Riding 29 year old Sandy in 1997

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Seven year itches?

It seems to me that every seven years I make a change in my life.

At 7 I was in the third grade where I discovered the Black Stallion books, which were a huge influence on my life.  From 7 to 14 I did a lot of reading, a lot of observing, a lot of book learning, especially about horses.  I was a good student, but had few friends, being a confirmed introvert.  At 11 I started writing stories, and at 12 I finished a story that years later would be turned into my first novel.  This was the era where I learned about life, and learned what was important to me.

At 14 I came out of my shell somewhat.  In high school I was in speech and debate, the drama club, the biology club, the creative writing club.  I got involved in some efforts lobbying for change at our school.  I was active and involved.  I had different friends in high school.  I got a job at the Dairy Queen at 14, which enabled me to get a horse at 16.  I graduated at 17, sold the horse, and spent a year at community college and a year at the University.  I quit my first job and got others.  At 19 I got my first "real" job, moved out of the house and started supporting myself.  I got married at 20.  This was the era where I found myself, developed marketable skills, became independent, and went out in the world.

At 21 I got Sandy, and later other horses, and that was the era of the horses, and cows, and chickens, and life on a mini farm.  I barrel raced and learned to ride a motorcycle.  My husband and I took the horses camping and rode the motorcycles around Arizona and even as far as Colorado.  We tried and failed to start a family.  We bought a house and filled it with the stuff that young married couples get, equipping ourselves for life.  It was the era where we together found our place in the world and tried to find our path through it.

At 28 I went back to college and got my degree in accounting.  We moved to California to find better job prospects, and the horse was put out to pasture because there was no time to ride any more.  It was the era of my professional life, promotions, bonuses, advancement.

At 35 I finally decided what I wanted to be when I grew up, and it wasn't a corporate slave.  I quit working on my MBA and wrote a book, then started another. I went to writers' conferences and took classes in police procedure and investigation and improved my writing skills.  We got into a motorcycle club and rode all over the western United States.  At 39 we got divorced.  At 41 I rode a motorcycle across country with a boyfriend and his daughter.  I had taken control of my personal life.

At 42 I took control of my professional life when I quit the corporate rat race and became self-employed as an accountant.  I promised my horse if I couldn't make a go of it on my own I would sell the house before I would sell her.  She died a few years later, my new career flourished, and I moved to Norco and bought more horses, two dogs, a bunch of chickens, and the cat population went from 2 to 4.  I wrote "Tails" of a Suburban Cowgirl and self-published it.  This was the era of proving myself, regaining my independence, and living the life I had chosen.

At 49 I found myself unemployed -- my biggest client that represented 90% of my income closed the facility I was working for.  I sold my house in Norco at a huge profit and moved back to Arizona with my horses, cats, dogs, and chickens.  A few years later the economy collapsed and the accounting practice I had built up in the Payson area began to dwindle as clients struggled and went out of business.

At 56 I started to think about grown-up things:  retirement, health care, the fact that I had way more animals than I needed or could take care of.  The economy collapse had taken a chunk out of my investments.  I took money out of my Roth IRA to buy a house at the bottom of the housing market collapse and became a landlord to supplement the income from my dwindling accounting practice.  I borrowed money to buy a second rental house, put them in control of a property manager, and started putting order to the chaos my life had become.

And that's where I am now -- at the age of 57 -- looking into the future and trying to secure a comfortable enough retirement.

I've reached the conclusion that I can't keep three horses any more.  The price of hay has skyrocketed while my income has plummeted.  So this past week I have managed to lease Dottie out to a family with three small children so she can spend her golden years teaching the next generation to love horses.  Dawn is listed for sale.  Dash never will be.  I'll live in my truck before I'd sell that horse.

I am trying to divest myself of two of the six housecats, while worrying about the seven ferals I feed in my garage.  There likely will be a move to Oregon in my future, and I wonder what will become of Jessica, Bashful, Licorice, Sheba, Pops, Moose, and OJ if I'm not here to keep their feeder full.

And I'm clearing out the house, going through all the stuff I've acquired in my life and getting rid of anything I don't see a need to move again.  I feel right at home in the local thrift store now because everywhere I look I see something I donated.  But I can now walk across my back bedroom.  I've gone through it and the closets in both of the other bedrooms, and I've purged clothing which is bagged up and ready to donate.  My next project will be to purge my dressers of clothes I will never use again.

So . . . this is the start of the seven-year era of regrouping, reorganizing, re-establishing priorities.  The next major change in my life will come at about age 63 when I likely will semi-retire (I'll keep doing tax returns probably until I die) and move to Oregon where a friend lives with her horse.

People talk about the "seven-year itch" and I think it's true, at least for me, that every seven years I go through a major life change of one kind or another.

Life is a journey, not a destination.  My journey seems to come in seven year chunks.

And that's the latest from the Ranch.

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