Senior Goodbye: Discovering yourself

I+couldve+been+upset%3B+I+couldve+been+selfish%2C+but+that+would+not+have+been+fair.+

Nick Perez

“I could’ve been upset; I could’ve been selfish, but that would not have been fair. “

In the past four years of high school, I have grown from someone who needed to fit in just to feel okay with myself to someone who just stopped caring. By saying I stopped caring, I don’t mean flunking out of high school or doing illegal things because why not. I mean I stopped caring how others viewed me.

In my head, I didn’t feel like a normal high school student just because I didn’t play a typical sport like soccer or volleyball, which made me believe I was an outsider. 

Rodeo has been a part of my life since I was in the third grade. I was always so proud to tell people about my sport, at least I was until seventh grade. It started to embarrass me. People would say I am a horse girl, which I suppose I am; I just took it as an insult. So I stopped mentioning and talking about it. When I was asked about it, I tried to blow it off.

I didn’t have many friends in middle school, and I figure it was because I was a “horse girl.” I always felt excluded or left out, and as an incoming freshman, I wanted to change that. I needed to change the way people saw me. This was my mission for my first two and a half years of high school. I ended up doing things I wouldn’t normally do, things I ended up regretting. I was always involved with drama, my grades could’ve been better, and I didn’t seem to care about rodeo like my parents thought I did. It got to the point where I was emotionally exhausted juggling two different lives and having this fake persona of myself.

Things changed for me in the middle of my junior year for the better. I lost some of my “friends” due to reasons I can’t even get myself to remember, and I reconnected with some of my old friends and even made new ones. I started going to youth groups Sunday nights, and I was finally surrounded by the right people. It didn’t feel like I had to be someone I wasn’t, and they seemed to genuinely care about my rodeo life. They thought it was cool and would ask me about my horses and how my season was going. It was a sense of relief, and I became happier overall because I finally stopped worrying about others’ opinions and felt comfortable enough to be me again.

I’ve learned a lot during my senior year, and it was all because of high school rodeo. I had major setbacks the previous years because my horses were injured, not placing, and I just couldn’t keep up. I wasn’t born into the rodeo industry; I didn’t have the resources, experience or the horsepower most of my competitors had. I wasn’t able to just go buy the finished horses that were already winning or have a string of them like some people did. It was draining because I felt like I worked just as hard as they did but it never seemed to be enough. My dad told me a quote he heard somewhere that has stuck with me.

“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”

I decided to give it my all and see what would happen. To see if I could reach a new competitive level.

I spend about four to five hours almost every day going to my barn and riding. I drive 80 miles, which is about an hour to an hour back, and I normally get back home around 9 p.m. to eat dinner. By then, I am too emotionally exhausted to do any homework. So I do all my schoolwork throughout my day, either when I have time in my classes or during my off periods. It doesn’t really allow me to have the most social school day, and I’m okay with that because it takes the stress off of my shoulders. I have the time to go do what I love. People joke with me saying things like “man, all you do is work,” “how are you so ahead in school,” “do you ever have fun?” This would have bothered the old me, but I have adjusted my mindset knowing that if I want to accomplish my goals, I will have to work hard for it.

This year I had the best high school rodeo year I’ve ever had, I would place at almost every rodeo and even high enough to pull checks and go to state. It was so rewarding to accomplish something that I have put so much time and dedication into.

Until, it all seemed to slip away.

Very recently, I took my good horse to the vet, the one I have worked so hard with all year, to get maintained. I received some unfortunate news, my vet told me I will not be able to run my mare for three to six months due to a tear in her suspensory ligaments. I was devastated. My parents were crushed. All my friends were bummed for me. Everything I worked for this year slipped away: my chance to make finals at state; the possibility of me going to nationals; all of it disappeared. My world was crumbling underneath me. On top of hearing that news, my dad was beating himself up and blaming himself for what had happened. I had to be strong and look at this in a mature way, because nothing is more important than this horse’s health and deep down I knew that.

I could’ve been upset; I could’ve been selfish, but that would not have been fair. A lot of things in life happen that are outside of your own control. Some may be very unexpected and unfortunate, but what’s in your control is how you react to the obstacles life throws at you.