How Nature Has Effected My Life
This is My Story.
Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience. - Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
Everyone has a starting point, we are all beginners at some point and I think people tend to forget that. Here is my story.
As a kid, I never spent a lot of time outside, rather the opposite. I was that kid who stayed indoors and played video games, drank soda & energy drinks, and ate like poop. I was that kid who told his parents that he was “sick” so he could stay home and play video games all day. I was that kid that played video games so much that I could have became a professional gamer before I entered high school. I was my own shade of white due to the lack of sun that never saw my skin. I was shy, anti-social, and very reserved as a kid. I didn’t go out much, my friends would always come over to my place because I had the ideal setup for video games; Xbox, PlayStation, Desktop, cold energy drinks. My place was the hangout spot when I was a kid and I have a lot of fun and cool memories from that time of my life.
When I entered high school, as every kid does, you try and find out who you are, see where you fit into in society. As a freshman I hopped around a lot of circle groups trying to do that, see where I fit in, and to be honest, I kind of fit in majority of the groups; jocks, stoners, nerds, etc. I wasn’t the most outgoing kid, but I had grown up in the same school district and majority of people had as well so we all knew of each other. Fast forward until the end of Sophomore year, my dad got really sick and had to be hospitalized for a while, and at that point I didn’t have a place to live. So, I started bouncing around homes within the family, staying with different people every few months until eventually I got the chance to be back at home and I had family come and take care of us there so we could have all our things. It was in this time that I had started to experience with marijuana and alcohol. At first, I didn’t know how I should feel about it, but as I continued to do it, it became something I started to do every day. I was 15 at the time. Without proper guidance or the correct home situation, I started down this path of experimenting with drugs. It started out innocent as all these things do, a drink here and there, a puff here and there, until one day I realized that it had started to become a problem. I started thinking about it from the time I woke up until the time I went to bed, it was all I thought about. I craved it and made me sick thinking about not having it. I was 16 at the time, lost and confused and started a downward spiral that would end up lasting years of my life.
I remember it like it was yesterday, the feeling of becoming numb from substances. I remember the out of body experience I received from the very first puff I took and the first sip of alcohol I consumed. But, at that time in my life, that was exactly what I thought I needed, my dad was sick and in the hospital and my mom had passed away when I was 8. I didn’t have any parental figures in my life to guide me down the correct path, I had myself to rely on and therefore I made all the wrong choices not knowing how it would affect me or being told what it would do to my life. I remember the pressures of my peers to try new things, and I had said yes to everything that came my way. A couple years I went on day to day doing this until shortly after I graduated I was offered prescription drugs, and just like everything else, I accepted and this was where everything started to get nasty.
Slow down, don’t forget to breathe. – Me.
I remember the feeling of taking my first pill, as it slid down my throat, the feeling it gave me before it even hit my stomach. It gave me this euphoric feeling like no other, like I was already high before it even entered into my bloodstream. It had become all psychological. Pills had completely taken over my life in such a short amount of time. They are really as addictive as they say, and here I was, just another victim. I had become entirely dependent upon them, I couldn’t function without them, I couldn’t even leave the house. During this period in my life, close to 4 years of abuse every day, I lost a lot of friends, did a lot of bad things, got arrested, saw a lot of things a kid shouldn’t have to see or endure, and above all, I put drugs above everything else in my life. People didn’t matter to me anymore, work didn’t matter, nothing at all mattered except for the next time I was going to get high and where it was coming from. I spent thousands upon thousand of dollars on my addiction and don’t have a dam thing to show for it, but in a way that’s not entirely true. I have life experiences that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I learned how bad life can really be, I had hit my rock bottom completely.
It was in that moment I realized that I needed change before I died or before I got so far down this road that I would never be able to get out of it without help, or out at all. I woke up one morning and said to myself, “I’m done, I need to stop, I can’t function without these and it’s literally killing me,” and that was the turning point in my life.
