Why live a life that's perceived as mad?
What is madness? I believe what most people perceive as madness, I
call going with the flow of life as it presents itself to you. To dive
in headfirst with no training wheels or known structure of what will
unfold or how to get to where you’re trying to go. Of trusting in your
passion and where you’ve placed your heart as your only map and
compass and knowing the steps will unfold in front of you.
Passion evolves and reveals itself- it’s not always there. It
changes. I realized this when I dropped out of college and gave up my
full-ride academic scholarship I had worked my whole life to accomplish.
There were no limits placed on me as a child. I grew up living at a
ski resort in the winter. We lived in a tiny apartment at Snowbird ski
resort where my brother and I shared a 5x12 closet for our bedroom. My
dad was a ski patrol and my mom taught my brother, myself and 5 other
kids in a one room homeschool. In the summers we would hit the road in
a rusty old blue van and do backpacking trips in mountains around the
west. For most people, my childhood would be the definition of
“madness”. Yet though mountains and skiing were interwoven through
every fiber of my existence, I identified myself not as a skier, a
mountaineer, or an outdoor enthusiast, but as a student. I have a deep
love for nature and the environment and saw the best way to
reciprocate my love as being a voice for it through environmental
policy. I was an academic, and this is what drove me my whole life.
Until a life-changing moment when I was 20.
Growing up I was encouraged to take the road less traveled- but I
have always been very driven and goal oriented. I kept narrowing my
opportunities to hone my focus so I could follow what I believed was a
clear path to success, and my goals and dreams and the way I wanted to
make a difference in the world. But the path to ‘success’ is not
linear and there is no equation for happiness or fulfilling dreams and
though I couldn’t see it, I was the one limiting myself and the myriad
of paths and opportunities knocking on my door.
While trying to balance school and a blossoming, unforeseen career
as a big mountain skier, I put school first, every time. But then I
started seeing the doors I was closing. A free trip to Kilimanjaro, a
tour around Argentina, etc, the trips kept coming. And I kept my head
down, turning them away until the thought struck me- “what if I just
don’t sign up for fall classes? What if I just give it all up and go
for it?” School will always be there, but the opportunities will grow
tired of knocking, and I knew this. The life I was supposed to be
living, my madness, was staring me in the face and busting down my
door. But it meant totally abandoning my identity. Everything I
thought would bring me success.
Most people would probably think skiing is my passion. In fact, it’s
not. I am driven by an uncontrollable urge to go deeper, to find out
what lays inside me, to find out how to listen to my inner voice and
the signs presented to me by life. Skiing has been the vehicle
presented to me in which to do this, and the more I hone my awareness
the signs are glaringly obvious. For me, it’s not about skiing as what
I ‘do’- it’s about why I do it. I do it to push myself. To see where
my limits are. To be intimate with fear and not let it rule my life-
on the ski slopes or otherwise. To be outside, in nature, where I find
quiet, and find my greatest connection to pure, unadulterated presence
in the moment, the time and place where I am and not in my email inbox
or funny text chain.
Some people say madness is risk-taking behavior- and I agree. But I
think we all have a different relationship with risk and why we might
take it. Many people get a rush from overcoming fear and that is their
inspiration to follow madness. I personally don’t enjoy taking risks.
I like living in the comfort zone. I want to feel capable and
competent, and standing on top of a really challenging ski line makes
me feel anything but that. And that is why I do it. I don’t think we
ever grow if we stay in our comfort zones. Maybe this makes me mad.
When I chose the life of ‘madness’ I didn’t choose the skiing. I
chose the path of listening to myself and listening to life. Whatever
your madness is, pay attention to it. It might be in a college degree
or it might be outside. Madness is pursuing something that has no
endpoint. It’s a journey each one of us takes. Every human has to take
risks, whether you follow societal norms or not.
Madness is about your relationship with your life as it presents to
you and keeps opening you up, presenting you with obstacles. Madness
is choosing the obstacle instead of the clear path in order to get a
deeper understanding of yourself. #QuestionMadness