It’s Never too Late to Pick Up a Passion

When I was younger, I had a really hard time answering the question, “what are some of your hobbies?”

I would say, being outside, spending time with friends…

… and then kind of got stuck there. I was never really good at drawing (although I certainly tried), painting, sculpting, or any of the things that were considered creative hobbies. I was always intrigued by photography, but never thought of myself as someone who would excel in it because it seemed too complicated. The only writing I did was essays for school and the only reading I did was to figure out how to write those essays. Although I was fairly active, I struggled to run more than a mile no matter how many times I got out there and tried. I had a difficult time touching my toes and my mind was always racing.

A few years ago, I decided to put intentionality behind everything I do. Time moves inescapably fast and I didn’t want to wait to try new things. I wanted to spend my time doing things I love that balanced out the things I don’t.

And now, years later, when I get asked that question, I can answer with confidence and a long list of hobbies. I decided one day last year that I enjoyed the emotional and physical reaction I had to a stunning photo so I would pick up a camera and just start taking photos. I decided I wanted to express my thoughts and support others by starting to write. I decided I would get past the mental barrier and found great peace in running. I decided to learn how to practice mindfulness and feel the benefits of yoga. Creatively expressing myself has become both an outlet and a source of great joy. But if you would have asked 6th grade me if these would be the things I would spend my free time doing? I probably would have laughed.

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But this hasn’t exactly been an easy process. I recently found myself in a tough spot, where I had to re-center why I started writing and creating in the first place. So I opened my journal and tried to gather my thoughts. I asked myself, quite literally, why I started writing. I realized no one had really ever asked me this question. I asked myself why I automatically thought that anyone would give a crap about what I had to say. I was never told I was an excellent writer in school, but I was never told I wasn’t. I realized one of my favorite things is when I’m reading something, whether it’s a blog post, a book, an article, or an instagram caption and the writer puts into words an emotion or feeling that I’ve felt intensely but never been able to describe. And I want to do that for other people.

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I also think words go well with pictures, and I really like taking pictures. I’ve had so many people inspire me through their words and pictures and I want to do that for other people too. I realized I was getting so caught up in how my writing or photos would “perform,” and trying to compete in this world of creatives and my passions were causing me more harm then good. So I re-centered. I re-focused. I wrote down why I started and what I hope to get out of these passions. And while I love the idea of being an inspiration for others, I realized this is about what these creative outlets do for me. I love this process. I love this journey.

In this technology-saturated world, it’s hard to imagine doing things for yourself. We’re conditioned to think that a like, a follow, a comment, defines the worth of what you put out there and ultimately yourself. And it’s the biggest struggle to battle that sensation. It can be so defeating. I heard in a presentation that the next generation cares about authenticity in advertising, and is also quite good at recognizing when authenticity is lacking. If people are literally craving authenticity, why is it so hard for us to put it out there?

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And among all that, I started working full time. It became a little more of an effort to do these things after a long day of work. I was intentional about listening to my body and mind about what I wanted to do with the rest of the day after work so these hobbies wouldn’t start to feel like a chore. But the little effort to get my hammock up or my running shoes on is always worth it.

The reason why I sat down to write this blog post is because the fire of these passions was lit quite recently. Most have been developed in the last year, and I’m 24 years old. If there’s something you are interested in, try it. We get caught up in growing older and don’t feel like we have time or energy or ability to try new things, but do it. You might just find yourself capable of much more than you could have ever imagined. As a result of working to find and nurture these passions, my goals and career aspirations have shifted. I love sharing my work with those around me and they’re always unconditionally supportive. But what I love more, is how my work makes me feel.

While I love a long hike, international travel, or a good road trip, if we live solely for the big adventures we’ll surely miss out on the little ones.

If there’s something you’ve wanted to try, do it. Get on the internet and search pottery classes near you, running clubs, trapeze lessons, poetry slams, or whatever it is that’s got you curious. Life starts at the end of your comfort zone. Try something new and do it for you.

