Why live a life that's perceived as mad?
When is it OK to chase a dream down a dark rabbit hole of risk?
Especially when given the privilege and opportunity to live the
quintessential comfortable “american dream”?
I grew up in an upper-middle class, East Coast, hard-working Jewish
family who saved their pennies to give me the best opportunities they
could. They wanted me to be happy and successful, and even my
grandparents helped me pay for college in hopes that higher education
would lead to those things. I still remember the look of disbelief on
my grandparent's faces when after finishing college I gave away all of
my belongings and wandered into Canyonlands Utah to pursue this
inexplicable calling of climbing and art rather than the traditional
career path of my science degree.
“It's what I have to do…,” I said to my grandparents with tears
streaming down my face. It was an unforgettable moment of madness and
commitment. The unknown potential of a life unscripted tore at my
soul, and I followed. For the next 6 years I lived outdoors in
national parks across the western US and Canada on the fringe of
social norms. I climbed until my hands bled, and took rest days to let
them heal by painting the landscapes around me. Linking up with the
climbing tribe, I ascended untouched granite and sandstone rock faces,
created art with mixed media, and lived within those otherworldly
landscapes in a immersive way I could never recreate. The early years
were pure freedom and raw exploration.
A decade later, I find myself equally mad, but in a different way.
My career still isn’t what I would call stable, but the professional
relationships I have been lucky to build with influential brands like
TNF and @natgeo have enabled me to share stories of these obscure
worlds of art, climbing and photography with the greater public. I get
to push my physical limits as an athlete in remote regions around the
world, and take the creative risks of storytelling to bring those
adventures to others.
I still talk to my grandparents often, who don’t have much time
left. At 93 years old my grandfather took up painting in the last 10
years, since about the time he watched me do the same. He does a lot
of renditions of the photos I take from my most harrowing expeditions.
Maybe it's come full circle? I think there is a palatable emotion
between us where he now feels the madness of creative pursuits too,
and we are connected through this embrace of life more fully lived.