I didn't know I wanted to write a post about this topic until this past weekend. This is not a post about loneliness or depression, although those are important topics, just not here and not this time.
All my life I've been alone in my ventures. Horses, dogs, whatever. I never minded really. I never really thought about it. Honestly, the fact that the people in my lives allowed me to do my own thing was the best part. I've never really fit in anywhere except when I'm training and showing animals and I had long ago accepted that I was weird. It's ok. It's fun to be different. It's empowering to a certain degree. You learn to be ultra independent and strong but at the same time, you really are a bit disinterested/distrustful of other people and forming relationships with them. Being an introvert though, this fits in fine for me.
When I was a teenager, I trained and showed my mare from horse trader purchase to preliminary level eventing on my own. My parents didn't participate, pay, or drive me to events (they did pay board and weekly lessons though). If anything, they made it clear frequently that it was a burden on them and possible leverage to get me to perform to whatever standards they wanted at the time (school, chores, etc) at times. I was anxious during these years because I never knew what might make them threaten to take my horse away and it was frustrating because I was working so hard to do this thing I loved and felt like I fit in (albeit with the 40+ year old adults - you guys were/are the best). When I was headed to college, my parents had me sell my mare as agreed to when they purchased her. My cat and dog were put to sleep that year due to medical reasons unexpectedly and I entered college knowing that animal companionship was also fleeting and I formed a bigger shell around myself despite attempting to be more social with my own age group.
Showing dogs as much as I have, I've longed for some sort of mutual human partnership. Just someone I could count on to help out in the shows and we could tag team it and therefore get more done in each weekend. Many times I thought I had found that person/persons but in the end, they never came through. Some of them had meltdowns or stage anxiety at the last minute, some prioritized other things before the showing, just whatever and I was left alone to pursue my own goals. I've met MANY lovely people at shows but in the end it was all on me to make things happen. Another reinforcement for being independent and strong.
I just learned to do these things on my own, with whatever budget I could manage, and I was always professional and polite - never letting anyone breech the friend barrier, not really anyhow lest I be burned again. I've always done things on my own and I am so grateful that my husband simply allows me to do these activities and anytime he helps past that point, I always get nervous. He's definitely the most important person in my life and the fact that he tolerates (and encourages now) my shenanigans blows my mind. Is he happy? Is he fed? Is he going to be mad that a show is so boring like I told him but you never know? I also have these same thoughts when someone I enjoy being around comes to these events. It makes it hard to focus and perform, yet I've managed to do just that despite personal stress. Again, going to the shows alone makes this scenario somewhat easier.
Even with Alex aligning her life with ours these past few years through dog training (vet student when showed up one day and never went away despite my indifference at first), I know she's graduating soon and onto bigger and better things. I'm super happy and proud of her but there's a part of me that's going to miss having a regular partner in crime, an apprentice, and someone to talk dogs and horses with on a daily basis. But even with her enthusiasm and friendship, I haven't pushed her to involve herself in my life any more than she wants to. I know she'll still be around and in our lives but it won't be the same crazy "whenever and wherever" way we do now to support and push each other.
Now I have Sarah in the mix and she's such a wonderful asset with the horses and that portion of my life. I really feel like I have a home team and I didn't realize how awesome that was until this past weekend. With Sarah riding Simon and myself riding Vana, plus each of us riding two new-to-us-in-recognized competition levels, we were short on help and time. Sarah had her father and husband come along, Alex and her boyfriend came as well. My husband and son rounded out the group and we were all a team. Alex and Sarah's husband committed to learning how to read tests while we schooled that week and my husband was on deck to video Simon's warmups and tests for sales footage. Everyone was split down the middle, but we worked together like a team should to get our tasks done for the weekend. There were a few blips but it was just a nice mostly seamless weekend and we could all pat our backs at the end of the weekend no matter what color the ribbons were. I guess if anything I felt like the coach and that was so nice to be a part of. Part of that is being a stronger person. Part of that is trusting in these relationships with other people.