It Takes Time

A friend who’s a college equestrian coach told me of a conversation she had with a student during a recent team practice. The student asked her how she could improve her riding, as she had struggled a bit during the practice, and my friend told her, “You just need to ride more. You show up to lessons and practices and you work hard, but you’d get really good if you just got more saddle time.”

Her student’s response?

“Okay, but is there anything else I could do?”

If you’re like my friend the coach and me, maybe you laughed when you read that just now – or perhaps you felt a significant twinge of disappointment or maybe frustration or a combination of all of those things. It certainly isn’t an expected answer or the kind of uplifting tale of perseverance we’re used to hearing in athletic settings or reading about in The Chronicle of the Horse. But one thing I’ll give that student in the way of acknowledgement is to say that her answer was clearly honest and true for her thought process. (Perhaps that’s some consolation?)

I am a little worried by it, however – though maybe not for the reasons you think.

A year ago when the pandemic started and we were all put into some version of lockdown and/or quarantine, it felt like we had all the time in the world. (Ironically, we did have more time to spend locked away than we originally thought we would, but I digress.) Remember that feeling? There was, for a brief period, the sense that lockdown was a chance to regroup, reset, and rest from the constant state of GO we’d lived in for so long.

People made Tik Tok videos.

They learned to make sourdough bread.

They started playing board and card games again.

Time slowed and we began to take time to do things we had previously rushed through or glossed over. And for a minute there, it seemed we might actually learn something from this slowed down experience, that we might begin to re-learn the value of taking things slowly and methodically.

A year later, readers, and I’m fairly certain we’re on track to jump right back on that fast-paced treadmill as soon as we can get our vaccines.

And I get it – I’m anxious to get out there and get moving again too. (I’m owed a trip to Iceland and am dying to get back to real, in-person campus visits and conferences with my colleagues and friends. I’m also down for some real, live hugs and that isn’t something I’d usually say pre-pandemic. #NotAHugger) But even once we’re back at liberty, that won’t change the same facts that were true before 2020 and those are:

Some things take real time to do correctly.

Rushing through those things that require time guarantees a poor result. Every time.

And that’s why I’m a little worried right now, readers, because I don’t want us to lose our willingness to take time to properly do the things that require real care, real attention, and real dedication. Riding is one of those things – you can’t get good at it if you don’t do it. (It’s a perfect example of Malcom Gladwell’s 10,000 Hour Rule – the necessity to put ten thousand hours of effort and practice into the thing you want to be very good at.) Ditto any other sport or art form. (Remember the old joke? “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice.”)

But sports and art aren’t the only areas where the necessity of taking time applies; the college search is equally time consuming (though admittedly for a shorter period of time, as college searching isn’t a skill you’ll need for a lifetime unless you go into a line of work like mine). Very often I’ll get an email from a parent after I’ve met with their student just one time (for just one hour) that asks if I’ve created the list of colleges to which s/he’ll apply in the fall – an email that always receives the same necessary reply from me, which is to explain that one meeting isn’t enough for me to understand the student’s needs and wants well enough to suggest a list of colleges.

Sure, I’ve probably learned enough to winnow the possibilities from 400 prospective schools to 200, but that’s still a lot of colleges and I’m going to need more information and conversations to go on before I can continue the list development process. What’s more, even after I’ve pieced together the preliminary school list for the family, where that early list develops from there will depend greatly on that family taking the time to thoroughly research the pros and cons of each particular institution and decide how it aligns with their list of search parameters and priorities.

And if you guessed that process also takes time, you’d be right.

As I finish typing up this latest blog entry, it’s spring outside my window, readers. The days have begun to lengthen, my lawn and paddocks are turning from brown to green, and I’m coming in from the barn every day covered in a delightful layer of horse hair that’s in the process of being shed. We’re on the verge of emerging from our cocoons and pick up the pace that’s slackened over the last year, and I ask you to remember as you do so that not everything can (or should) be done at speed. Some things – some of the best things – still take time.

They always will.

(Need help understanding where to spend your time and energy during the college search? Contact me or pick up a copy of my book to guide you.)

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