You’re looking at the high school valedictorian.
Yup. 13 years ago, I graduated high school with a full ride to the University of Delaware. I planned on majoring in Biochemistry. I wanted to help develop an antidepressant with less side effects specifically for teens. I struggled with Depression and Anxiety my senior year of high school, and I wanted to help the world.
Little did I know I would end up with a completely different major and no degree. Yup, here’s looking at the valedictorian.
I struggled that first year. Deeply struggled. A loner in a single dorm room on campus, my depression worsened until one day, I decided it was the end. I swallowed a ton of pills, ended up at the hospital drinking charcoal, and voluntarily admitted myself for inpatient treatment. I am adamant that decision was the best decision I ever made. I had to end the year early with a medical leave. Sharing that here is extremely difficult, but I believe that it is both important to my story, as well as I believe being transparent will hopefully act as a beacon of hope to others. I’m planning on writing more in the future on my mental health journey, and how far I’ve come on that journey.
In the years following, I switched my major- more times than I can count. I found a group of friends and then lost them. I got my first F ever. I wandered, for lack of a better term, lost in the world. But I also found my love of horses.
I joined the University of Delaware Equestrian Team almost as a dare. I’d never ridden in my life. But they needed beginners, so I signed up. And I fell head over hooves for horses. Lessons, team meetings, volunteering, shows- it consumed my life. I wasn’t very good, but that didn’t matter. Everything was right and good when I was on the back of a horse. The team was so incredibly supportive. Many people complain that riding circuits can be a bit “snobby” for their liking. Not on UDET. Everyone supported everyone. There were extremely wealthy members and extremely hard off members. But that didn’t matter. We all encouraged each other, we shared show clothing and tall boots and helmets at shows; we offered uplifting words from the sidelines to the members in the ring, and cheered each other when someone won a ribbon. We had parties and mixers where everyone was welcome and if you didn’t have something you needed, someone else did. I lived for my weekly team lesson- for the car pool down and back, for the camaraderie as we brought our horses in to clean them and tack them up. I’ve never been a morning person, but you bet your britches that I was up and rearing to go on Saturday mornings. Formal in the spring was an absolute blast. I’m still friends with people I met on the team; I may not be close to them now, but I valued those friendships so much in college because they were there when I needed them the most.
That love led me to a job as a barn worker for the local stables owned by the county. It didn’t pay much, but I didn’t care- I got to spend my days in pretty much solitude with the gentle giants, and I got free lessons. For a girl who struggled at sports and never really did well, I was a goner for a gallop.
And then my accident happened.
June 30, 2006. I was bedding down the stalls after mucking, and needed more straw. For some unknown reason, they had stacked the bales in under the breezeway attached to the far side of the office building instead of in the main barn like usual. It meant I had to walk on the road, and where the breezeway met the road, you had to be careful for speeding ATVs that couldn’t see around the corner. I grabbed a bale, and crossed the road to walk on the strip of grass next to the turnouts. It was the furthest you could get from the breezeway in hopes those ATVs might see you, and got you off to the side so they wouldn’t run you over. With the bale in front of me, I walked towards the barn. Unable to see where I was going, on an unfamiliar and not often traversed path, there was no way I was able to see the 6 inch ditch in the ground in front of me that was covered over with grass and dirt. I stepped in and twisted my ankle. Limping into the barn, I dropped my bale and went to the office. The managers had seen it happen. One took me to the medical aid unit, where X-rays showed it wasn’t broken. I was given crutches, an air cast, an ACE bandage, and told to rest. I was given an appointment with the doctors at Occupational Health. And I was sent home.
Come to find out, there had been a maintenance work order to fill in the hole for quite some time, but it never got done. As a result of someone’s carelessness and neglect to their job, I was hurt on the job. Little did I know that day would drastically alter my future as I had seen it. All because of a twisted ankle.