“Profound joy of the heart is like a magnet that indicates the path of life.” – Mother Teresa
For as long as I can remember, my mom has been telling people “Emily is going to save the world.” Obviously, this is quite the daunting task. I do not mean to suggest that by any means I will save the entire world, but I do have a passion for changing at least some small part of it.
As a little girl, I fell in love with horses. Not just their beauty, the rush of riding them, or the friendship they provide, but also their hearts. You can tell a horse anything and they will still stand there with the same kind eyes, without any judgement, and just listen. You can hear more about my love for the barn on this post here, but today I’m writing specifically about where my heart has taken me.
Kids and Animals
After falling in love with horses, I knew- this is what makes me happy and I want to do it every day of my life. That led me to therapeutic riding for people with disabilities. I spent my early high school years volunteering at the local therapeutic riding center and soon learned that I could do even more. I was already in physical therapy for myself at the time, but I didn’t feel strongly about working with adults like my PT did. So, I shadowed some physical therapists at an outpatient pediatric clinic. WAIT – I’m getting ahead of myself – how did I figure out I wanted to work with kids? Oh that came from TRAK – Therapeutic Ranch for Animals and Kids. TRAK does not offer therapeutic riding, but it’s a ranch with 100 animals from goats, sheep, pigs and miniature horses, to rabbits, chickens, and donkeys. I volunteered there and was soon offered a job as a summer camp counselor. OK that’s how I fell in love with kids – 6 years of summer camp, birthday parties, teaching animal classes and working with kids and animals… Back to physical therapy. I still didn’t love the idea of PT after shadowing and soon saw some occupational therapy sessions. My sister said OT was boring so I had some preconceived notions… but boy was she wrong!
Occupational therapy is different from physical therapy in that it focuses more broadly on things that “occupy” your daily life. Some more specifics include a focus on fine motor (as opposed to gross motor) activities, but it also encompasses sensory integration and food aversions, handwriting skills, feeding, dressing, and daily self-care. What I like most about OT is that you can treat the whole person. The therapist’s job is to make everyday life easier, and enjoyable for the patient. But on top of helping people every day, it is so much fun! I will literally be finger-painting, having picnics, and playing on the playground every single day with kids!
So, this is where my heart has led me. I’m finishing my undergrad this year and will soon be entering the world of graduate school and before I know it, I’ll be certified to… “play” with kids all day!!
So what about the animals?
People ask me all the time, so where do the animals fit in? My response? I haven’t quite got it all figured out yet, but don’t worry, they will be there eventually. Hippotherapy (therapy with horses) was my dream, but due to the physical limitations I face, it is pretty unlikely. But I am embracing it and knowing that something beautiful will come out of me going in a different direction. The diagnosis of EDS is opening doors for me I never thought possible. I will likely help people with similar experiences as me and have a better understanding of what they are going through. I know my heart is leading me down a path that will allow me to save the world, in my own special way. And whatever obstacles jump in front of me, I will face head on and then pick them up and carry them with me, as I learn and grow with them.
no one can help,
my child is so brave,
how much more can I take?
One more new face,
she’s quiet but so present,
listening to every word,
finally, someone hears us.
“Your child is so lovely,
so smart and full of life.
I relax for the first time in months.
They play and she laughs;
I missed my little girl.
The difference it makes,
finding that one person.
This poem was inspired by my mentor who I have spent hundreds of hours shadowing. She is the OT I hope to someday become, as I admire the way she understands the children. She listens to their families and interacts with these special kids on a level completely their own, and cares about them as if they were her own. I have seen so many families take that breath of relief when they see her with their kids and realize that everything is going to be OK. I’m in awe of you, Jess!
Where has your heart taken you?