I rolled down my window and tried to make light of the situation. “I’m just here for your viewing entertainment! Don’t mind my tedious trailer parking lesson,” I said to the two other women standing near the row of horse trailers. They smiled and one replied, “We’ve all been there!” I appreciated her understanding more than she knew. The story of judgement I’d told myself in my head about what they were saying to one another regarding my ineptitude was in direct opposition to her sweet comment. As I attempted for the third time to back my bumper-pull horse trailer squarely into the assigned parking space without hitting the trailers on both sides, her shared empathy was salve to my fried nerves.
Those of you who know me personally know my love of horses runs deep. I was quite literally riding before I was walking. In my adult life, there have been stretches when I didn’t own a horse or didn’t have access to ride. One year ago, I decided I wanted to change that reality.
I bought Rex from a seller in eastern South Dakota and have deeply enjoyed spending time with him on the trail and in the arena. After a year of basically riding the same trail over and over, I decided it was time I start working out the logistics so I might be able to ride in some different scenery. I have a truck and trailer. I am technically capable of hauling my big guy to any trail I’d like.
But while I’m confident in my ability to ride a horse up, over, and/or around a mountain, I’m not nearly as confident in my ability to haul said horse and trailer to the many possible destinations where I dream of riding.
Being the strong willed woman I am, I chose a nice day and set out to conquer my fears: hook up trailer, load horse, haul to trail destination, PARK trailer, unload, saddle, ride, re-load, haul back to paddock, unload, PARK trailer again (back up into small space provided for long-term parking), and unhook.
Spoiler alert… I DID IT.
Believe it or not, this post is not solely for the purpose of touting my newly acquired trailer parking skills. What I do want to share is the epiphany I had while completing this anxiety inducing task.
As an adult, I rarely place myself in positions where I attempt BRAND NEW skills. Gnawing anxiety builds in my gut when I’m about to try something really new. Especially, if it’s something that I’m likely going to suck at doing.
Ick. That feeling is… ick. I don’t like it and I typically don’t place myself in positions where I’m forced to feel it. As an adult, most of the tasks I take on are things I either have experience doing, or they’re close in proximity to other tasks I’ve more or less mastered, so I’m not intimidated by the risk of failure.
I REALIZED my kids are constantly trying BRAND NEW skills. Like… ALL THE TIME they are feeling this ick sensation because they are kids and so much of LIFE is NEW for them. Talk about an ah-ha moment?!?
Maybe I’m the only one whose empathy has a tendency to wane. Maybe you’re all reading this and thinking, “duh.” I’m okay with admitting my obtuseness. I’m just grateful I had the realization.
In my rational mind, each time my kids attempt a new skill, I understand the excitement, hesitation, anxiety, and fear of failure. It’s part of a rite of passage; the whole experience of “the learning curve” and the “try-try-again mantra.” They are familiar to just about every person. BUT… when was the last time I truly FELT the rush of nerves and tested the very real possibility of agonizing failure?
Well, that day when I did the whole hook up, load, haul, park trailer multiple times etc. I absolutely felt the ick. When I was solo with no help and needed to get that trailer parked and my horse unloaded? The creep of hot anxiety and flashes of “don’t F this up” were both frequent and real. When it was all done, and I’d managed it successfully… I was proud of myself. Maybe too proud? Nah. It was awesome.
But more importantly, I was aware. Aware that my kids are navigating every dang day with challenges that are new and unknown. Whether it be on a court or field, in a classroom, at home, with peers, at jobs, while interacting with others through the day-to-day tasks of life, they are bombarded with BRAND NEW experiences.
I was annoyed a few weeks ago when my sixteen year old daughter needed gas in her car and didn’t want to pump it alone. She’d somehow managed to navigate more than three months of driving without having to pump gas by herself. I blame her father… but I digress. Her insistence that she take a friend to the gas station made a trip that should’ve taken ten minutes evolve into a forty-five minute endeavor. Pumping gas is not complicated. She wasn’t going to a shady station, in the dark hours. She should’ve been able to do it easily.
Except… for her, pumping gas was a parking the horse trailer kind of situation.
BOOM! Mom’s mind… blown. FOR HER, pumping gas was a parking the horse trailer kind of situation.
If I never put myself in brand-new-skill situations, I’ll likely forget the sharpness of attempting… and my empathy for others going through the agony of attempting new skills will likely grow dull.
I’m firmly committed to my belief in the essential importance of life-long learning. Those who stop learning, in my opinion, stop participating in life by the simple nature of stagnation. I think I’ve realized I’m also committed to the life-long pursuit of attempting.
I don’t ever want to forget how difficult it is to try new skills. How scary it is to fail. How freaking fantastic it is to try again and succeed. That feeling needs to be fresh, and real, and near… so I can look at my children and say, with meaning, “we’ve all been there!”