I woke up, walked outside and I saw a haze over the world, yet it wasn’t smoky at all, it was a bluebird summer day. That’s one way I can explain what it did to me and how altered my perception of reality truly was. It’s safe to say that coming off any kind of drug is one of the hardest things you’ll ever have to endure in your life, and some will agree and some won’t but it’s two-fold. Some people say getting clean is the hardest thing they’ve ever done, but at the same time you don’t hear much about staying clean. In my experience, even up until this day, staying clean is a daily struggle. I chose to go down this path by myself, I didn’t go to AA, I didn’t ween off; I quit cold turkey and I relied on myself and held myself accountable as I do to this day. You have triggers, urges. You see things that bring back flashbacks. You have random thoughts. Demons lurk around all corners. You must find things to occupy your time, keep your mind from wandering, you have to cope somehow without becoming dependent on something else. I remember one of the biggest things that I lacked was self-confidence. I had absolutely none. I felt like a piece of dirt, like I wasn’t worth anything to anyone or even to myself. I needed to rebuild myself from the bottom. I needed to rewire my brain, I needed to relearn how to be normal and how to do things without being inhibited. I needed to find something that could accommodate these things and this was when I found out that the gym was great for your physical and great for your mental.
I found out something about myself during all these stages in my life; I realized that anything I do I do in excess, I go all in and become obsessed, I go big or go home so to speak. So, I became quickly addicted to the feeling that the gym gave me, euphorically speaking to begin and then I started to see my physical appearance change, then with that my confidence boosted and in turn my mental state started to improve. I started to walk with confidence, I held my head high and for the first time in my life I felt normal and I felt as I thought I should. It was the new “high” that I was searching for; it made me watch my nutrition, it made me a better me in everyway possible. Shortly after diving head first into fitness, I was asked by one of my instructors if I would be interested in teaching classes at her gym, and I happily obliged, ecstatic!! She advised me to get certified then I would be able to teach in her gym. A few months pass, I got certified with ACE and started teaching classes, it was literally the best feeling in the world being able to share my passion with others and help them become the best versions of themselves. I did this for about 6 months 5 days a week, all the while maintaining my level of fitness as well, and at one point, I started to get bored of the monotony of the “gym grind,” and shortly after I gave up teaching and dedicated my training solely on myself. I wanted to be faster, stronger and lighter. Isn’t that something we all strive for in life? After about 6 months of putting in the work in the gym, I again got bored of the everyday grind of the gym. It was at this point one of my friends invited me to go on a hike, which I knew absolutely nothing about at the time and I accepted the invitation, not knowing how important it would be to me later on in life.
It was Thanksgiving 2014 I believe and my friend picked me up and we headed up to the mountains, somewhere I’ve never been before and never even thought I would end up. We had a short, but sweet drive, full of conversation and laughs and after what seemed like 10 minutes, we arrive at the trailhead. Castle Crags was the name of the place my friend took me. I had no idea what to expect, I didn’t look at pictures beforehand, how long the hike was, how steep it was, I was just along for the ride. The entire ascent my jaw was open wide, staring around at everything in awe, wondering to myself, how have I never been here before or done this before? We made a brief pit stop near the top to take in the views and enjoy our turkey sandwiches and just talk about how beautiful this world truly is. We eventually make it to the top and take in the views, which were unlike something I’ve never seen before. It felt otherworldly, but so beautiful. I remember sitting there just thinking to myself, this is where I belong, this is what I am going to dedicate my time to. The entire descent I kept asking when the next time we were hiking was, but she was only in town for a small amount of time and she was heading back home soon. I was on a high for about 3 days before I needed to do it again, and by this time she had told me she was leaving to head back home. It was now on me to find places to go, things to see, etc. So, I start researching online, looking around at hikes, and started making lists of the places I wanted to go and slowly but surely started to check these places off my list.
2015. 2015 was the year I picked up my first camera and started taking pictures, undenounced to me it would become something so important to me. Creating memories, sharing experiences with friends, and ultimately stepping outside of my comfort zone, trying new things. It was in 2015 that I started to really fall in love with the feeling of being outdoors, it became my home away from home. It was in 2015 that I started to sell my work as prints to others, there's no words to describe what that meant to me at the time!! Life was starting to look up!
2016. 2016 was the year that I did my first backpacking trip, and I started to road trip and adventure outside of my comfort zone, exploring new places. It was my first time to Yosemite, Crater Lake, Arches National Park and many others. 2016 was also the year I started to take my photography more seriously, documenting my adventures and sharing them with others to help inspire them to opt outside and enjoy this beautiful world we live in. 2016 was the year I took my first long road trip, 10 days which changed my life completely. Being away from home for so many days was so new to me, it was challenging at times, but ultimately the best thing I could have ever done. 2016 was the year I car camped for the first time. 2016 was the busiest year I’ve had for adventuring to date, as I was free of restraints, no big responsibilities, etc. I came and go as I pleased and I loved it.
