In mythology, the horse a hero rides symbolises the means or vehicle that hero has chosen for life’s journey, and it tells us something about who the hero thinks they are and where they think they’re going.
Sometimes, that horse is chosen with great care; for example, if the hero is a knight setting out on a quest he chooses a well-trained destrier or warhorse.
Sometimes heroes are not aware that they are heroes, let alone that they are setting out on a quest, and they take whatever horse is available. Sometimes they take somebody else’s horse by mistake.
We’re all heroes on life’s journey, whether we’re aware of that or not, and we have all chosen a horse for the journey. As we’ve progressed on our journey, some of us have changed horses voluntarily and some of us have been thrown off and forced to choose again when our horse has bolted or dropped dead.
The horses I have ridden and the journey they’ve taken me on
In my case, the first vocation or career aspiration I can recall is wanting to become a priest, when I was in primary school. Probably had something to do with being the son of devout Catholics, being schooled by the Sisters of St Joseph and being an altar boy – from aged seven or eight.
Somehow that horse got away from me when I was in high school, and for some strange reason, girls became more interesting. By the time I was doing my final year of high school, I was aspiring to become a fighter pilot, and had chosen all the required science and maths subjects required to get into the academy. I failed the flight assessment, so I didn’t get to ride that horse either.
Then life unfolded its own plan. I needed to win a scholarship to go onto university and there were only two types on offer at the time. I qualified for both – those science and math subjects delivered – I chose the teaching scholarship because it paid more and guaranteed a job at the end, for three years, if I got the degree. A safe horse.
So I ended up on a horse called teacher.
Now here’s the kicker. Being the son of a teacher, I had vowed that I would never be a teacher. Obviously, my soul had other plans.
I stayed with that horse for thirteen, nearly fourteen, years before it finally died on me and I was forced to get off and look for another ride.
My next choice was a disaster but, with hindsight, I can see that it allowed me to do something I probably would never have done if I had still been on teacher. I got on a horse called insurance agent and, after a short ride, I got thrown. If you’ve never been thrown off a horse, let me tell you, it hurts.
However, while I was trying to ride that horse, I got the opportunity to do a course or two. One of them was a course called: Who am I? Let’s say that opened a door into a space I had no idea existed.
After being thrown from that horse, I took a break with a much gentler horse in the home paddock, and spent twelve months looking after the house, and bussing two small boys to and from school. That year I worked my way through A Course in Miracles.
If you know nothing about that course, let me just say that it’s designed so that by the end of it, you feel both ‘shaken and stirred’. It challenges all your preconceived notions of reality, and then some.
The next horse I mounted was called banker and I had a safe, steady ride for ten years. I found out lots of stuff about money and collected an accounting degree, before deciding the ride had become boring. I voluntarily dismounted and climbed onto a horse that I thought was called tax auditor, but who turned out to be called writer. As you can see, I’m still riding that horse and we’ve got big plans for the next part of our journey together.
I’m not on the same horse I started with and it’s been an interesting ride. I thought I was planning the journey but I know now that I wasn’t. If I had been planning the journey I would not have ended up here.
An invitation to reflect on the horses you’ve chosen and the journey they’ve taken you on
Cast your mind back to when you were young and dreaming about what you would become when you grew up or, if you’re still young, think about the choices you’re facing now as you start out.
What horse are you riding?
Is it the same horse you chose at the start of your journey?
Why are you riding that particular horse?
How many times did you change your mind before you chose that ride?
Did things work out as you had planned or did you find yourself doing something else?
Leave a comment if you’d like to share some of your thoughts.