Mainly, I don't have a lot of it. Sounds tragic and pessimistic, I know. But it's deeper than that.
Most people who know me would call me an optimist. I find beauty and goodness in things when others can't. I appreciate the blessings life gives me and honestly believe good things will happen most of the time. But I've realized that's not hope. I believe good things will happen because I believe in my ability to make them happen. I believe things will mostly be okay because I believe believe people are mostly good.
So much of what I have in life is because of my own making. I either fought really hard against the circumstances, or I jumped on opportunities when luck or whatever else you might call it brought them my way. Things that are completely outside of my control are harder to grasp. Grit and determination - I've got those in abundance. Hope that things I can't achieve through my own hard work will happen - that's much more rare.
I feel both proud and lucky that I know exactly what I want out of life. I spent a lot of time exploring, trying new things, trying other people's things...and I know now what I really need to be happy. I want a family. I want to live in the country with some land and some animals. I want to make enough money to feel financially secure. I want to serve my community. I want to spend as much time outside as possible. I want to love with abandon.
I know what I want, but I don't know exactly how I'm going to get from here to there. There are definitely things I can control, but there are tons of barriers and things take time and sometimes it just all feels so far away. I know I need to believe it's going to happen to make it happen, but in the face of so many experiences that knock you back, it can be hard to see how to go forward.
That's where hope comes in, and that's where I have to admit that I just don't have a lot of it.
And then 2019 said, "Hold my beer".
* * * * *
In early December I stopped at Larson Family Winery to pick up the wine club packages I had left sitting there for months. It occurred to me that it was an unusual choice for me, and I found myself thinking back to why I had even gone there. The sound of a goat bleating reminded me exactly why I chose Larson, and I started reflecting on just how much has happened in the year since that first visit.
It was all about the goats.
But come to think of it, even that had so many more layers.
In 2018 my best friend from kindergarten chose to visit me in SF for Thanksgiving. I took her wine tasting and chose Larson because they had goats on the property. Anyone who knows me well knows how much I love goats. I grew up with them, I've always thought they were super cute, and I was into hanging out with them long before goat yoga was a thing. I have proof.
I love goats.
But really, goats are just a representation of the life I want to live. Goats mean farm life. Goats mean animal cuddles, muck boots, and hay falling out of your bra at the end of the day. Goats mean hard work cleaning pens and fixing fences, scrapes and bruises from hooves and broken doors, and responsibilities that are more important than responding to that email or checking facebook. Goats mean understanding life and death in a way that I find most kids who grow up in cities don't. It means watching for signs of illness, giving shots, cuddling a sick animal through the night hoping he'll make it, and grieving if he doesn't. To me, goats represent a version of me that I miss.
Several years ago I realized that I didn't want to spend the rest of my life in the city. I want acreage, a barn, animals, and kids who know what it means to wake up and do chores to keep it all going. I am so happy with my life and have loved living in SF and traveling the world, but it's just not who I really am day to day. I want a modest home that benefits from the time and energy I put into it. I want enough space for a real kitchen and a place where people can join me for dinner. I want a small town community in the country where neighbors know each other. I want a farm truck and a garden and horses and chickens and goats and dogs and kids and a porch swing even if I don't have a real porch. I want grass and stars. I want something that really feels like home.
Living in a studio in San Francisco where I hear street noise all night and my neighbors steal my packages and the homeless guys outside dump the trash can all over the sidewalk every day just isn't working for me anymore. It makes this dream I have seem so far away. So I started dreaming a little smaller. I figured if I could only get a couple of acres I could still have 2 or 3 goats and a dog and a fixer-upper house. The goats were a foot in the door of the whole picture I really wanted, and my love for the cute little guys became a thing everyone knew about. So when I remembered that the reason I chose Larson as the first stop that day was because they had goats I wanted to pet, I started to realize just how much has changed in the past year.
A year ago a friend told me about a Valentine's Day event where I could donate to a goat rescue to get cute pictures cuddling the babies. That night I talked to volunteers with the organization, and within 2 weeks I was a regular volunteer bottle feeding baby goats on my home from work, which was easy because I had a new job that had me commuting right past the goat yard every day. These things combined with more to push me even further towards my goals.
