I made my gap year my own. I had the opportunity to spend my time exploring and having a lot of new challenges. I would not have had these obstacles if I did not push myself to go against the norm of jumping right into college. Even though taking time off is not for everyone, it was such a blessing for me.
I am not sure if my gap year was as spontaneous as it was a long time coming. I knew a lot was going to change for my family and me this past year. For the most part I just ride the wave but a part of me probably just wanted to get away from the chaos. With my Dad retiring after working for Delta airlines for 35 years our family was planning to move out of our house in Westport, Connecticut that I was born and raised in for all 19 years of my life. With one sibling graduating from middle school and the other college, I thought, what is the rush? I have always wanted to explore my love for horses deeper to see if being a professional might be something that I want to pursue. I thought taking a break before college would be a great time to do just that.
My year did not start with horses. It started in Colorado at Adventure Unlimited Adult camp with my Dad. We did a mix of different adventures all utilizing Christian Science as our engine forward. The biggest hill we climbed, physically and metaphorically, was Mount Belford that stands at 14,203 feet. That was just the start of the journey.
Once I got home from Colorado I started a couple of community college courses that perfectly schedule around my other obligations. My days off from school were spent walking an outgoing french bulldog with my german shepherds, riding my horse, and being the nanny for two rambunctious, lively sisters and their lovable dog Jackie. I loved my semester at home because it made me connect to the town I have called home all these years. Although majority of the fall was spent in Westport, I found ways to take advantage of my Dad’s flying privileges. Through the year I did trips to (out of order): Colorado, Chicago, Barcelona, Greece, Zurich, Florence, and then Venice for his final trip as an airline pilot. I took these trips to travel with my father, visit new cities, and see old friends. All of these trips were short but I absorbed a world of experience.
On January 2nd I was headed down to Ocala, Florida with my older sister Barbara who accompanied me for the drive. A highlight of the drive was pulling up to Jacksonville airport just in time for her to successfully get onto a flight that was delayed just enough time for her to whip through security with 15 minutes until takeoff and to get the last seat on the plane. It is the most amazing experience to see things fall into place. This was just the start of a winter of unfoldment.
Working twelve hour days for three and a half months, first in Florida then in Pennsylvania, will be as hard as you make it. I learned so much about myself as a worker, person, and the fact that I like blankets to be consistently organized on a shelf. I do eventing which in horseback riding has three main components: dressage, cross country, and show jumping. Just being surrounded daily by the best event riders in the United States I was able to see so much. Being coached by Dom and Jimmie Schramm daily and at competitions gave me and my horse the competitive edge to tackle any challenge ahead. The jumps actually looked smaller!
I jumped into the job not knowing the work or the people but once I got to know the people, the workload felt easier. We shared a spacious apartment between the three of us and it was great preparation for when I would eventually be sharing a dormitory with some girls I would have never met before at college. If I were to go into depth about all the stories I have from Florida, I would need to write a separate blog for that. Whether it was our nightly excursions to change the blankets on the horses during night check, or having a three o’clock morning to braid horses for a show, or even just watching Pretty Woman for the third time on cable TV with Beckett the dog by my side and pasta and meat sauce for dinner, I was having a great time.
After my time on the farm I went back to reality and had an awesome summer with friends and family. I hopped on a flight to Zurich and took a train to Florence to visit my high school friend while she was abroad with New York University. I stopped by the beloved Crystal Lake Camps for a week of rejuvenation. To wrap up the summer after we settled into the new house in Florida, my brother, Dad, and I went to the Keys in Florida to get open water scuba certified. I kept up with my horseback riding and with my long time trainer I dove deeper into the quirks of my training. When issues arise and it is hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, I just remind myself that I am in the process of failing my way to success! It sounds harsh but basically I need to make mistakes to learn from them.
Going off of that, I am currently writing this from my dorm room at University of Colorado, Boulder. I am excited to be meeting new people, continue my partnership with my extraordinary horse Grand Cru, and furthering my education at such a beautiful school in the mountains. I’m on Love’s divine adventure and I am having a great time!
Grace Foster is a freshmen at University of Colorado, Boulder and lives with her family in Ocala, FL.