Expertise Through Experience

by USjournal Student Writer: Rebecca Darrup, Cross-Country Cowgirl

Good morning from the airport in Amarillo, Texas! It's early, and I've already been up for a long time, but I'm kind of excited about this article!

So, okay, I need you to think for a minute. (I know, you've probably done plenty of that lately, but humor me.) What I want you to focus on is coming up with a list of the five coolest things you've ever done, whether it's people you've met, places you've gone, or an opportunity you almost didn't take -- maybe call it five of your best memories. Write them down if you want to, make a list, doodle on it, hang it on the wall: You're going to want to remember these!

Now, what do the things on your list have in common? Anything? Let me tell you my list, and then I'll explain.

Rebecca's List of Awesome Things:

  1. Competing at the National High School Finals Rodeo in Rock Springs, Wyoming
  2. Working cows with A'Lia during spring break on her family ranch south of Carlsbad, New Mexico
  3. The thrill of entering a college or professional rodeo
  4. Traveling (home to see my family, to rodeos, or pretty much anywhere, anytime, with anybody or nobody)
  5. Successfully completing a challenging task, or making someone smile

Now, I could go on and on and on, but I won't, I promise; I told you I'd stop at five things. I know it doesn't look like there's really a common factor in that list... but there is.

Ready for it?

You sure?

Here we go: It's all about the experience.

Don't tell me that wasn't as exciting as I tried to make it!

Here's my thinking: Life is a trip, and trips are what we make of them. That said, if you go on a road trip, it's way more fun if you stop to sightsee, yeah? It's about learning new information and seeing places you might have thought you'd never see. For example, I always wanted to go to the National High School Finals Rodeo, and I knew I tried hard, worked hard in practice, and competed hard at the rodeos, but there was a part of me that thought I'd never actually make it. The summer after my senior year of high school, my family and I took a road trip to Rock Springs, Wyoming, for the finals rodeo, touring and visiting all kinds of places on the way there and back home. We went to Mount Rushmore, where some of the presidents' faces are carved into the mountainside; the Badlands and the Wall Drug Store in South Dakota (which doesn't sound like much but is really really cool), and made a handful of other stops as well.

When we got to the rodeo, it was huge. The grounds were amazing, there were contestants and families from all over the U.S., Canada, and Australia, and that year was the first time the finals rodeo had more than 1,600 contestants! It was incredible to be a part of. I didn't compete well at Nationals, but the experience was what made it so cool.

Getting a chance to experience ranch life over my spring break was pretty awesome too. It's one thing to rodeo, but a whole other thing to legitimately be a cowgirl. It was hot, it was windy, it was dusty, but it was honestly one of the best things I've ever done in my life. Watching the sun rise, taking in the sounds of the horses breathing, cows hollering, whistles of other cowboys, and all of the hoofsteps was an experience like no other. There was a different scent in the air as well, one that I can't really describe. I'm not sure I can put into words how those few days made me feel, but it was something I won't ever forget. Honestly, it was something I was so scared to do because I was afraid to get in the way or make a mistake, but I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Alright, so, those last few items on my list aren't really what most people might categorize as experiences, but to me, they're some of the neatest things. I believe that we all make an impact on the people we cross paths with, whether we realize it or not, and they impact us as well. Entering a rodeo may not seem like much, but making that phone call isn't something I was always brave enough to do, but my experiences through the years have made it possible for me. I also know, every time I dial the number for the Women's Professional Rodeo Association entry office, that I've had plenty of help from lots of people along the way -- but that ultimately, now, I'm doing this on my own, independently, and confidently. With that said, every time I load up the trailer and my horses, I get a dumb smile as I pull onto the road toward a rodeo. Any time I travel anywhere, I get so excited to go, regardless of where I'm going, how long it's been since I was last on the road, who I'm traveling with or if I'm alone, how long or short the trip is. I turn on some music, and suddenly it's like I'm in my own personal music video. Sometimes the trips have bad moments, but to me, it never gets old.

That number five on my list... Well, I don't guess it really belongs fifth. That's probably one of my favorite experiences every time it happens. I thrive off doing things people think I wouldn't be capable of, like rodeoing professionally, or going beyond succeeding at a college three-quarters of a nation away from home. Beyond that, watching someone light up as I share that with them, or build a set of spurs (a device with a small spike or a spiked wheel that is worn on a rider's heel and used for urging a horse forward) they are so impressed with, or capture a moment in a photo that they'll never forget, is what gets me through the challenges of life. Rodeo is my passion, but it doesn't always go well, and when those tough times get me down, these kind of moments are the ones I remember, the ones when I choose to believe I've made a positive impact on someone's life!

I'm done with what seems like rambling now, let me tie it all together.

The long and short of all of that is this: You're looking at a chance to come to the United States. That's a huge experience! You're planning to get an education -- that's another big deal! There's definitely going to be some challenges with that, and I'm sure you've already run across more than a few of them... but that's okay. That's what makes you stronger, and it helps you to get through future difficulties. No matter what rough experiences you go through, you've got to look back at the good ones and say, this is why everything is worth it. This is why I'm doing what I'm doing. This is why I will keep pushing forward, keep chasing my dreams, keep being strong, and keep being a courageous example for other people who look up to me, whether they admit that or not. Those things that you've always kept locked in your heart, or maybe shared with just a very few close friends -- those are the things you need to find a way to accomplish.

Someone once told me, and I forget where I heard it, but if your dreams aren't scary, they're not big enough.

I know there'll be hard times for you, and that's part of life (I've also heard it said that you don't have a right to the cards you believe you should've been dealt, but you do have an obligation to play the heck out of the ones you're holding).

These experiences we pass through in life are what we look back on and tell stories about to our friends, family, and future generations. These things are what so many people miss out on due to fear, lack of determination, or making the choice to ignore that desire or gut feeling that eats at a person until they give it a shot. You can hear everyone's stories, be wide-eyed at their wild tales, but you'll never truly understand, or ease that itch, until you put your own toes in the water.

When you get through this trip we call life, look back and smile at the steps you took down a path you called your own.

Here are Rebecca's other posts, in case you missed them:

Best of luck in all your endeavors,
especially as you move forward on your college path!

To begin your journey to study in the USA, use!