Monday, September 5, 2011

A Deep Breath, Before...

Alright, folks. Brace yourselves... this one is long-winded.

Have you ever wanted to make a change in your life? Okay, obviously you have. The thing is, even little changes have a tendency to be daunting. Something as simple as switching the kind of shoes you wear when you go out can be unbalancing. Big changes can seem outright impossible, and so very often we sit back and think about them rather than actually making them happen. Sometimes this is a bad thing, but sometimes there is some good in it as well. Call it planning, rather than procrastination.

I have been a horse trainer and horseback riding instructor for nine years now. It's a consuming job that you really have to throw your back (and pocketbook) into in order to really do things correctly. I am the happy owner of eight beautiful school horses, and I have enjoyed, and continue to enjoy, the lifestyle immensely. I won't give it up, probably not ever, but at the same time it's a very emotionally intense job. Teaching anything, when done correctly, takes a lot out of the teacher. I pour my very heart and soul into ensuring that my students are progressing, helping them find balance and confidence with their horses. When the economy crashed several years ago, I found myself struggling but still positive.

Of course part of any self employment is finding ways to ensure growth. In the current Michigan economy, and with many students' parents working in the car industry, the last few years have been a struggle to find new students. Obviously it's important to have new students/clients in order to continue to grow my business. Horseback riding, like a lot of other leisure activities, saw less of a decline than some things though. People don't always need high-end material items and so retail really did suffer a blow, but people do need their respite from the stresses in life. I found that a lot of my students have been able to continue through much of this depression (yup, I said it) simply because it is what they do to escape. I was lucky to be able to keep my head above water like I did.

This past year, however, has been a deadpan staring contest with a stone plateau. Each time I find new students, a few more head off to other things: college, other riding disciplines, boys... It's difficult to watch, but obviously I'm happy to have taught them in the first place. I've always just kept my chin up and forged ahead...

Lately though, I've had a sort of... itch; I feel as if I'm at a turning point. The past few weeks have been an interesting internal struggle for me. This itch is to do something new. I've felt it before, and usually I can satiate it by picking up a new hobby or a new book, but this particular itch refuses to be scratched. It reminds me of the way I felt just before starting college. Change.

At this particular junction, I can either give the horse industry another big ol' heave-ho and risk straining my back (and my bank account) or I can back down just a little bit and give myself time to rest. I am not leaving the horse industry. I am not giving up students or even really changing my business model (apart from selling a couple of horses). I still intend to forge ahead, throwing every bit of myself into my students' education... I am simply changing the way I think about the future.

Horses have been my career for a long while now, especially when you consider I've been doing this for 1/3 of my life. Even before I taught I was running my own horse photography business through much of high school and into college. It occurred to me recently that this is obviously my career, but that doesn't mean it's the only career I can have. I'm fairly sure that, just as easily as I stepped out of the retail world, I can easily step into the world of having multiple careers. I'm pretty sure that's what I need, too: something else to balance me out. Something creative, but perhaps in a different way.

What else do I want to do with myself? I've been thinking a lot about it, and I just can't decide. I could see myself studying patisserie, or maybe simply baking. I would love to do something in food, though I like to make my own rules so I'm not sure how that would work out. I could see myself doing something adorably silly like selling birdhouses and kitschy wildlife watercolor paintings at the weekly artisan market... This could be as simple as opening an etsy shop, even. I just need something else. Something to provide a bit of extra sand beneath my feet as I ponder the ocean of possibilities in my future.

So this is where I've come to lay out my thoughts in type and to sort through some things in a more concrete way. It's frightening to think about starting another career. I have lots of interests, but how does one make something their career without first putting hours of time and work into it? And how does one even know they want it to be their career before those hours are spent?

This is the pause before the break in silence, the plugging of my nose before cannonballing off the diving board. Before I dive into another career I should probably make sure I know how to swim.

Do they make little career arm-floaties?

Have you ever thrown yourself out there to begin a new career? 

Alternatively, has anyone ever worked in pastries before and do you have words of wisdom for someone seriously considering trying to get into patisserie? Schooling? Apprenticing?  


  1. There are, I've heard, lots of good books on the subject. Books with titles like "Do What You Love, the Money Will Follow." That one, I think, is a lie. Well, okay, maybe not a lie . . . maybe just too optimistic for my tastes. Or maybe too deliberately ignorant of all the "ifs" that must necessarily follow "Follow."

    If you find little career arm-floaties, I would love a pair!

  2. I have done this four times. Through it all runs the thread of being a development (fundraising) professional, which brings in a regular paycheck, but I started as an artist, then was a SAHM, then back to full time development work, then a figure skating coach. I am now reinventing myself for the fifth time as a food activist and sustainability writer. I'll still be doing it as a development consultant, but in an entirely new industry.

    And by the way, I'm 55 years old. I'll never be at the top of my profession, I guess, but I'm too endlessly fascinated by possibilities to stop long enough for that.

  3. I hear you on the job front. I'm currently at a loss for what to really do with myself. I despise that wandering lost feeling of not knowing what to pursue for employment. :-/

  4. I am going through very similar change now -- and it is EXCITING! I have been an elementary teacher for almost 15 years. My family and I have decided to start farming -- not just living on a farm -- but starting a farm business that will support our family as sole source of income.

    I understand the fear that and excitement that goes along with that. I am actually working on a blog post that will talk about exactly that at a href="">Synergistic Acres - Kansas City Natural Farm</a