I went on a summer trail ride with a group I know well only to find that my usual horse had passed away. The new horse I was on had been trained only to follow its mother, and left me sad that the horse under my saddle didn't listen to me as a rider. Because I had lost so much weight in the spring (a concerted effort to be more fit and to open up more riding stables to me), I was able to find a riding instructor with a horse big enough for me. It would be just beginning riding lessons when I wanted overall horsemanship, but it was a step in the right direction. My experience with that instructor was so awful that I turned to a former colleague to help me learn just groundwork (she didn't have a horse big enough), but when I shared my love and disappointment with her, she went above and beyond. Kim not only decided to mentor me on all the horsemanship I wanted to learn, but she also found a horse I could ride.
When the fires came in the fall as they seem to every year now, I once again mucked stalls and bucked hay to help the sheltered horses. Through that work I got connected to an amazing organization that inspired me to get all of my FEMA certifications and disaster trainings so I can actually help rescue animals in the future.
One things just kept leading to another, and the results are astounding. When I look back on my 2019, I am faced with hoards of reasons to believe. I have actual evidence that even when I don't see the path, big things can happen very quickly.
- One year ago I worked for a company I loved in a job that I was good at. I was comfortable and I saw a path forward, but I wasn't pushing my boundaries. Now I work for a company with amazing benefits where I'm challenged every day to learn more, be better, and prove myself. The initial trade in of cash salary for equity is already proving to be better for my financial outlook.
- One year ago I had decided not to move forward with freezing my eggs because it would cost me around $75k to do the number of rounds I would need. I felt I needed to leave having a biological family up to chance,. Now I'm on the other side of a grueling 5 months of IVF and I have some assurance that I can have kids when I'm ready.
- One year ago I had a sparse relationship with my best friend from kindergarten. On a whim she came to visit me over Thanksgiving and we've spent the last year connecting daily and visiting more frequently. A part of my life that was missing is back and I'm so grateful to have the love and support of someone I admire this much. She has helped me remember and find comfort in who I really am.
- One year ago I was over 30 lbs heavier than I am now. A strict keto diet and some intense yoga have helped me build a body that feels strong and makes me proud.
- One year ago I was eager to cuddle goats whenever I could. I paid to pet goats - at events, at petting zoos. Now I have helped hand raise 14 baby goats into the cute little herd they are today. I have learned to give injections, to spot signs of illness, and have curled up in hay to make sure a sick goat makes it through the night. I start raising my second herd of babies in March.
- One year ago I had gone 13 months without dating because I needed a break - from men, from myself, from unhealthy relationships. This year I have met amazing people who have all been lessons that have prepared me to be the partner I'm meant to be when it's time. I found an amazing community of women dedicated to supporting each other so that we can heal our wounds and leave ourselves open to love when it shows up.
- One year ago I mucked stalls for evacuated animals during wildfires, wishing I could do more. Now I have the FEMA certifications and training that will allow me to go behind responder lines to really help those who need it during disasters.
- One year ago I was a timid snowboarder who hated traverses. Thanks to trips to some big challenging mountains and lots of time with better riders, I'm now confident on any mountain and I'm a better and faster boarder than I've ever been.
- One year ago I planned out the rodeo schedule every summer in hopes of finding places to meet people who wanted similar things and maybe share a dance or two. This year I went to Cheyenne Frontier Days the first time, started 2 stepping again, and I no longer feel like an imposter wearing my boots out.
- One year ago I thought I could put off horses - all I needed was a trail ride here and there to keep me going. Now I'm learning how to train green horses, I'm gaining confidence riding green horses, and I've started working with a mustang.
The evidence is overwhelming. Even my skeptical, unhopeful mind can't ignore how just a couple of opportunities aligned to transform everything in my life in such a short time. I am so close to achieving my goals, and I am so much happier for having the things in my life I do now. I could never have imagined how quickly or how things could change. Who knows where I'll be 12 months from now. I do know I'll be even better, stronger, and more true to who I am than I am now, and I no longer feel stuck in circumstances or that everything I want is so far away. Truly, everything can change in a year.
And this... this gives me HOPE.