Monday: A story of how I balanced being a professional and getting my degree

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Photo © Lauren Mauldin

BY MEGAN ROSENTHAL

8:00am. I walk into Yoga and Meditation, a health and wellness credit class. I’ll admit, it’s not the worst way to start off the week, but yoga? Why am I in yoga?

This time yesterday, I stood ringside with my mom coaching our amateur riders during the last day of the horse show. Now, I’m dressed in hot pink and purple leggings instead of my staple tan breeches. 

“How was your weekend?” a friend asks me while we are warming up. I use the term friend loosely because our relationship consists of mutual eye rolling at the ridiculous poses our professor has us do and the journaling we complete weekly for credit. I know her first name and her major from the ice breakers we did at the beginning of the semester. 

Regardless of the status of our friendship, I smile back at her. “It was good. We had another show.” 

Her expression brightens because that’s the tagalong description I usually get with my first name and major. Did you know Megan rides horses? She’s a professional equestrian. 

“Did you win?” she asks, innocently. 

I press my lips into a tight line and nod politely because that’s an easier response.

9:20. Class ends, and I make a weak promise to hang out later this week, knowing full well I will never have the time, nor will she follow up her request until the same time next week when our simple routine starts again. The consistency and dependability of the pattern is nice, though.

I beeline to the coffeeshop for a much needed caffenation recharge to fight the “horse show hangover” I’m currently sporting. On the way, I pull out my phone to send out my weekly group text to our clients.

Good morning! When you get a chance today, let me know your schedules for which days you are riding this week and if you will be able to make your lesson times.

My phone trickles in their responses with soft pings throughout the day, confirming my ride list for the upcoming week. Armed with a bagel and coffee, I head to my next class. 

American Literature. I slide into my usual seat by the door and pull out my anthology with the passage I skimmed as soon as we finished unloading the trailer last night. I’m doing another quick once over when the professor announces books away, pop quiz. By some miracle, I know the answers and then I turn in the essay I finished Saturday night, printed from the hotel lobby.

Photo © Lauren Mauldin

11:50. Class ends and I have an hour and ten minutes for lunch. By the time I get to the parking lot, my lunch date is there to meet me because, bless him, he knows I have to plan my days down to the minute. 

“Good weekend?” he asks as we get in the car. 

“Highs and lows.”

“You mean you lost your race?”

“Shut up, you know I don’t race.” But most days feel like one. 

1:00. I find a parking spot and start the walk to the library for my literary magazine meeting. On the way, I get a phone call. 

“This is Megan,” I answer the unknown number. 

“Hi Megan, this is so and so from so and so barn. I was calling because I saw your ad posted for one of your horses for sale and was wondering if you could tell me a little bit more about them.”

“Absolutely,” I answer and sit down on the bench outside of the library. I click my phone to speaker for a moment so that I can thumb a text to the other editors, letting them know I was running late and to start without me. 

Fifteen minutes later, I turn the handle to our basement study room and plop down in the chair at the head of the table. 

“Where ya been, slacker?” My junior editor teases. 

“Hopefully I just made a commission.” 

“Speaking about dollars. How about our budget for the spring semester?” The other editor asks. 

“I got a confirmation email that we have a meeting with the student government next Monday to try to get it worked out to have our full funding.”

“Why Monday? Why is it always Monday?” 

I answer, “Because those are my days off.” Kind of.

We quit our meeting a little after 2:00 and I venture back to the coffee shop, going for refill number two of three for the day and sit at a table to finish reading my textbook.

Photo © Lauren Mauldin

3:45. The alarm on my phone buzzes and I repack my bag before going to the Writing Center. Both of my tutoring appointments are booked with first year writing students.

I approach my tutees similar to how I teach my horse back riding students. I always start with something I feel like they are doing really well, then slowly move into critiques. In the horse world, nothing kills me more than to see a student’s spark that started with the love of a horse flicker and drain in the presence of constant criticism and condescension. I think the same goes with anything we are learning. 

6:00 drags itself around the dimming pink light of sunset and I hit the coffee shop one last time before going back for night class, Writing of Fiction.

That night, my professor lectures from John Garnder’s book we are reading titled On Becoming a Novelist.

“Reading good fiction,” my professor says, “is like being in a dream. In writing good fiction, the words must be chosen carefully and precisely to maintain this dream-like state. You’ll find Gardner alludes to this point in his own words where he states that ‘if the dream is to be continuous, we must not be roughly jerked from the dream back to the words on the page by language that’s distracting.’”

As he continues the lecture, a girl I’ve had in most of my writing classes leans over to me and says, “I forgot to tell you when you came in. Something terrible happened this weekend.”

My train of thought immediately flails to my usual worst case scenarios. The barn is on fire. A horse is colicking and we need to get them to the vet clinic. The expensive investment horse pulled a suspensory injury and is out six months to a year for rehab. The hay bill this month went up because we added several horses to alfalfa. 

“What happened? Is everything okay?” I ask in a whisper while my pen continues to skitter across my notebook. 

“No,” she said and paused, her own pen long since stopped moving. “Sally told me, because her roommate, Casey, is best friends with Jake’s roommate, Oliver, that Oliver told Casey that Jake was snapchatting this girl from Tinder all weekend. Jake! Last week he told me that I was the only one he was talking to. Now I find out I’m just one of many.”

My visions of lame horses and barn disasters are ripped into shreds as I’m snapped into a reality so very different than mine. 

“Wow.” And because I’m not sure what else to say, I add, “I’m so sorry. That really is terrible.”

She huffs. “Thanks. I’m glad you understand. How was your weekend?”

I think about the show we just got home from and some of the successes we had as a team. Our junior rider conquered her performance anxiety for the day and pulled out a win in both over fences trips, securing much needed points towards Devon. The new partnership we just put together had some really good confidence boosting rounds and the smile on her face coming out of the ring felt like the biggest win of them all. My own baby horse did all of his lead changes exactly when he was supposed to.

But I don’t say any of these things. Instead, because it’s easier, I say, “It was good. Thanks for asking.”


Photo courtesy of Megan Rosenthal

Megan Rosenthal is a professional working for her family’s business, Fairy Tale Farms, out of Charlotte NC. She graduated summa cum laude from Queens University of Charlotte ’19 with a major in Creative Writing.  

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