Personally, I love my life. Actually, I’ve loved 90% of my life because I choose to be selfish about the way I live it. I live it for me, not for others. That doesn’t mean I chose to be antisocial, it just means I don’t let others dictate what my priorities are.
Along the way, things have changed a lot, and they are still changing. Today, I take responsibility for my happiness. Climbing has been the constant in my life, but that was my choice. One reason I climb, is that it serves no other purpose but to enjoy myself. Even now that I own a climbing gym, I still climb for me and no one else. Yes, I teach others, I interact and I demonstrate climbing, but I climb because I want to climb. The days I don’t feel like climbing, I don’t.
I didn’t love every day of my life, but today I have no regrets about the choices I made along the way. After high school, I spent a year working in the Awahnee Hotel in Yosemite. The job wasn’t great, but it provided me an opportunity to climb in my favorite climbing area for a year. Great cracks were available before or after work and my ‘weekends,” Monday and Tuesday, were spent climbing walls. The job was not great, but I chose to work at a job I didn’t like so I could live in a place I loved. I basically kept my head down, did my job to the best of my ability and kept my eye and mind on what was important, the next climb.
While working in Yosemite, I was amazed at how many people lived such miserable lives and chose not to do anything to get out of it. People who were only a few years older had given up. These were people who grew up with much more than I did, maybe they just didn’t know how to make choices to be positive. Maybe they wanted to have a miserable life, maybe they just enjoyed complaining. Me, I just enjoyed climbing, so everything else, at that time, didn’t matter.
After Yosemite, I took the money I had in my savings account, and hit the road. I was finally free to climb every day, with not job, all I had to do was find partner, locate free camping, and find cheap food. Noodle, rice pudding, and granite jam cracks nourished me for about a year.
I was living the life I had chosen. Along the way, I did what several of the dirt-bag climbers I met on the road did, I gave my body to medical research in Austin Texas. Preferring long run-outs on Glacier Point Aprons, this was a hard choice for me, but for a 15 day study, I could go back on the road for three months, so I choose to take the needle and caught up on my reading. Two weeks of florescent light, strict regiments of needles, a carefully crafted diet and I was back in the warm sun heading for Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Even living the life, I met people who were unhappy with the life they were living. They spoke of following the sun, looking for the perfect routes and bragged about climbing 300 days a year, but many were still unhappy. They were living the dream, but I felt like the dream wasn’t theirs, it was a representation of what the dream wasn’t supposed to be. After about a year on the road, I too felt like the life was wearing thin, I needed something more.
With little to go on and even less money to resettle into the real world, I made a choice. I committed myself to a life that was the opposite of the freedom I had experienced, I joined the military. While I have no regrets about joining, I also have no regrets about getting out. The military applied a bit of discipline to my life and it opened my eyes to what the world can be. It also introduced me to more people who hated their life and were just going through life, not living. Most complained and felt they were victims. They blamed their recruiters, drill sergeants and commanders for everything that was going on in their life; they didn’t want to accept responsibility for the choices they had made.
Over the years, after my military service, I took jobs that were less than perfect because they offered either a great schedule or were at the perfect location. From hanging billboards three days a week to guiding rock climbing trips, I’ve always found a way to do what I wanted on the side. The key for me has been to keep things simple.
I live my life with the choices I make, so I choose to be careful how I live. When something isn’t what I want it to be, I make an effort change it. I accept responsibility for my actions and the choices I make. Most importantly, I choose not to blame others for things I choose to do and don’t enjoy. I accept that the outcomes are based on my choices.
Here are things I keep in mind.
I choose my friends. I have a few friends and many acquaintances. My friends and I are very supportive of each other, but we’re also honest and don’t hesitate to share our opinions. We’re able to have discussion on issues we don’t see eye-to-eye on without disrespecting each other. I like friends that are able to have a conversation, aren’t afraid of critiquing me or are willing to share me their honest opinions regardless of my beliefs. Some of my friends aren’t even climbers.
I have a couple of passions instead of a long list of hobbies. I consider myself very lucky; I found something I love doing early on in my life. Climbing has been the only constant. I often think people have a ton of hobbies because they have not found something they love or are passionate about. On the same note, one common trait among my friends is that they are passionate about one or two things. Some of the things they enjoy, I can’t relate too, but when they speak about, I get excited. That’s enough for me and makes for a nice conversation about the finer points of subjects I know nothing about.
When people tell me they wish they could do something, I always answer with go ahead. They normally have a dozen reasons why they can’t or won’t. I believe we find a way to do the things we really want to do. We prioritize our lives according to what we are most interested in. Me, I make time for climbing. Everything I do is designed to maximize time spent climbing.
I’ve learned to say “no.” Saying “no” has always been difficult for me, but I’ve slowly adjusted. This has made my schedule much more open and allows me to commit fully when I say yes. I now only say yes to things I am genuinely interested in doing or helping with. This allows me to be 100% committed to the process and task. Saying “no” has also opened a lot of time on my calendar and schedule.
I married a woman who is kind, wonderful and loving. She also has the same interest as me, and couple interest I don’t understand. We enjoy spending time together and spend more time together than apart. This isn’t true of many of the married couples I meet. Many choose to do things that their spouses or partner are not interested in. While having some separate interest is great, couples need to have common interest too.
The choices I’ve made have not created a perfect life, but I love my life. I chose my friends, my career, where I live and whom I married. I’ve scheduled my life around the things I love. When I meet people who haven’t, I ask myself why not? They always have an excuse.