Climbing at the Red River Gorge

Almost eight years ago, I left a job that I really enjoyed with people I loved to pursue a “career” in the outdoor industry.  I was getting frustrated trying to find partners and living a life that was not conducive to chasing my outdoor aspirations.  I came to EMS under the guise of building a career, but truthfully I was looking to meet people who shared my interests and to be exposed to new experiences and activities.   

I came to Eastern Mountain Sports a passionate hiker and mountain biker; ironically, neither of those activities are currently core pursuits of mine.  In eight years at EMS, I have learned to rock climb, ice climb, ski, telemark ski, and snowboard.  I have gravitated from the mountain bike and to the road bike. Prior to EMS, the only time I ever ran was away from something.  Most of my free time is now devoted to climbing and skiing.  Strangely, I used to hibernate most winters (with the exception of a little pick up basketball).  Now, winter is the season I am the busiest…and we are closing in on the one year anniversary of the last time I even touched a basketball.

Roping up on Lincoln’s Throat

Somewhere along the way I think I lost what was truly important to me.  Climbing the corporate ladder became more important to me than getting out and climbing rocks, and the way EMS represents the sports I love became more of a priority to me than participating in said sports.  I began to chase my passions not as much out of love for them but out of spite for those that had gotten ahead of me in the company.  If they had won on the corporate battlefield I would win on skis, on the bike, on the rock, and in the woods.

Having recently suffered a professional set back, I’ve had the opportunity to look at my place in the company and, more importantly, I’ve had a reason to take a critical look at my life and how I am living it.  I’ve been able to see some of the flaws in my lifestyle, and have been given a chance to fix them.  Having less professional responsibility has truly set me free.  No longer do I lay awake at night concerned over the day-to-day operations of a store; rather, I now toss and turn trying to decide whether I want to run or climb in the morning.

Backcountry snowboarding at the “Stash”

I no longer train at the rock gym to climb harder than anyone. Instead, I climb at the gym because I love to climb and enjoy the social aspect the rock gym provides.  When I go for a run, I am chasing my own personal records or training for something I want to do.  During the winter I will not chase days merely to brag about how many days I scored on the hill; I will ski almost every day this season because I love to ski.

Reflecting more on my eight years at EMS, I may not have climbed the corporate ladder as I had hoped but I have climbed everything else.  Looking back at journals and photos from my first year at EMS it is amazing how far I have come.  Activities that would have seemed extreme at the beginning might not even qualify as an average training day currently.  In fact, I have had many adventures that, eight years ago, I would never have believed myself capable of.  In addition to great unimaginable experiences, I have met a lot great people along the way.  Strangely, one of the people I worked my first shift with has become my most reliable and trusted partner in the outdoors.    

Bouldering at Horse Pens 40

It is a little early for New Year’s resolutions, but going forward I am really going to try and find the soul of the sports I love.  I am going to run until my legs refuse, climb until my fingers hurt, and ski until it is too cold to continue.  I am going to immerse myself in the cultures of the sports I am passionate about and remind myself that not everything needs to be serious, that’s it better to have some fun.  Most importantly, I am going to be conscious of the reason I cam to EMS in the first place: to meet people and get outside.

Hopefully, eight years from now I will still be involved in the sports that I love.   Who knows what I will be doing professionally, and, for the moment, who cares?  With any luck I will have continued to progress and accomplish a few more things that I never thought possible, tried a few new sports, and made a few new friends and partners.

At the third belay on Lost in the Sun