My dad believed in me. I wanted to be a writer, and he knew I could do it. I wasn’t sure how to get started, so he asked me to trust him – do as he asked, and he’d show me how to get published. I said, “Okay.”
The next week, I sent out a bunch of emails to event organizers, magazines, and more. I was headed to Red Hills Horse Trials in Tallahassee, an Olympic qualifier event that the barn I used to work for was connected to. I had a press badge, a voice recorder, and some excitement and trepidation.
When I got there, I signed in at the press tent and made my way around the stables, telling myself “I am a writer. I am a writer.” Back then, reporters were allowed in the stables. We could meander throughout, finding folks to talk to, horses to pat, adventures to have. But I was nineteen and half-terrified. I hadn’t been “shy” in a while now, thanks to my heavy involvement in theatre, but those old nerves came out and I huddled down into my shell. I was shy. I was awkward. I didn’t know what to say or do.
I tried remembering the things Dad told me about doing interviews, but I lost them all to the half-terror of talking to important people.
As I wandered around the stables aimlessly, trying to work up the nerve to talk to somebody – anybody – a blonde woman smiled at me and said, “You look a little lost. Maybe I could help.”
When someone engaged with me, I took on life. I was a people person – so talking to someone I didn’t have to initiate conversation with did it for me.
I told her everything – I was there trying to find people to interview, trying to “break in” to the equestrian journalism world. “Oh, well, let me introduce you to my friends! I was short-listed for Sydney, so I know all those guys.”
I didn’t know what she was talking about, but my theatrical upbringing helped me fake it.
She brought me around to meet her friends – Olympic Gold Medallists like David O’Connor, Karen O’Connor, world champions, etc. who’d competed in the 2000 Sydney Olympics two years prior. I wound up interviewing all of them at some point in the following weeks and landed several bylines, including one that, to this day, was my best paid piece ever (and interview with gold medallist, David O’Connor, for Ride! Magazine, a then print magazine and my first print byline). I took my Dad’s advice in pitching articles, made the edits he suggested for the various pieces, and launched my career initially as an equestrian journalist.
My encouragement in all of this is: if you’re a little bit afraid of something you’re dreaming of doing, don’t let that fear stop you. Instead, go in, unsure of yourself and your surroundings and do it anyway. You’ll never achieve your dreams if you “stay home” because it feels safer than taking a risk and maybe looking the fool. In reality, we’re all a bit foolish in our pursuits until we make it.