Pass this along if it meant something to you, cheers!

Why My First Solo Hike was Terrible and Amazing all at Once

I’ve been pretty lucky. Most of my close friends are really adventurous “yes” people. They’ll almost always take me up on plans to go hiking, kayaking, climbing etc., if they’re not already making those plans themselves. As a result, I’ve never really done the solo adventure thing. My first full day back in Fort Collins, Colorado I decided I was going to do my first solo hike. It sounded like a great way to kick off my upcoming year in this rad state, celebrate recently becoming an Adventure Enthusiasts ambassador, and get a good workout in to start my day.

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I wanted to pick a hike I had already done before and near where I live, so I chose to do the notoriously crowded Horsetooth Mountain hike. I woke up around 8:15 am, packed my bag with the usuals (ENO hammock, whatever book I’m reading, and my camera) and headed for the trailhead. When I got to the parking lot, I was happy to see it wasn’t too crowded. As I went to pay the entry fee, I noticed a warning sign on the window of the pay station that said “Rattlesnakes Live Here” and what to do in case you are bit.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m a walking oxymoron. I absolutely love a good outdoor adventure but have a debilitating fear of snakes. I can’t exactly pinpoint why, when, or how this self-diagnosed phobia started, but seeing this sign before taking off on this hike was a rough way to start the experience.

Usually when I go on a hike with friends, they’re aware of the situation and (hopefully) know not to tell me if they see a snake. I operate much better with an “out of sight out of mind” approach to this problem and if I don’t see it, I usually won’t freak out. This was true until I started my first solo hike, when the fear that I would cross paths with a snake lingered with every step.

For someone who considers themselves pretty adventurous, I really struggled on this hike. I flinched at every noise I heard and movement I saw, trying to just keep moving forward. Before I started the hike, I figured I’d be walking near people the entire time since this hike is generally pretty crowded. Nope! Of course, the one day I choose to do this hike, taking each step with crippling fear, the trail feels completely empty.

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I was walking at a swift pace, trying hard to keep my eyes on the trail and not let my gaze wander into the tall grass where there was a higher likelihood of me seeing something that would put me over the edge. More often than not, I debated turning back. I thought to myself, “no one would know I didn’t do it,” and “I already got this far, and I know what it looks like at the top.” I kept moving through these thoughts, worrying that if I stopped the silence would reveal hissing or rattling.

As I got further towards the top, I passed several groups on their descent. When I approached other hikers, I always debated whether or not to ask them if they had seen a snake, terrified that the answer would be yes. I continued on, greeting passerbys and hoping to get to the top fast.

Although I didn’t rest much because I was too scared to stop for too long, I realized quickly that this fear was draining my energy. I trust the physical condition I’m in, and knew this experience was feeling much harder than it should have. I tried my best to focus on enjoying the experience, but it was tough. I struggled with the thought that if I had been with other people, this fear would have floated to the back of my mind. I felt defeated because there were some incredible trees to put up my hammock and enjoy the view, but I could not muster up the courage to walk through the tall grass off the trail to set it up.

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As I kept moving, the views became more and more beautiful. The trail was full of wildflowers that I hadn’t seen the last time I had done this hike, and I stayed distracted by enjoying these views.

I started to think about what I was enjoying most about this experience. It was nice to stop whenever I wanted. Sometimes when you’re hiking in a group with varying abilities, it’s hard to ask to stop if you’re tired or to not move at a faster pace if you’re feeling good while others aren’t. I was only in charge of keeping my pace and listening to my body without having to worry about disrupting others. While I was trying to stay distracted from thinking about snakes, I noticed smaller details that made the trail so beautiful. A good view after a certain turn, the wildflowers in several different colors, and much more. These are all things I could have easily overlooked had I been walking and talking with a partner.