2017. Oh, where do I begin with 2017. 2017 was a lot of things for me. Prior to summer I had started to map out all the places I wanted to see and explore, and this was the year I really wanted to start diving into backpacking more. But, a few months before summer officially started, I had received word that my father was losing his house. A house he has owned for close to 20 years. My father was/is sick. He has vascular dementia and at this time he recently had a big fall and was hospitalized for hip surgery. During this process I had come to find out that he did a reverse mortgage years ago and didn’t keep up with his bills and taxes, so the bank was taking the home. I quickly realized that all of this was real and I had less than 30 days to act before they were kicked out on the streets. I stepped up and offered to take him in and have him live with me. So, I did what any good son would do, I found a new place and moved him in with me, not knowing what I had gotten myself into. Dealing with Dementia was new to me, as well as caring for someone was not something I was used to, I could barely take care of myself at the time, but this was something I knew I needed to do. This was the first year that I didn’t get to adventure often, I could count the amount of times on one hand that I got to opt outside and try to be normal. During this period of time, I had become so stressed and depressed that I was considering doing drugs again, I didn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. I took on all these responsibilities with absolutely no help, and I had no idea what I was doing, but dammit I knew in my heart I would never regret it, no matter how hard it was. I wasn’t ready to grow up, not in this way at least. I had no choice but to be an adult and advocate for my father because he couldn’t do so. I ended up getting Power of Attorney over him so I could handle all his affairs, and act for him because he consciously can’t make rational decisions. Over these months I learned patience, I learned to work smarter not harder, I learned how to use my words and how to act as an adult even though I’m still a “kid” in people’s eyes. I learned to appreciate the little things, cherish moments, and appreciate what I have right in front of me. Despite everything personal that went on in 2017, I got picked up by Salomon late in the year and became an ambassador, I started doing work with a couple outdoor companies, and I feel like I have finally found my niche in the outdoor industry.
2018. As I sit here on August 18 finishing up this blog piece in my kitchen, my father sits in the living room watching football. I now have help in my home that allows me to go to school and allows me to have 2 weekends a month to be able to adventure and do what I love! I have dove headfirst into backpacking and I have a new love for the outdoors. I have learned to be patient, to cherish moments, appreciate the little things, and ultimately to be present. I’ve learned how to enjoy the time I do have and live it to the fullest every opportunity that I get because things can get taken away from you so suddenly. The outdoors has taught me so many things that translates into my everyday life and vice versa. You learn who you truly are when you are alone, out in nature with just yourself, your thoughts, and the mountains as your ears. The mountains have heard me cry, laugh, yell, they’ve seen me at my worst, and seen me at my best; but the mountains are here to help us improve as human beings, they never judge, they are here for you to challenge you and help you reach what you want in life. Everyone sees the top of the mountain, but nobody sees the route you have to take in order to reach the top. The mountains are simple reminders that we have to overcome adversity to become great. The mountains are our teachers. Things happen, weather is unpredictable, you can get hurt, you can get lost, you can be unprepared, but the mountains prepare us for these things. The mountains have helped mold me into the man I am today, I don’t know who I would be if I never found the outdoors. This is the year I have invested all of my time and energy into the outdoors.
People ask me all the time why I prefer sleeping in my car or in a tent than a hotel. It’s simple. Experience. People ask me why I lose sleep, drive through the night to reach the trailhead, hike with a headlamp to peak out by sunrise. It’s simple. Experience. People ask me, aren’t you tired? Of course I’m tired, but you only live once and I don’t want to live a life full of regret, rather one full of memories. A life full of stories I can tell my kids one day if I have them. A life that I want to live doing what I love. A life revolved completely around the outdoors.
The outdoors is single handedly the most important aspect of my life. It’s what keeps me going through my long days, it’s what keeps me sober, it’s what I look forward to, it’s all I think about. Everyone has their thing that they do that brings them joy and happiness, and for me, I am fortunate enough to have found it a young age because some people go their entire life without ever finding it. I broke this up in years to show you that it takes time to find your passion, and at times, life throws you curve balls, but one thing remains; your passion. I broke this up to show you that it took me years and years to find mine and solidify it, so don't get discouraged if it's been a year and you haven't found yours yet. Trust the process, and remember that you DO have a purpose in life, it just takes time to find it.