The End of the Road, In Which I Consider the Price Of Living Vicariously

Adventures in Saddle Seat, Commentary


Stepping Stone Farm rider Reagan Upton rode in the Saddle Seat World Cup, July 4-6, Lexington, KY. I went to cheer.

The problem with living vicariously is that, at the end of the day, you are the one in the stands.

The Road to the World Cup is the biggest collaboration I have done in the blog: 12 posts by Reagan, 4 posts by me. Reagan’s text has been easy to edit. A few word changes, some tense adjustments, maybe a follow-up question. The posts are 99% cut and pasted from her emails. She tells a good story. Compare this to the time I edited a PhD whose use of English made my eyes cross.

I enjoyed. I learned. I over-invested.

Living vicariously can be a way to experience parts of the world out of your reach. I’m never going to climb Mount Everest. Reading Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer is as close as I’ll ever get. (And after reading the book, as close as I ever want to get.) Nor am I likely to have someone play the National Anthem at me. Getting excited for someone I know is as close as I’m likely to get.

Living vicariously can be fun. I had the chance to spend five days in Lexington. I hardly need an excuse to go to a town famous for horses and bourbon. While I would not have gone to Lexington if Reagan hadn’t been there, it is also true that I would not have gone to watch the competition if it had been in any other town, certainly not if it had been at a shiny horse show facility in the middle of nowhere. So, part of my reasoning was personal.

Living vicariously is lazy. It is easier to borrow a someone else’s glory than do the work to create one’s own. It’s hollow calories for the soul.

Living vicariously can make one toxic to be around. This was a time for Reagan, for her team, and for her family. It was not about me or how I felt about any of it. I tried not to cross that line. I tried not to insert myself in places that I was not invited. Or at least, not very often.

Living vicariously is expensive in opportunity costs. What else could I have been doing with those five days? With those 16 posts? Would the alternative have been better? Worse? Was this the best use of my time? Did it get me nearer any of my own goals? The world is full of intriguing projects. You can’t do all of them. You have to chose. Love is unlimited; time and attention are not.

Living vicariously is not the same as being supportive. Supportive is when your husband finishes his first CDE and you are happy FOR him. Living vicariously is when your ego becomes tied up in another person’s victory. None of us are 100% selfless; none of us are 100% selfish. We exist on a continuum. I was happy for Reagan; I was proud to be a Stepping Stoner.

To be clear, this was all on me. I felt no pressure – zero – from Stepping Stone Farm. No pressure to donate money. No pressure to go to Lexington. No pressure to be involved in any way. Invited, yes. Included, yes. Pressured, no. I could have given Reagan a lukewarm Atta Girl and never mentioned it again.

This was me jumping in with both feet. Time to jump back out. Time to put on my mental blinkers. Time to focus on the work in front of me. Time to not get distracted by shiny objects. Fortunately, this resolve came at an opportune time. Because

… drumroll …

Milton & I are going/have been to camp! When I wrote this, camp was in the future. Now that the post is published, camp is in the past. Thus the weird time travel of scheduled blog posts. Camp posts start Monday: drill team, trail rides, tours, lectures, even jumping! Stay tuned.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

5 thoughts on “The End of the Road, In Which I Consider the Price Of Living Vicariously

  1. Being in Lexington was not vicarious for me. I loved seeing you, the SSF family and the KHP.

    And the shopping was fun! Odd for two non-shoppers but fun.

    Thank you.

  2. Excellent post. So well written and such good food for thought.

    Our family uses the phrase “potato chip book” for short, readable books with no great message. When you are done, you reach for another. No pondering or reflection.

    Empty calories for the soul, indeed.

    Thank you for the deeper perspective.

    Good luck with Milton. I look forward to your adventures.

  3. This is the best description I’ve ever read about living vicariously. A lifetime ago I was a competitive bodybuilder. If I did well, it seemed like everyone who went to my gym somehow had a hand in my success. They spotted me. They let me cut in on a piece of equipment. They weighed-in on some aspect of my training. Most of these people I didn’t know at all, so I found this rather amusing, but odd. Now after all these years I finally understand what was really going on. Thanks for clearing that up for me! 🙂 I’ll look forward to hearing about camp!

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