Conquistadors of the Useless, or Pursuers of Passion?


“Don’t try to change the world, find something that you love
And do it every day
Do that for the rest of your life
And eventually, the world will change.”

––Growing Up, by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

Millennials get a lot of flack.

We’re dubbed lazy, entitled, useless.

Our work ethic is questioned, our desire to live in vans reviled, and our love for the outdoors?


But is it?

I’ve wrestled with this question late at night with wine in hand, mile 7 of a trail run, and over countless cups of coffee. It’s clear that our society, so centrically created around capitalism, values what we produce. In fact, so often, our value is determined solely on what we create.

In terms of money, it’s easy to define. As a society, we value wealth, and those of us who choose to claw our way up the corporate ladder will, usually, be rewarded for our time and dedication to the man. Whoever he is.

This idea is something I understand well. Working my way through secondary and higher education, I knew following a specific path would ensure my success. I knew how to do exactly what I was told to do.

I soon realized, though, like many of us do, that continuing to pursue that life would be empty. While the security of money is nice, and up to a certain threshold ($75,000 to be exact), can actually make you happier, sacrificing happiness to get to that point isn’t necessarily worth it.

So, when I chose to study creative writing in college, I knew I was setting myself up for societal failure.


When I decided I wanted to focus my efforts on writing in the outdoor industry, I laughed at my silly masochistic self.

Because if writing isn’t enough to sustain yourself, or prove your worth in society, playing outdoors is even worse.

Desert trail and sandstone towers in Moab, UT

My feelings of uselessness increased the more time I spent outside. Days passed without a single thing to show. I hadn’t written anything. I hadn’t changed anyone’s life. I certainly hadn’t made any money.

But I felt so much happier.

What came next was an energy for preserving our wild and beautiful places. This energy evolved into passion, which included writing to government officials and advocating for public land.

It still made me wonder if spending all this time outside––climbing, skiing, running, and whatever else––was actually worthwhile.

As it appears, rock climbing is useless. And despite various attempts to justify the sport, many people continue to agree that nothing good comes from climbing rocks.

It might be true for some people. Maybe there is an entire branch of the climbing community that doesn’t see the value of public lands, refuses to attend crag clean-ups, and will go on their merry way never giving back to the community.

Beneath their inability and lack of desire to give back, however, lay the seeds of passion.

Although I don’t know many (if any) people in the climbing community who do not care about anything and anyone besides themselves, there is something within them that draws them to the sport. This passion, I believe, is exactly what the world needs.


Anger, resentment, jealousy––these emotions often stem from an experience in our lives that told us we couldn’t. Whether it was society, our parents, our significant other, or a complete stranger. At some (or many) points, we decided to let someone see the fragile, brilliant dream inside of us, and they laughed, or doubted, or overran us with their sarcasm.

Along the way, so much of our passion died because of doubt.

What I love about the climbing community is that “no” isn’t a reasonable answer, and we continually rise to a challenge. We spend our summers waking before the sun, and our autumns climbing in headlamps, because we just want the thing to go. We spend days, weeks, months, sometimes years, climbing the same damn route because we’re too stubborn to admit defeat. We suffer flesh wounds, centipede bites, rock fall, numb toes, tendonitis, rolled ankles, broken ankles, whippers, and thirty-foot run-outs.

In climbing, we shape our character, we define what is and isn’t possible, and we refuse to back down.

Red Rocks, NV

The same is true of any sport. It’s in the face of adversity that character and resiliency grow. So maybe, on the surface, climbing seems useless.

After all, we’re spending years of our lives hanging off the side of cliffs.

But when you look into the benefits the sport creates, and how the fissures splay throughout our society––the activists it creates, the stories of endurance and the human spirit it tells, the passion it inspires––it’s hard to say the sport is futile.


Midweek Round-Up #1

Stumbled upon Elayne Fluker’s podcast, Support is Sexy. The few episodes I’ve listened to have included inspirational messages and beautiful stories of women entrepreneurs who’ve battled their way through high’s and low’s to be successful.

I found Kirsten Schiel on Instagram and follow along for the adventure and beautiful pics (@kaysheel). This week she posted a poignant and captivating essay on her first winter overnight trip into the Uinta’s.

While we’re on Instagram, the posts from @seecaitclimb against the red rock of southern Utah and northern Nevada will make you want to pack up your gear and jump on I-15 southbound immediately.

Amy Jane David (@amyjanedavid) has been working on a short film series titled, “Wild Women of the Wasatch.” There are eight episodes up already featuring women in adaptive sports, women skiing, women in epic snow jobs, and women who take skateboarding to a whole new level. You can find all the episodes in the search bar at Ski Utah.

And of course, I have to give a shout-out to my girl Sarah at Girl on Rock. She has some great posts about DIY gifts for climbers, road trip games, and some spooky wilderness stories.

What inspired you this week?

The Importance of Passion

We know it when we see it. The girl with overactive hand gestures talking about the project she sent. The guy telling us about the backflip he landed at Snowbird’s terrain park. The research scientist detailing the minutia of their current experiment. The father with pictures of his kid atop the podium for the state track championships. And we smile with them, applaud them, cheer alongside them, and then wonder what it is in our own lives that brings us the same kind of joy.

