By Rob Jacobs
Dear Observant Young Brown-Skinned Boy,
The differences you notice about yourself do not make you awkward, they make you special. At some point later in life, you will learn to believe this. In the meantime, just relax and know everything will be OK. You will set goals for yourself. Most of them you will achieve; some you will not. The goals not achieved will give you a stronger level of determination and will not cause you to feel permanently defeated. Although initially you may feel discouraged, you move past those feelings. Your observant nature will feed into your instincts and serve you well later in life; you’re onto something…trust your instincts. Horses and people like you and trust you naturally.
After trying countless sports and activities, you eventually become brave enough to try a sport no one else you’re familiar with is involved in. This sport involves the animal you would define as “majestic.” You discover your innate ability to communicate with and understand these large “majestic” animals. These animals will help the shy and mediocrely confident child grow into a brave, relatable, communicative young man that is able to adapt to meet the needs of the community you serve. You’re not patient; that’s OK, you eventually learn to be. You can thank those large animals for teaching you patience. You’re stubborn and determined; you become less stubborn but remain equally determined; you can thank those large animals for that, too.
Your parents do their absolute best to support you on your journey in the equestrian sport. You learn to thank them for allocating most of their dollars toward your education as opposed to the horse show budget. No, you don’t get to show much in high school, but trust me, you end up horse showing a lot later in life. There is a reason that becomes clearer to you later in life pertaining to why you felt behind in the sport. The excellent news is, because you don’t like that feeling, you continue to work hard until that feeling goes away.
For such a shy and introverted child, you always seem to find a few quality friendships that you cherish. This is also true during your high school years. Your closest friends do not understand what riding horses entails, but they support you and don’t tease you for doing something unique. You learn to support them in their unique interests also. You even decide to try the ROTC drill team in high school to join one of your friends and discover how much fun you have. In college the same is true: You find a small group of friends that you connect with organically. You learn the importance of remaining true to yourself and not changing yourself to develop friends. Because you work to be authentic, it does take you longer to make friends, but the quality of the relationships is much higher. Continue to practice patience in this area as well: Quality is always better than quantity.
You’re growing up so fast. You’re less a child now and more of a young man in college. Although you have always been observant, you haven’t noticed small forms of racism yet. Thankfully, you don’t experience extreme forms of racism. You will later realize what your parents were talking about all those years. They raised you to be independent and kind-hearted, but you are still naïve as it pertains to subtle ways people can belittle or manipulate you. It’s OK, you learn to pick up on these things, you learn to listen, you learn to smile, and you learn to become less defensive while still protecting your opinions and perspectives. It’s all a process; take it one day at a time. Have fun and keep practicing your smile in the mirror—it helps you later in life.
My intention for writing this letter to my “younger-self” is to encourage the young equestrians who may experience similar feelings as I did growing up. I’ve learned there is no feeling I can experience that someone else has not already experienced. You aren’t alone; in fact, sometimes the person you think wouldn’t ever know how you feel may completely understand how you feel. This year’s primary audience was to the young professional; next year’s theme will be geared toward the young equestrian. I look forward to engaging with everyone in the new year. Cheers!
Rob in high school walking Willowbend’s Frankenstein after finishing their division.
Photo courtesy of Rob Jacobs