Time in the Saddle: The Importance of Perseverance

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Hello, this is Cari Ray with another installment of For a Song. When I was a little girl, I wanted a horse. Or a motorcycle. I didn’t really care which, so long as it was fast. I brought this to my father’s attention every chance I got, and on the rare occasions he was willing to engage in this conversation, he made it clear that while a motorcycle was a possibility, a horse was, unequivocally, not. His reasoning? Motorcycles didn’t have a mind of their own…motorcycles didn’t cop an attitude and throw the rider, didn’t kick, didn’t need a stall and fenced pasture, and were MUCH cheaper to feed. Now, dad took that scripture in the bible about your no being no really seriously, so with that conversation, I had to wave the white flag on the horse…and focus my nagging energy on a motorcycle.

I’ll never forget the little butterfly in my stomach when his truck turned into the drive with handlebars and the slight swell of a metallic green gas tank sticking up out of the bed. And she was no pansy little 50cc clutch-less jobby, but an honest-to-goodness, 80cc screamer replete with hand clutch and kick start.

Turns out there was a pretty steep learning curve between me and wind in my hair. First of all, my tiny self barely weighed enough to kick her started, and secondly, I had to learn to use that clutch with fingers that could barely reach the lever. But one hot, dry August day, a determined dad and daughter walked her way out to the pasture to give it a go. The drill was to ride out 20 yards or so, gear down, turn around, and ride back. So he kicked her started, showed me the dance between hand clutch and foot shifter, and after a few tries, I was able to get off the line and make wobbly forward progress, but shifting down to turn around was another thing entirely. Either my hand would slip off the clutch, or I wouldn’t make it down through neutral to first with my foot. Regardless, the result was death…engine death, and the death of a little more of my waning confidence with every failure.

Dad likely walked that weary 20 yards at least a dozen times, and I could see him tying to be patient in the face of his growing frustration. Finally, the last ride out only to kill it proved too much, and instead of traipsing my way, he turned on his heel and headed back to the house. I half cried, half shouted after him, “Dad! Wait, where are you going?!?” “When you want to get back to the house badly enough, you’ll figure it out,” he said, without looking back.

And with that, I learned my first lesson about the importance of time in the saddle. He had taught me all I needed to know…I had the desire, I had the vehicle, I had all the knowledge and tools necessary to get back to the house myself. All I needed was time in the saddle to practice and work it out…and he was wise enough to know that I was best to do that without his audience.

When you take the leap to start writing songs, to create anything, really, you will be terrible at it initially…you may be terrible at it for a while. You will start songs or projects only to be wobbly and unrefined at best, or at worst, you’ll kill them…either by neglect or, simply to put them out of their misery. It’s okay. Keep writing, painting, sculpting, playing, challenging yourself. A good creative ride requires energy and focus, and will never be devoid of bumps and unexpected turns. But it does get smoother, I promise. And the sense of accomplishment for “getting back to the house” is something that must be experienced to truly appreciate.

I’m Cari Ray, join me next time on For a Song.