I have known too many people to choose stability over passion. They turn down job offers, forgo van trips, and choose more economical majors in order to pursue the path most taken. Our FOMO is real in a more practical way than we realize. In some ways, we make choices in our twenties under the assumption that opportunities won’t present themselves later in our lives. So we purchase houses, settle with the corporate job, and begin saving and planning for children. There’s this lurking sense that if we don’t do it now, then maybe we never will.

Do we not trust ourselves? Because that’s what it is, right? If we take this van trip, quit our jobs, pursue a vagabond lifestyle, will we have the willpower to return to life as we know it?

The truth is, life won’t be the same. After a serious diversion from life’s inevitable path, perspective changes. You realize you don’t need that much stuff, simplicity is the key to happiness, and, you guessed it, bigger isn’t necessarily better.

Our fear of change and growth keeps us from pursuing big dreams–the dreams we’re most passionate about. I’m no different. My job is stable. It provides a solid paycheck, and I don’t have to work most of the month. Right now, my lifestyle is pretty good. But there are things I’ve always wanted to do that I can’t pursue with this job. And it’s really, really tempting to stay in this career, for, well, my career.

But in my dogged pursuit for passion, I can’t settle for a job that doesn’t stoke my fire. The most inspiring people,to me, are the ones who break away from society–the artists, the non-profit starters, the dirtbag climbers living in vans. I’m inspired by people who pursue freelance careers, who sell all their belongings, who sacrifice their time for years of schooling in order to become whatever it is they so long to become.

Who inspires you? They are the people that offer a glimpse into what you value and the life you long to pursue. We’re inspired by the doers, the dreamers, and the go-getters. The people that said enough, and went on to pursue their passion. As corny as it sounds, we can’t let life go by without following our dreams. So many people get to the end of their lives only to wish they had pursued a career in fashion, or quit their job to travel the world, or started a non-profit in their favorite sector.

Logistically, it might be a nightmare. And in the beginning it might be scary as hell–the unknown always is. But I can guarantee you, it will be worth it.

*this post also appeared in Thought Catalog

The Vegetarian Choice

Statistically, I’ve been a carnivore for 94% of my life, and a Vegetarian for about 5%, Vegan for <1%. I’m fascinated that I can be defined and labeled by my food choices. That choosing to not eat meat has brought on livid conversations from people I’ve not tried to attack. And yet, here I am, writing a blog post, about my choice to pursue Vegetarianism, and part-time Veganism.

It all started with documentaries and the gruesome reality of factory farming. If you can’t put a picture to the term, I recommend you search Google images to get an idea. And then I recommend doing a little more research to learn how animals are treated in these environments. How they’re injected with copious amounts of antibiotics. How they are packed into warehouses and forced to live on piles of feces. How they’re fed only to make them plump so they can be butchered.

What a life, right?

After realizing the ethical impacts of factory farming I decided to forgo the meat aisle in the supermarket. If local beef weren’t so expensive I may have incorporated that into my diet, but I was in college and it wasn’t an option.

Fast forward to early 2016 when the documentary Cowspiracy loaded onto Netflix. If you haven’t watched it yet, open a new tab, type in Netflix, and search for it. It’s the most incredible look into the impacts of factory farming on our environment.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a pretty big fan of the natural world. I’ve been fortunate to visit Europe, Asia, Canada, Central America, and all fifty of the United States. I’ve traversed ridgelines in the local Wasatch Range. I’ve hiked in the Great Smoky Mountains. I’ve stood on the rim of the Grand Canyon. I’ve looked out onto the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range from Granada, Spain. With each experience I’ve gained perspective and a deep love and respect for all the beauty we take for granted every single day.

It’s now a known fact that we are depleting our resources. California has been plagued by drought since 2012. Our rivers are drying up. Our winters are becoming milder by the year. Each day the rainforest loses upwards of 80,000 acres. Our earth is experiencing abnormalities across the board. The reasons why are lesser known, or incorrectly reported.

Greenhouse gas is the term swirling around in our minds when we talk about Global Warming. For years we’ve been under the impression that these Greenhouse Gasses come from the transportation sector. In the past few decades the focus has been on Carbon Dioxide, and for good reason. Consistently Carbon Dioxide ranks as the highest emitted greenhouse gas. It’s a byproduct of the transportation industry as well as power facilities: coal mines, electricity plants, and the like. What we don’t hear about, though, is the level of Methane, a lesser-known and downplayed greenhouse gas that is 23% more powerful than Carbon Dioxide. So even though the statistics on the EPA website show Agriculture as a 9% impact on greenhouse gasses, it fails to take into consideration the fact that those 9% of molecules are packing a punch 23 times that of their carbon counterparts.

Beyond the rise of greenhouse gas due to agriculture, factory farming and the raising of livestock for food accounts for 55% of water usage in the US! It takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. California is experiencing a severe drought, and we are using 2500 gallons of water on one pound of beef. This blows my mind! If you’re looking for an even more mind-boggling number, animal agriculture accounts for 34-76 trillion gallons of water annually. In numeric terms, that’s 34,000,000,000,000 to 76,000,000,000,000. Even on the low end, that’s 93,150,684,931.5 gallons of water PER DAY. I can’t even comprehend how much water that is.

These are just a few of the growing number of statistics in relationship to factory farming. Head on over to to check out their facts page and references. This is a growing muddled debate that impacts not only our world, but every person in it.

What do you think about factory farming?