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A LETTER TO ME- Joanie Morris

Dear Joanie,

Ask for help.

Don’t be afraid.

It’s not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of hope.

We are all at the mercy of each other.

Driving across the Susquehanna River on I-95 is the best evidence of this I can give you. The sides of the bridge are not very high and if you are driving a truck, you literally cannot even see the side – you just look over the edge. Going 70 mph on 95 … people do it every day without a second thought. One moment of lost focus by the guy next to you and things could change in an instant.

Stay in your lane.

We all have to do our part to make this society function. And as you go through life, that will become more and more evident. It only works if we make it work. And it only works if we help each other. You don’t have to have all the answers and you don’t have to do it on your own. You will be 40 and still be learning this lesson.

Your husband will face and beat cancer, surviving a brutal surgery and recovery. You will not figure all that out on your own, even though you will think you can. This is just another example, and there will be many, of your need to have the knowledge, strength and help of others. The sooner you realize this is OK, the better.

Lean on the people that you surround yourself with. And when it gets hard, lean harder. But make sure that you are there when they need you too. Don’t be too busy with work. Don’t not have time, and don’t have other things you feel like you should be doing. What you need to do is take care of yourself and the people around you. That should matter most.

You will learn that there are pluses and minuses to having your family 1,000 miles away. You will miss them, some days it will feel like you can’t overcome it, and sometimes, several days will pass before that faint pang of longing beats the drum of your heart so hard that you can no longer ignore it.

You will have to find family amongst friends, and you are grateful for that. It’s … the same but different.

You will be a leader, and you will have to hold a lot of things and people together. They will respect you for showing vulnerability … but only just the right amount.

You will miss things, really, really important things that you will never get back. Try to avoid that. Weddings, funerals, birthdays, time … there are certain things that you cannot reproduce or get back. Look up every once and awhile and take a really deep breath to find the balance that you never thought you needed. You need it!

It will be so good. The stories, the opportunities, the people, the wins, the losses. The places you will go and the history you will witness. You are so lucky.

The friends you will make along the way will be nothing short of magical. They will make your life and your job (which will become your life for 12 years) worth it. People that you read about in books will become your coworkers and your friends. You will grow to know what a mentor is. You will have the kind of respect for people that you read about but never thought you would be fortunate to feel. You will have people tell you that you are that person to them, and it will floor you.

At some point you will realize that you are one of the grownups in the room. You will witness some of the people that you hold in highest esteem make cataclysmic mistakes and you will prop them up while they repair themselves. Help before you are asked. You will grow up and you won’t even realize it. You will write your contributions to a movement into history, and you will feel very fortunate. You will be challenged and tormented and brought to your knees. There will be days when you won’t think you will survive. But you will.

The loss you experience will be significant.

From the young horse you will lose at an event to an aneurism that will make you a statistic of the organization that you will go on to work for, to the people. The people. You won’t realize the impact of the loss until you pick up the phone or turn around and they aren’t there.

You won’t have kids of your own, but you will be so proud of all of your “kids.” Watching them evolve might be painstaking at times, but it will be so worth it.

You will find yourself, bearing an enormous burden, standing in the middle of a warm-up arena in Lima, Peru sobbing for 1,000 reasons, most of which no one knows at the time, but mostly because you will feel that you can finally leave a job that spoiled you with opportunity to care for the people that meant more to you than anything.

When you first take this job, you will think there is nothing as important. And when you go to your first Olympics in 2004, never will you think that you would reach a point where you draw a line in the sand and say, “that’s enough Olympics for one person.” The Olympics that you walked away from despite 1,000 snares attached to your ankle, will be postponed for a year because of a pandemic virus that means everyone has to stay in their houses because it will be so highly contagious. The only way to contain it will be to stay away from other people. It sounds crazy, but it will be reality. Like I said to you in the beginning, we are all at the mercy of each other.

The day you make the decision to leave your job you will sleep through the night for the first time in years. You will continue to do so.

You will persevere. You will. It won’t be easy and the path won’t always be clear but it will be OK. Even if for months and months it doesn’t feel like there are any lights at the end of a tunnel that is closing in.

Your hair will turn completely gray, which is inconvenient when everything is closed during a pandemic.

You will find peace and fulfillment.

You will find those things in your family, your husband, your horses, your friends. In your dogs. In your farm. In music. Everything you’ve given to the horses and the industry will give back to you, sometimes in ways you don’t even realize.

You will have time to be engaged. You will begin to understand your place in the world. That it has meaning and impact. That we humans are guests on this planet and that everything is so fragile.

You will build a business and a life of which you are proud. It will be with someone that you love unconditionally, who makes you insane but has beat back something that wanted to take him. He will love you unconditionally too. Love and life are unconditional. You will have a lot of which to be proud.

You will read a quote from Madeline Albright on April 15, 2020 that you really relate to. She said, “I’m an optimist who worries a lot.”

I hope you aren’t disappointed but, you are no Madeline Albright. You do, however, subscribe to the same philosophy. None of this will turn out like you expected, but it is a really good life.

Another thing to look forward to — you just bought a new pair of Birkenstocks. They are cool again.

You will go places you never expected and do things you never dreamed. You are so fortunate to have been at the mercy of some wonderful people.

Love, a much older, Joanie

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