When I got to the top, I felt like a ginormous weight was lifted off my shoulders. To the West, I could see Rocky Mountain National Park, to the North, Wyoming. There was a 360 degree view with an interesting thing to look at from every angle. I was one of two people at the top, the other who was also a woman solo-hiking. We acknowledged each other’s presence and each enjoyed our little victory.

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I’m grateful to have gone on some incredible hikes all over the country, but I felt a sense of accomplishment on this one that I hadn’t felt before. I had combatted this debilitating fear all the way to the top, and was now being rewarded with incredible views on a beautiful day. I spent a while at the top, enjoying the experience and being humbled by the view ;).

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On the way down, I passed two really nice guys and ended up making the hike down with them after disclosing how terrified I had been on the way up. They shared their fears, one of which was also snakes. I made it to the bottom feeling successful for both finishing the hike and not seeing any snakes.

I wanted to write about this experience to share that while someone might be adventurous, it’s important to acknowledge that we’re all humans battling our own fears in our own spaces, and it’s what you do with that fear that will make all the difference.

If this resonated with you, or you know someone who would benefit from a story like this, please feel free to pass it along.

 

Cheers!

The Power of the Bucket List

The bucket list- the list of all the things you want to do before you die. How many of us really take the time to think about it? How many of us intentionally create this list and refer to it? I do. It’s a powerful tool for me and has given my life so much purpose and meaning.

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I truly began to create and write down my bucket list my senior year of college. I was stuck with this constant, awful feeling that time was moving too fast and the best four years of my life were slipping through my fingers. I got caught up in trying to slow time down, and since (duh Maria!) that’s not possible, it only led to more disappointment. Luckily, I was fortunate enough to have been selected to be in a leadership class with some of the most amazing people I know to this day. Because you had to be a senior to be a part of the experience, everyone else felt like I did and we were given a space to discuss, grow from, and share this feeling.  Through these discussions and my own personal reflection, I realized there was nothing I could do to stop time. I could wish and hope and fight it as much as I wanted, but the days continued to fly by.

During this time I started practicing intentionality. I looked for meaning in every day, realizing that we can’t only live for the big stuff because there’s so much little stuff that can bring us joy too. I began to enjoy walking around campus to class and being mindful of the things that made me happy. If it was the weather, a cute dog, a good song in my headphones, I truly took the time to enjoy it. Once I started to get better at this practice, I realized that as my days felt more joyful I felt as though I was truly making the most of the time I had left and I quickly became okay with how quickly it was passing. I made it a point to say yes to plans that came up and really cherish the time I had left with some of my best friends. Although there were still times where it was incredibly difficult to come to terms with what I felt was going to be the end of the best four years of my life, the intentionality behind creating those experiences has left me with some of my favorite memories. I’ve also been able to reflect on those incredible times while working to make the years following the next best four, and so on. I remember learning in one of my Psychology courses how having something to look forward had a big impact on our happiness, so after an invigorating conversation about passions and dreams in my leadership experience I made my bucket list.

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Without thinking, I wrote down everything I could remember I ever wanted to do. From really really big things, like put my hammock up on every continent or meet Ellen Degeneres (if anyone reading this has any connections… let me know), to really small things like see the Lumineers in concert or take a photography class I scribbled it all down. If you’ve ever heard someone say that when you write goals down you’re more likely to accomplish them, this is the perfect example. When I have an itch to do something or when I’m planning my next trip, I can always refer to my bucket list for perfectly concrete ideas.

Since writing it down, I’ve gone skydiving….

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backpacked the Grand Canyon…

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traveled Europe…

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moved to Colorado…

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and much, much more!

Some of the most incredible experiences of my entire life have come from my bucket list. It’s a life tool that keeps me excited to be alive, and excited for what’s to come. If you haven’t made a bucket list, or if it’s only in the mental stages, I highly recommend creating one and/or writing one down. It’s your personal experience and you can adjust it as often as you’d like. Be honest with yourself about the things you want to do and get out there and do them! If you know anyone that could benefit from my experiences, please share!

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Cheers!