Updated: Aug 11, 2022
At the barn!
It's kind of an interesting story, actually. You see, I hated school. It wasn't interesting to me and the kids were just plain mean. It is shocking how terrible kids can be and sadly it seems to be getting worse (I couldn't have imagined worse back then!). I had massive amounts of anxiety and panic attacks and was bullied. I didn't help the cause any by intentionally isolating myself from most people. I went to school and did what I had to do in order to slide by and then I got the hell out of there. I did not participate in clubs, I didn't do sports, I even took extra language classes so I didn't have to do things like music and art and band....nope, none of that was for me. (Side note: I took 4 years of French, 3 years of German, 2 years of Spanish and I am barely fluent in English). Anyway, I was also not allowed to have a job. My parents told us that our job was school since there would be plenty of time to work when we were older. However, they were not OK with me doing nothing else.
In high school when it was pretty damn clear I wasn't joining any kind of group activity, I was basically told that if I didn't find something else to do that could occupy some of my time outside of school that might look good on a college application, then they would find me something. Looking back now I really can't remember if I found the barn or if my parents did, but either way, that's where I ended up. I had been riding horses on and off since I was about 7 years old and we have a couple people in our family with disabilities so that worked for me too. It was fitting The barn was a non-profit facilitative equestrian therapy barn that ran on volunteers to provide a safe and inclusive barn and riding experience for people with varying needs: Cerebral Palsy, blindness, deafness, Down Syndrome, ADHD, Autism and probably others I can't think of at the moment. Prior to volunteering at this barn, I had never met a person with Autism. I clicked with these autistic riders immediately. I loved watching, listening and learning about how their brains worked and how they saw and experienced the world differently. They were intriguing and inspiring and the awesome changes I watched through their riding was just incredible. I couldn't get enough. Watching the families see how much their kids were capable of was one of my favorite parts of volunteering there. Some of these kiddos were severely affected by their Autism and would have massive, and sometimes violent, meltdowns, but the second they got on their horse, or started brushing them, they calmed. You could see that agony melting away and see their true colors start to shine through again-every human deserves to feel that kind of peace and I watched it wash over people over and over and over again. The pride on their faces and their parents tear streaked cheeks as they watched their kids do amazing things on those horses and at the barn...it was humbling to be part of it and I wanted more.
I volunteered at the barn for a few years doing all sorts of things; mucking out stalls, feeding horses, throwing hay, dumping/cleaning/filling water buckets, turn in/turn out, exercising the horses, side walker or leader during lessons and whatever else needed to be done. I was even on the quadrille team with another volunteer and two of our riders! Since this was during my high school years I was also thinking about college and what I wanted to do with my life. I was interested in Autism and Psychology, but wasn't sure exactly what I would do with it. So that's where I started (after a very brief detour at court reporting school where I realized that I cannot keep my mouth shut for extended periods of time and take orders from judges and lawyers LOL!).
I ended up going for Psychology for my undergrad and figured while I was there I might as well get my teaching certifications. So I'm also certified in Regular Education (K-6) and Special Education (N-21). While I was in school for Psychology and Education I realized that I really didn't want to teach a classroom full of kids, I really enjoyed behavior. I had met a few behavior specialists through working in the field and talked with them about different options moving forward. I decided to go on for my Masters in Education in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). That course work also set me up to be eligible to sit for the boards to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). So that's what I did over the next few years. Just kept following my passion of working with kiddos and families who needed support. I wanted to get the tools that would allow me to continue to watch that peace and calm wash over people. My passion is helping people. I want to empower people so they realize how capable they are. Support them so they stop doubting their abilities and their child's. Show families that they are often the greatest asset to their child's success.
I am super lucky that I was given the opportunity to find something I am passionate about as a teen. I have a fulfilling life, in part, because of finding this passion. Crazy how things work out!
Do you have a passion? How did you find it? If not and you are interested in trying to figure it out, check out this article on finding your passion.
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