"Ridge" follows Rev, a high school senior who is nearing signing day for her chosen school, Duke University. She has always been on track for the "perfect" ivy-league school, good job, big house life that her parents dreamed of for her. But she has a secret dream of her own, the Montana horse ranch where she spent her summers as a child. It's been years since she's been there and she thought she had successfully put it out of her mind in an effort to push forward in the money and career-driven ideal of success she's been taught to believe in. But when her parents gift her a surprise trip back to the ranch just weeks before graduation, they unknowingly launch her back into the conflicting feelings that have haunted her since she was a kid.
I was seven the first time I set foot in Gallatin Gateway, Montana. Our destination was 9 Quarter Circle Ranch, a dude ranch my mom grew up going to nearly every summer. As soon as we got there, I was in love: the horses, the mountains, the rugged way of life. It was all so beautiful and natural. By the time our trip had ended, I was already begging to be taken back. It was years before I returned, but at the age of 12 I was back again in Montana. This time, we visited Flathead Lake Lodge and from there, on to Whitefish and Glacier National Park. To this day, I consider this region a home away from home. From then on, a ranch trip became a yearly event well into my high school years. Each summer, we spent a week at a new and exciting guest ranch. We went all over the west: from my home state of California to Wyoming, Colorado, Canada and most frequently, Montana.
I so loved and looked forward to this tradition that I would create my “outfit chart/packing list” six-months in advance. For half the year, my mom and I vigorously searched for the “perfect ranch”, day-dreaming about it each time a plane flew overhead.
One summer, even when I was just weeks away from a trip to Ireland, all a jet plane meant to me was going to Montana!
As I went about life and attended school in a town very similar to how I describe that of the main character, Rev, I felt constantly overwhelmed by expectations of perfection. Whether it was the nine students in my class signing with Stanford, or my Student-Body-President/best friend feeling pressured at home to do more, or crying and hating myself over my first “B”, or the condescending attitude my peers had towards the students going to community colleges or state schools, or worst of all, the disgust and disappointment I felt for choosing not to attend college at all. For all of us, the pressure was great, the drug-use was high, and we felt burned out from life before we had really even started.
I believe that college is right for a lot of people but not for me. And that’s okay. Everyone has a right to choose their own path, whether its becoming a brain surgeon or ranch hand, majoring in math or English, or going to school in your hometown or in another country. It’s up to the parents to love their kids through the process and allow them to find where their happiness lies.
Ranch trips were always a safe haven for me. But an even greater haven was having a horse of my own. My horse Whisper was my backbone, my safety net and everything in between, all throughout high school and beyond. She was the thing that calmed me like nothing else could and allowed me an escape from the thoughts constantly running through my mind. When I was stressed or crying, my mom would take me to the barn. When my boyfriend broke up with me, my mom took me to the barn. When I was sick, my mom took me to the barn. And when I finally got over my fear of cars, I drove myself to the barn.
When I created Rev, I painted the picture of a girl who, like myself, didn’t necessarily fit into the world she grew up in, and found solace in an atmosphere far removed from it. Also like her, I internalized a lot of what I was feeling and gave off the fake image of the girl who had it all together. We also have more surface level similarities. I also have a golden-shepherd mutt and I even read “Our Town” twice in school and deeply connected with it while my classmates hated it and considered it “boring”. The only major differences between us are that my mom supported my choices and never made me feel like I wasn’t enough, and I never shied away from being stubbornly different. But for some people, these journeys into acceptance take time. So here’s the story of Rev getting there for herself.