Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Cheers, 23!

On the eve of my 24th birthday, I would like to toast my 23rd year.
It was a good year.
I'll state the obvious: I got married. Wahoo! The wedding was awesome, and so has been my marriage. While the wedding was a highlight of my year and probably life, it isn't the sole reason why I loved 23. I loved 23 because I got back to being Audrey again.
Up until about this time last year, I was really content with my life. I was planning a wedding, building a home with my husband-to-be, and working full time. I was so content with how things were and how they'd been going that I hadn't noticed that I'd let go of so many things that once defined me as a person. All of the sudden, content with life wasn't enough. I had to be happy with me.
You see, although things were going well, I started to feel lost and unfulfilled. Who am I? I'm happy with myself, but do I really love me as a person? Am I that strong of an individual? What do I have that is my own? The answer to a lot of these questions remained blank.
Instead of getting pulled down by my sudden epiphany of lack of self-substance, I made a plan. I love to make lists, so I made one for myself. I thought really hard about what is and what used to be important to me.
1)      Relationships: The way that I relate to people is my top priority in life. FiancĂ© (at the time), family, friends, co-workers, strangers...all of my daily encounters with these people matter hugely and really shape my being. But I was doing well with maintaining these relationships and didn't have a heavy need to work on them. So onto the next item.
2) Horses: I grew up in a barn. Really. I had my first pony ride at age 3 and was hooked. I started taking weekly lessons at 7, leased my first horse at 9, bought (thanks dad!) my first horse at 12. While I enjoyed the sport, I really loved the environment. I raced home from school at the end of the day and woke up early on weekend mornings so not a minute that could be spent at the barn was wasted. Altough my childhood and adolescence were rocky at times, I wouldn't change either, for the time that I spent with horses made it all worthwhile.
Mucking out stalls and taking care of a large animal taught me responsibility. Forming friendships with fellow horse lovers of all ages taught me to be open-minded and relatable. Competing taught me the value of reward that comes from hard work. Learning how to communicate with an animal taught me compassion and patience. Most people are quick to refer to "growing up in a barn" with disdain and as an insinuative joke, but to me, it's where I became a person. And a good one at that.
Anyway, horses weren't just a part of my life for a long time, they were my life. This changed, however, as life got busier. School became more demanding as I got older and my parents (thankfully) forced me to partake in team sports. My plate became too full. Unfortunately, horses came off of that plate for a while.
I worked hard, though, to keep horses in my life. After selling my horse and taking a break I came back to lessons. I studied animal science in college and focused in equine studies. I was determined to not let go of something that meant so much to me.
I lost touch with horses after moving to Arizona. I couldn't afford lessons and frankly, after working full days, didn't have the energy to ride. Life again became busy, and horses fell to the back burner. Until last December.
I put horses on my list. I had to get them back in my life, no matter how. I started frequenting all job engines, simply plugging the word "horse" in the search box, and low and behold, I found a job working with horses. And landed it. Yes! I got horses back in my life. I checked it off of my list (excited to do so so soon), and have been so much happier ever since.
3) Music: I have never lived a day without music. My father hails from a family of musicians, so it was only natural for him to carry this music-laden lifestyle over to his children. Most evenings and all weekends were filled with music being played throughout our home. I grew up with the sounds of Rosemary Clooney, Frank Sinatra, and Dean Martin resonating throughout the halls. There was Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong. B.B. King and Eric Clapton. Mozart, Chopin, Debussy, Schubert. Buena Vista Social Club. My uncle Benny's Sessions from the Hearth CD. Ballads, blues, folk, classical. My father dabbled in all types of music; that is, all types of real music, as he would call it. Once synthetic sounds starting coming into music productions, he stopped listening. That meant no rock, no pop, no hip hop being played on the family CD player. That was left up to me to find on my own.
In addition to always having music playing, we were forced (yes, forced) to practice musical instruments. All three daughters took piano lessons. Years upon years of piano lessons. Could we show for it now? No. We all participated in chorus, however, and enjoyed it. I also played the viola and trumpet, each for a year or so. I was filled with glee when I was allowed to quit. One of my biggest regrets is not taking my music lessons or practicing seriously. 10 years of piano lessons should be enough to produce a good player. If that player practiced, and I never did.
But back to the point. Once I left my childhood home, the presence of music in my life dwindled. No more constant flow of music throughout the home, no more musical instruments to practice, no more groups to sing in. I still tried to find new bands and update my iPod, but only when I found the time. And I didn't find the time enough.
Music went on my list. I dedicated a part of my monthly budget to downloads and concert tickets. I've been to more concerts in the past year than my entire life combined. Boom! My life is now that much more enriched.
4) Writing: I love to write. My written word is stronger than my spoken one. However, the field that I've chosen to study and work in doesn't require or facilitate creative writing. Because work takes up so much of my time and energy, I stopped writing.
My mother is an artist. We all grew up with easy access to paint and canvas, and all tried our hands at drawing and painting. For me, painting became more of an emotional outlet than anything else; I wasn't aiming to be good or make any artistic career moves. It was just nice to go into my mother's studio after having a bad day, blast some music, and take it all out on a canvas. I eventually started doing this with writing. It was easier to make sense of things when I wrote them down.
It's amazing how many stories I've started to write and haven't finished. I decided last year that this had to stop. I had to start writing again, and finish what I started.
So, writing went on my list, and this is the last goal that I have met. While a novel or anything long is too ambitious right now, I thought that a blog would be perfect. If I wrote stories to share, I would be more compelled to write them in the first place. And so I have.
I did it! I got three things that once defined me so well back into my daily life. And I'm all the better for it. And now I can answer with ease the questions that I struggled with only a year ago.
Who am I? I am Audrey, of course! Lover and keeper of relationships, horses, music, and the written word.
Do I love me as a person? I do! I am so happy to have passions of my own that I pursue and enjoy. They make me a richer person every day.
Am I a strong individual? Yes! I know who I am. I am confident. I like who I am, and I hope you do too.
What do I have that is my own? My daily work with horses. My search for good music. My attempt at writing. These are all things that I do for myself.
I like this game. I accomplished my list and feel like a better person for it. So 24, what can I do for you, or what can you do for me? Let's start with a list:
1) Pick up the French language again
2) Develop a steady workout routine (yoga, please!)
3) Set out to volunteer. Even if I volunteer twice a year, it's more than I'm doing now.
4) Any more suggestions?
So, on this last night of being 23, I'll thank myself, and I'll thank my year. As I said before, it was a good year. 24, meet your challenge. You've got a lot to live up to.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful Audrey! We are so happy to have you with us at Hunkapi :)