Today was the last equitation show of the season for Younger Daughter. She had high hopes for this show; she’s currently fourth in the overall standings and needed a good performance to push her into the top three. Unfortunately, today just wasn’t her day. As she approached her second jump, she had one of those heart-stopping falls — the kind where it feels like an eternity passes before the rider gets up again — that dashed her chances of a good finish (and damn near gave her mother a heart attack.)
Once her trainers were sure she could wiggle her fingers and toes (and had answered her tearful question, “what did I do wrong?”), I asked if she wanted to go home. She looked at me as though I were crazy. “I’ve got two more events,” she said flatly. Five minutes later, back in the saddle, she rode flawlessly to a third-place finish.
Of course I’m proud of the courage and determination she showed in the face of adversity. But what struck me most was the look on her face when she picked herself up and brushed the dirt from her breeches. She didn’t look brave or determined; she looked eager. She wanted nothing more than to climb back up on the horse that had just flung her to the ground, and try again.
As I sit in Starbucks, waiting for her to finish cheering on her friends back at the barn, I can’t stop thinking about what I learned from Younger Daughter today. Horseback riding, you see, is her passion. Frustration, failure, and occasionally getting hurt are the price she’s happy to pay for the unparalleled high that comes from doing what she loves. She’s a lucky girl. Passion is what gives life its kick, and in my experience, people who have passion in their lives are somehow more alive than those who aren’t so fortunate.
It occurs to me that there’s a lesson here for expat wives, who often find themselves virtually alone in a new country, unable to work, and liberated from the demands of housekeeping by the availability of domestic staff. For many, the combination of free time and loneliness prompts a confused what do I do now? feeling. I guess that’s why reinvention is such a common theme among expat wives. I’ve spoken to quite a few whose time away has uncovered a passion for something they’d never even considered before. Expatriation is a time of exploration, and some of what we discover lies within us.
The thing that’s really got me thinking, though, is that everything I’ve just written can be applied to repatriation as well. Moving back home is another fresh start (although perhaps re-start would be a more appropriate descriptor.) There’s no reason we can’t harness the openness and sense of adventure that served us so well as expatriates, and apply it to our new/old lives in our home country.
I won’t be taking up horseback riding anytime soon; Younger Daughter is welcome to call that particular activity her own. But I’m going to keep on following my passion for writing about expat life, and maybe dig a little deeper to see what other passions I can unearth. I’m hoping that reframing repatriation as another form of expat experience will re-awaken the curiosity I seem to have lost when I hung up my passport. I’ll let you know how it goes.