There aren't many times in life when you recognize a true crossroads. When the perception of future paths are so clearly defined and so polar opposite. When the path laid out before you is exactly what you've dreamed.
Will you take the step or fall in line?
For the past two years, I have pursued my Masters in Higher Education. This spring it has come to an end. No more late night essays, research projects, or developmental theories. I have successfully joined the top 5% of the population with graduate degrees. Many of my cohorts have already secured jobs with salaries and benefits. They have become "successful" citizens of society. But that life is not for me, at least not yet. Do not get me wrong, I understand the everyday comforts that come with a secure future. The nice "things" acquired for your home or the 401k package that eases the worry of retirement. All this I understand, but it does make me feel a bit like Tyler Durden...
“You are not your job, you’re not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You are not your fucking khakis. You are all singing, all dancing crap of the world.” - Fight Club
All the nihilism aside I do think he makes a point.
Since I was a child learning has come easy. Whether it was formal education in rural Arkansas or readings in cosmology of my own volition, rarely if ever, have I found the need to study. Like many aspects of my life education has been a pursuit of passions, a deciphering of societal structure and norms in the pursuit of knowledge for the sake of understanding. Unlike many, my education was not a means to a career but rather an idealization of the holistic development of the self. This idealization has cost me tens of thousands of dollars but hey, I've got a degree right? Well, there is more to learning than what is found in the classroom. There are the subtleties, the externalities, and those are the things I will surely miss.
I will miss the brick and mortar walls of all shapes and sizes. The bike commute to class and work that IS uphill both ways. The colors of pastels within the Rec center with all the wrong shades of mustard yellow, and green. I will miss Arkansas springs with their scent of honeydew and the cooling breeze across Old Main lawn. I will miss the people that I have touched and the ones that have touched me. Their laughs and their tears. I will miss my mentors and my mentees, my teachers, and my students. I will miss the weekend jaunts into the Ozarks, the floating, the cragging, the long nights under the stars and the campfire talks. I will miss the "primacy of direct experience" as Mckenna or Huxley might say. I will miss all this and more.
I have chosen a different path. A path of uncertainty and adventure. Of high elevation and low income. A path of moments; moments of fear, of bliss, and of times that take your breath away. I have chosen to leave my home in Fayetteville and pursue the life of dirt baggery and mountain adventures. This week I head west with all of the necessities of life on the road. Packing all of my belongings into "Sheila", my trusty 4runner, and trek some 30 hours to my summer home in Bellingham, Washington. There I begin my employment with the American Alpine Institute where I will be living, breathing, and working as a mountain guide in the Northern Cascades. A job that I have dreamed about ever since I started climbing some nine years ago.
The mountains have beckoned me once again and I dare not resist their temptations. For it is upon their flanks that the bonds of brotherhood are created. Where struggle has taught me more about myself and others than I could have ever imagined. It is in the raw elements, the snow, the wind, the cold where I truly feel alive. This summer is my chance to make the mountains my profession. To turn my passions into play and profit. To finally pursue my dream of becoming a full time mountain guide where your pants may make you who you are but the contents of your wallet definitely will not.
It is in this vein of adventure, of uncertainty that I invite you to join me. To choose the path less traveled. To take a leap of faith. For sometimes it is in these leaps, these moments, that you glimpse who you really are.