I’ve been having trouble recognising myself lately.
Sometimes I think back to my school days, all the way back to primary, and wonder whether some of my old classmates would even recognise me these days. Both in the way I look and the person I am. My grandmother has a picture of me and my brothers on her mantelpiece in the one year we were all at primary school together. I was in Year 6, at the tender age of 10/11.
I was looking at it the other day, scrutinising the details. I found it hard to believe that the quiet looking little girl with the spattering of freckles across her nose and big blue eyes was really me, once upon a time. And then I found this gem of a picture taken on a non-school uniform day when I was in year 8. That’s eleven years ago now!
So yeah, I’ve changed a lot in the way I look and I do struggle a bit, when I look at these pictures, to find myself in those faces.
The bigger thing though, is the person I am. I caught sight of myself in a window on the yard the other day, hay in my hair, horse feed on my cheek, and a piece of straw sticking out of a hole in my jumper. I was windswept and tired looking, but driven with purpose; I had a job to do. I remember a split second of “who the hell is that?” until my brain clicked in and told me that it was a darkened window and therefore, my reflection. Because while I look different to how I did at thirteen, I don’t look that different to me at twenty. And yet I barely recognise myself. Why is that?
In a very short space of time, my life has done a U-turn, albeit with a lot of squiggly bits in the middle. I have gone from not being able to mount a horse without assistance, to doing everything I can do now, all in the space of fifteen months. Not only that, but I have taken on so much more than I had expected of myself by this point.
Way back at the start of my first year at college, I had hopes that by the start of the next year I would be able to ride safely in all three paces, without causing anyone heart failure when I got on. If I looked ahead to this point, it would probably be a daring dream of possibly being capable of jumping a small fence or two.
And now? Well that’s exactly my point. How can I possibly look at who I am now and recognise this woman? She’s totally different to how I expected myself to turn out. For a start, I never imagined myself going into an outdoorsy, horsey world until fifteen months ago. And even when I decided to give it a go, I sure never guessed I could actually be any good at it. But I’m now working part time on the college yard alongside my studies, getting paid to do the stuff that I once thought I would never get the hang of. At some point along the way I must have got good enough, because I know Sonya sure as hell wouldn’t pay me if I couldn’t do it properly. Which is why I sit here and question myself. How did I ever manage to get to this?
And when I talk, the words that come out of my mouth surprise me constantly. I’ll be chattering away about managing to get the horse to lengthen his stride, whether or not a horse is a good jumper, or being able to feel the ‘softness’ in my hands. I mean…what does any of that even mean? According to my brain, I understand it. But something in me tells me I can’t possibly know what I’m talking about.
That girl up the page? She doesn’t know any of it. And I am still that girl, I’ve just done more stuff than her.
So when this horse loving windswept young woman with straw in her clothing and mud on her face looks back at me, is it any wonder I don’t know who she is sometimes? She has a confidence I don’t believe in and does things I surely can’t. She seems to go into things with the knowledge that it’ll all work out in the end, but I can’t see that at all. She’s tense though, and hardened. More than I realised. I think I’m turning into a person I never thought I’d be.
I’m still working out whether that’s a good thing or not.