When I was 19 years old, I lived in a stable. That’s a true thing! In eleven stalls of this 12-stall stable there were horses; the 12th stall had shoddy plywood walls and the bare elements to convert it into a sort of apartment. It didn’t have a bathroom in it, but there was one at the far end of the stable that I could use. In addition to living there, I also worked there as a stable hand – one was the reason for the other, in fact. For 19-year-old me it was a sweet deal. I worked from 6 AM to 10 AM taking care of the horses and cleaning the stables, and then the rest of the day was mine. In exchange for this, I received a very minor living stipend, but paid no rent or utilities. A place of my own and a small income just for taking care of some horses for a few hours every day? It was fantastic.
It didn’t interfere with anything else I wanted to do. I was free to work other jobs and pursue other interests at my discretion – as long as I fed the horses every day.
Now, I’ve said it before plenty of times, and I’ll say it again – 19-year-old me wasn’t super bright. I made plenty of mistakes. And I’ve also mentioned that I was kind of a “city-slicker;” a pejorative moniker that I wanted to be rid of, which was at least part of my reason for taking the stable hand job. I say this only as background so that you kind of understand how this next mistake came to be.
Christmas Eve, I’d driven back to my parent’s house – not far from the stable, but maybe an hour or so out of the rural area and into the suburbs. That night I’d stayed over, in order to have a pleasant Christmas morning with my parents and sister, as had been our tradition my entire life.
Which prompted a call from my boss/landlady, who was (understandably in retrospect) quite upset at my absence. I had, in my teenage ignorance, simply assumed that as an employee I’d be off work for Christmas. I worked every other day – holidays, weekends, etc. But Christmas seemed so fundamental, that one day when everything is closed, that I just went home without even thinking about it. In fact, I was actually flabbergasted – offended, even! – that she’d be calling me. I said, “What do you mean, ‘where am I?’ It’s Christmas.”
She said: “You still have to feed the horses every day. They don’t know it’s Christmas.”
Now, that landlady was a miserable and wretched person for a whole host of reasons, I would later discover (not the first of which was that she lived in a farmhouse directly next to the stable and could have just fed the horses herself for one stinkin’ day, but I digress), but she wasn’t wrong then – I was.
There are days that will mark themselves as extraordinary; days which weigh heavier in the balance of your soul than others. Maybe Christmas, maybe a different holiday. Maybe a particular anniversary or your own birthday or someone else’s. These days may carry more significance to you, and it can be good to honor them with the spirit of their passing, whatever that may be.
But don’t let them become excuses for losing sight of who you work every ordinary day to become. You have a responsibility to your future self, commitments you’ve made to the person you want to become. You’ve committed to reach certain goals, whether they’re financial, spiritual, health or personal. Don’t forget those goals, even in the big moments.
I was tempted to just write a quick “Merry Christmas, ya filthy animal” for today’s post. It’s Christmas, after all – who’d blame me? But while I don’t mind short posts, my commitment is to try to write something that will make you think every day. So even though it’s Christmas, and even though I did all the things I wanted to on this day, I’m still here. Feeding the horses, every day.