I have penned many articles about my time at college, which was fuelled by a blast of self-confidence, a lot of fake-tan, a cracking set of new friends, and copious amounts of house parties and regrettable nights out in town. College was a ball, and still remains to be some of the best years of my life – years I will forever hold close to my heart.
But what about the bits I don’t broadcast quite so much? The days in-between all of the madness and the parties and the pointless drives to Maccies? What about the happy times that I don’t detail often enough, purely because they aren’t as comical as the embarrassing teenage angst I enjoy basing my articles upon?
In reality, my college life was split into two parts: the days spent as the real me, and the days spent relishing my new found confidence, covering myself in make-up I didn’t know how to wear, and acting like the kind of person I didn’t always know how to be.
We all, undeniably, go through that cocky stage in our lives when growing up, whether it be at high school, college, or even university. Our desire to fit in and impress our peers is somewhat stronger than the desire to remain as the person we are very much used to being.
I’ll never regret the lively, loud, often foolish person I was at college, as it has made me into the self-assured person I am today, and was the boost I needed after a particularly tough time at high school, where I was pretty much a nobody.
I do, however, wish I had fully appreciated the weekly escape I was granted with, which allowed me 24 hours to completely be myself.
So, the days I spent as the real me? You might wonder just when and where such days took place. Well, I’d like to share my true happy place in this article...
The local riding stables was where I spent each and every weekend throughout college.
Donning an oversized hoodie, a pair of leggings, muddy riding boots, and my natural, messy hair stuffed under my riding helmet, I adored every second I spent up at the farm.
Every Saturday morning at 9am, my Dad would pick me up to take me to the riding school, buried far out in the countryside, in a perfectly blink-and-you’d-miss-it location, surrounded by rolling greenery and fairytale scenery.
It was a place I could go and totally be myself. I didn’t have to wear make-up – in fact, that would have been quite frowned upon! I didn’t have to dress a certain way in order to gain acceptance and attention. I didn’t have to worry about my hair straying out of its carefully straightened style. I didn’t have to compete with anybody. I didn’t have to spend hours taking the perfect selfie to ensure that I got over 50 likes on my profile pictures. I didn’t have to live a life of teenage pressures.
I could just be me - totally free.
I used horses as a cop-out at every single Friday night house party. Being pretty much the only 17 year old girl in the world who didn’t drink alcohol, the peer pressure could sometimes be immense. I would always respond to the chimes of ‘just try some’ with an ever-cool, “Can’t. Got to be up early to see the horses.”
It was half true – the majority of the matter was the fact that I simply didn’t want to try alcohol. I didn’t feel ready to just yet. Although I was 17 and tried to act like I was in my mid-20’s half the time, deep down inside, I still felt like the shy little girl I had been prior to college.
In a world that was hastily changing around me, life at the farm remained reassuringly the same, no matter how many days, months and years passed by. I was comforted by this fact.
My friends at the stables were some of the truest I had at the time. Our conversations were not centered around out-doing one another, comparing make-up, or discussing which boys we fancied. Instead, we chatted fondly about the horses, genuine shared college stresses such as exams, and how we had spent all week longing for it to be Saturday so that we could get to the farm. The farm was our ultimate bolt-hole - a place where we could run away from life and feel safe and revitalized.
It was at the riding school that I fell in love time and time again, week in, week out. It was a love that was as pure and as sweet as one can imagine. It was a love very different to the love I claimed I felt for that college boy, who controlled one too many of my tears.
Bobby was a long-term favourite pony of mine.
I distinctly recall thinking to myself every single week for three solid years that I would never, ever love anyone or anything in the same way that I loved Bobby.
When the stresses and the pressures of teenage life became too over-whelming for me to contend with, I wished the days away until the weekend, when I would blissfully spend a few hours up at the farm forgetting about it all. My phone would be switched off, my Facebook logged out, my BBM status set to ‘busy.’
Nobody could come between me and my horses, and I was fiercely adamant about this.
No matter what had happened during the week, it was nothing the weekend couldn’t right, even if just temporarily. All of my worries and torments would almost immediately vanish as soon as I arrived at the farm. Their undying and remarkably loyal love for me was something I treasured greatly, especially when the days of self-doubt and low confidence took their toll.
In the depths of those seemingly infinite fields – more often than not during the summer months studded with a delicate and madly beautiful concoction of wildflower – I was completely liberated. Sat astride Bobby, or Taffy, or any of the other horses, I felt like the only person in the world. I felt untouchable. I felt strong. No feeling could possibly rival the disposition of galloping across the meadows, the wind shrieking with the speed, the rain or sun overpowering me, the persistent sound of rapidly drumming hooves beneath me.
Some of my most precious lifetime memories take place at that farm. They range from recollections such as galloping alongside the nearby lake on a balmy August evening, to long, leisurely strolls with my friends up to the fields at the end of a busy summer’s day to turn the horses out for the night, our chatter laced with laughter.
Those days... They passed by far too fast, lost in the bliss of the minutes I wished never had to end. The years have flown by, and the inevitable hands of change have seen that the commitments of life have stood in the way.
I'll be forever thankful for the escape, the unrivalled freedom, the confidence, and the sheer pureness of the love.
Cara Jasmine Bradley ©