Well before my first birthday, I sat on my first horse.

I grew up mucking stalls and driving tractors, where coyote and wild hog sightings became ordinary.

I spent lots of my free time working with my dad in our vet clinic. As a kid, they made me the “technician”, which was an assistant to the veterinarian because not much grossed me out. They kept me around for most of the truly disgusting operations.        

At the same time, I was growing up in another world – attending an all-girls’ college-prep school where I was forced to wear plaid skirts. In this life, I learned to read French before English, attended cotillion and was invited to more graduation teas than I can count. For this life to become a reality, my mom spent no less than three hours a day on the interstate driving me to school in north Dallas.

These two opposite lives became the only life I knew and I loved it. I was about 11 years-old the first time I remember being called Hannah Montana. I don’t think I had given a ton of thought to my double life before that moment, but that’s when I realized I really was living in two worlds. I had separate friends — a set at school and another group from the horse shows I traveled to on the weekends. Both sets of people knew me well, but I connected with them for a variety of reasons.  

My family never told me that I had to pick between these two worlds. Through the years, I did, however, lose a few friends due to frustration over my constant traveling on the weekends. More than that, I watched the way my true friends supported me in a world they knew little about. Friends from school traveled to watch me compete at big equestrian events and friends from the shows spent hours with me in the stands as I did homework they did not have.

Before I went off to college, I won a world championship in 2014 and earned a spot on Team USA for the Youth World Cup. While at the Youth World Cup in Tamworth, Australia, I clenched two gold medals and helped my team bring home the overall gold. Those two weeks were incredible and are some of the greatest memories of my life. One of the highlights was receiving a compliment from my best friend from high school in which she wrote, “You do not understand how proud I am of you, you have worked so hard and it payed off.” Those words meant the world to me because she knew the sacrifices that were made.

Now, I am in college and I still am very much involved in these two worlds. I ride horses competitively most weekends in order to pay for some of my college tuition. Many of the friends I grew up riding with began pursuing riding professionally as I focus on my plans to attend law school. When I return to Waco at the end of each competition, my friends check-in to see how my weekend of competing went. The bottom line is that these are not people who do everything with me, but rather that they are the people who completely understand my double-life.

Growing up, my mom always spoke about the idea of collecting people from different experiences in life. Ultimately, our goal is to make a few lasting connections in each stage of life. These are the people we cling to, the women who will stand as bridesmaids on our wedding day and the people we know are only a phone call away no matter the distance. I realized that we all live in a myriad of different “worlds.”

Commonality is not a requirement for friendship. As our lives head in different directions, we have a choice. Choose to remain loyal, intentional and supportive of each other’s dreams. Wholeheartedly follow your dreams even if they are different from the dreams of the people you care for. The genuine friends will always have your back. Chasing your heart’s desires does not mean leaving people behind. We are a result of the experiences we have lived through and the people who live alongside us for a season of life impact our moments greatly.

Photo Credit: Austria Arnold