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That less-traveled road . . .

January 1, for me, is full of hope. The Christmas chaos - while merry and bright - is now past, the decorations packed away, the house is tidy and spacious again.

Each year on this day, I like to spend some quiet time reflecting back on the year behind me and looking forward to the year ahead. Looking back, I had hopes for 2017, too - did any of them become realities?

Indeed, yes. 2017 was a year of great blessings in my life. I wanted to devote more time to writing. Over the course of 2017, I was given weekly columns in two publications - a local newspaper and an international e-journal, Just days ago, my writing was validated in wonderful ways. The local newspaper gave me the opportunity to write a "no word limit" story on an incredible young athlete here in Knoxville. Almost simultaneously, HorseNation's readership voted my weekly column, "Fat to Fit to First Level" their Readers' Choice Winner for 2017.

Neither accolade is a Pulitzer, and I don't care. My writing flows from my desire to make the world a better place by inspiring hope and kindness wherever possible. When the newspaper article publishes, the community is going to learn about a young man who has overcome incredible obstacles to become the first person in his family to attend college, and on scholarship, too! And my HorseNation column is inspiring folks around the globe to ride more, eat better, exercise more, and find their own version of happiness. THIS is why I write, so it FEELS like I've won a Pulitzer, and I am so grateful for the privilege of sharing my thoughts with folks who want to read them.

I wanted to lose weight in 2017. This morning, I weigh twenty pounds less than I did one year ago. I have more to lose, but I'm headed in the right direction. I've learned to value my well-being enough to eat healthier, move more, and find healthy ways to relieve stress.

I grew in unexpected ways, too. I closed the horse sanctuary that had existed on my farm for the past few years. Starlight Farm Animal Sanctuary was a legit 501c3 nonprofit, with an awesome track record of rescuing, rehabbing, and rehoming unwanted horses. I'm an expert at bringing near-dead horses back to health - physically and mentally. I'm lousy at figuring out how to fundraise while also practicing law full-time and running a farm and playing a church gig and, oh yes, backing a young horse, too . . . So. I had to face the fiscal reality that I could not work enough hours to support the sanctuary and also pay my mortgage. Tough choices make you grow, right? I was heartbroken to feel like such a huge failure as a rescuer. But then several veterinarians and other friends reminded me: "But, Esther, look at all those lives you saved!" Glass half-full is always the better perspective, friends, because positive brings more positive; negative brings more negative.

I choose positive.

Kaliwohi, my young BLM mustang, was old enough to back in 2017. On the one hand, I backed him all by myself and it has been a fantastic journey to watch our mutual trust and confidence grow together. On the other hand, that "I did it all by myself" bit is pure poppycock, because my first two horses, Sam and Grace, along with over a decade of excellent classical dressage instruction by an amazing teacher, plus several clinics with other great horsemen and women, combined to give me the foundation and knowledge I needed to teach a green horse to carry a human.

2017 was a year of growth and change. I found more courage than I ever dreamed I had inside, and I challenged myself to finally stop worrying about, "what if I fail?" because I finally realized two important things.

First, if I don't even TRY, I've already failed.

Second, everyone fails at every single thing they ever do . . . until they succeed.

Babies - of all species - struggle to rise and walk. They fall time and again, "failing" each time. Until the time comes when they take a step. And then another, and another.

Soon comes the day they are cavorting around with nary a thought as to their prior failures. One small victory has combined courage, competence, and confidence into success.

And success in one area provides the courage to push oneself beyond one's initial boundaries.

By nature, I am a fairly timid person when it comes to risk. I don't like to "fail." I hate the self-condemnation and ridicule that once plagued me whenever I tried something and failed. But I have learned these two lessons well, and they have given me the courage I needed to TRY and KEEP TRYING until I succeed.

Failure does not mean I am worthless.

Failure simply means I need to keep trying until I succeed.

I hope 2018 brings you health, happiness, and the courage to try whatever you want to do but think you can't.

Travel the path of courage. For this is the only way one truly LIVES.

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