

If your goals or dreams or passions seem overwhelming and too big to digest today, that's ok. You don't have to run the marathon tomorrow, or pack your bags to move to Italy by the weekend, or be the CEO of your own company right now. But you must take action.

Everyday daydreams about the impossible fill our thoughts and opportunities cross our paths in droves. All we need to do is reach out and grab one!

What were some of the monumental events in your life? 
Do you remember the defining moment that started it all?

Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do - John Wooden

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