I was pulling a night shift at the airport, which consisted of watching planes blip across a screen and answering the occasional phone call. Aside from the hours, I liked the solitude and undisturbed quiet night shift provided. I reveled in the laid back schedule with the whole facility to myself.

Three chapters into my new book, the phone rang and I picked it up on the second buzz.

“SOC, this is Lydia.” I rattled the familiar phrase.

“Yeah… Hi.. This is Dave with the Grey Bird program. I’m rotating out of the field and missed my flight out of Bagram.” The voice was husky, which made it difficult to distinguish over the crackling reception.

“I’m sorry, can you please repeat that?” I pressed the receiver closer to my ear.

His voice was a bit clearer this time. “I missed my flight from Bagram to Dubai. Can you find me another one?”

My thoughts froze for a moment. I’d been trained months back on how to book a flight for our international programs, but I hadn’t had to use the tools since training. All I recalled was that the process was cumbersome, long, and complicated. I answered with more confidence than I felt.

“Yes, that shouldn’t be a problem.” Nerves had my foot tapping against the desk. “Let me search for what is available and I’ll get back to you. What’s your last name?”

“Newman, Dave Newman,” he replied, “and I really have to be back in the United States within 48 hours. My daughter is getting married.”

I chocked on that info. First off the time difference alone is tricky and then the location. Not many folks are entering or leaving Bagram, so missing one flight usually meant the next flight wasn’t for another day.

“I can’t promise anything, Mr. Newman, but I’ll do my best.”

A slight perspiration broke from my forehead as I said goodbye and hung up the phone. I had heard it was common for our employees to miss flights or buses, but I’d never had to deal with one. I had about two hours to find a ticket and connecting flights back to the U.S. This entailed cancelling the original ticket, calling our travel agent to find new flights, relaying the info back to Dave to see if it fit his schedule, and if it didn’t, go through the process all over again. My stomach was in knots and my thoughts raced like squirrels on caffeine at the idea of accomplishing the task at hand without co-workers or managers to rely on for aid.

Then it dawned on me.

I had been training for this moment my whole life.

When your horse freezes in fright and bolts, you have to handle it. When your horse lands a jump and commences a victory bucking session, you have to neutralize the situation. When your horse decides to ball up like a spring half way through the test, you have to diffuse the four legged bomb.

In those moments, it’s up to you. You can’t hand the reins to your trainer and say, “Can you deal with him?”

No, we are the ones in the saddle and ready or not, we have to solve the problem.

The first few times an equine calamity occurs, panic is usually one of the initial options you take. Over time, we develop the “equestrian calm”. The ability to process, pinpoint, and remedy the crisis, whether it’s a 30 second or 30 minute horse meltdown.

So when you are riding that bucking bronco of an exam week, stick yourself to the saddle and add some leg to studying. If you didn’t make the team, get the date to prom, or weren’t accepted to that college, keep your head high and heels down and ride those barn sour disappointments until their settled.

As for my predicament, Dave made it home for his daughter’s wedding, and I added one more notch to my experience belt. Crazy horse subdued.