“Look at you up there on your high horse.”
I’ve been hearing this a lot lately.
Seems like any time I engage in a debate on Facebook about the recent women’s march, or just about scientific facts in general, I get told to “get down off of my high horse.” I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard this, and more often than not it has come from other local women in my small town.
I couldn’t seem to get that phrase off of my mind, so I decided to research it a bit. (For those who aren’t aware, “research” is a thing you do when you don’t understand something. It’s preferably done before you start speaking about a particular subject. I’ll wait if you need to go write that down.)
I found a site called phrases.org.uk. Kind of a fun little site that helps you find out where certain terms originated from. This is what it had to say about being “on a high horse:”
“When we now say that people are on their high horse we are implying a criticism of their haughtiness. The first riders of high horses didn’t see it that way; they were very ready to assume a proud and commanding position, indeed that was the very reason they had mounted the said horse in the first place. The first references to high horses were literal ones; ‘high’ horses were large or, as they were often known in mediaeval England, ‘great’ horses.”
Okay, so let’s break that down. What is now used as a term of insult, actually didn’t used to be that way. It was almost a term of honor. It was used to refer to the people who were in a “proud and commanding position.”
A proud and commanding position.
So, how do I respond to that? Am I actually up on a high horse like I’ve been accused of being?
I only know one way to answer that.
Hell yes I am!
And here’s why.
During the Women’s March last weekend in Washington, D.C., my friend Cassondra and I were literally smashed between thousands of people. We could not see anything other than the backs of the person in front of us. Sometimes we managed to squeeze ourselves into a position behind a person shorter than us and, in those rare moments of being able to breathe, were actually able to see the speaker on the television screen who happened to be talking at the time. We couldn’t really hear them, mind you, but we could at least see them for a split second before our view and breath was obstructed yet again.
At one point amidst the ‘standing room only’ crowd, my claustrophobic and exhausted friend started showing signs bordering on a panic attack. I asked around to see if anyone knew of a place we could go to get out of the crowd and, while that was practically impossible, one person did point out that there was a long tunnel-like alley leading down to a locked underground passageway beneath a nearby building. At this point (this would change later, mind you), not many people were down there because of the sight restrictions. The crowd parted in what little way it could to let us make a small path to this spot to give my friend some breathing room.
When we got there, while she could breathe easier and we felt less struggle, we couldn’t quite forget what we were missing up there. Above us, history was being made. We were there to document it, photograph it, write about it – and yet here we were hiding in an alley.
Why were we doing that?
I’ll tell you why
Because it was hard up there.
It was, man. It was hard.
It was terrifying even.
It is a scary thing to put yourself in a situation that you’re not sure you can get out of. We were both asking ourselves why we were there. Why we had subjected ourselves to this flood of people. How were our two little faces in the crowd even going to matter? Why hadn’t we just stayed home?
And then suddenly, I had an idea.
Our little alley was positioned behind a row of portajohns, and behind that row of portajohns was a metal railing. After studying it for a few minutes, I wondered if it might just be possible to climb up there and snap a photo from up above. It wasn’t going to be easy, I knew that, and we might even hurt ourselves (or her fancy camera) in the process. But how were we going to let people know what we saw if we weren’t even seeing it ourselves?
We had a job to do.
And by god, we were going to do it.
So, between the two of us and some awkward maneuvering, we managed to ‘scale the wall’ (take that however you’d like) and rise above it.
And when we got there, this is what we saw:
From up there at my vantage point – on my “high horse” if you will – I could see what I couldn’t see while I was down in that pit. I could see hundreds of thousands of people in every direction you look. A sea of pink hats representing a common goal. Men, women, black, white, Hispanic, Christian, Muslim…you name it. They were there.
And what a sight it was to behold.
Here’s the thing about climbing out of a pit and seeing what you couldn’t see before. It’s addictive. You get up there and you realize that is where you want to be. You realize that hiding down in the pit is not going to get you anywhere. You’re missing it. You might feel like you have room to move down there, but the truth is – you don’t. You’re stuck.
You have to climb out. You have to get up on that high horse and take a look around. Be proud. Be commanding.
Make a difference.
And then come back to tell people about it.
“Birds born in a cage think flying is an illness.”
– Alejandro Jodorowsky
Don’t be like that, okay? Don’t think that flying is an illness. Don’t think that rising above the situation that surrounds you is going to be a bad thing. Are people going to talk about you up there? Sure they are! Why? Oh, I don’t know. Maybe they think it’s not fair that you got to be up there and they didn’t. Maybe they think that you’re trying to be better than them because you took the time and initiative to climb out of the status quo.
And you know what?
You are better than them.
You took the time to look around for yourself. You took the time to break out of that cage and see what flying really feels like. And when you got there, you realized you weren’t alone. There was a whole sea of people out there waiting to fly with you.
In conclusion, to the next person that tells me I’m up on my high horse, I’d like to thank you. Thank you for the reminder that yes, I am up here. And I’m not coming back down because I can’t.
Can you possibly understand that?
I just can’t.
The view is way too nice from up here. I can’t imagine climbing back down.
But you know what?
There’s plenty of room up here. I’ll slide over and let you on too if you want. I promise.
All you have to do is ask.
“Where there is an open mind, there will always be a frontier.”
– Dorothea Brande