Doing Hard Things

This past weekend, I attended the Mountain Film Festival at the Trustees Theater in historic Savannah, Georgia. Based in Telluride, Colorado, the Mountain Film Festival is a traveling documentary group bringing adventure and outdoor films to cities across America.

I’d heard good things about the MFF and even recognized a few adventure photographers on the bill. Despite feeling burned out from work, I decided to bike downtown and arrived with a few minutes to spare. As I approached the theater, a kind sponsor burst through the doors looking to offload a couple free tickets. Sometimes we just get lucky.

The night unfolded with nearly a dozen documentaries between three and twenty-five minutes a piece. Each one packed an emotional punch: some inspired women adventurers, others commended feats of remarkable physical  achievement. I jotted down my four favorite movies from the night, and encourage you to give them a watch.

Johanna Under The Ice | Johanna holds the record for longest female cold-water free dive, and the cinematics are just as breath-taking

John Shocklee: A Fairy Tale | John is not your typical ski bum, this dude is super hard core, and he provides a window into living out his dream

Cowtown | Cowtown, NJ is the longest-running rodeo in the US, and chronicles the trials of passing the farm down to future generations

The Time Travelers | In January 2017, the US men’s rowing team constructed a boat and attempted to break a speed record through the Grand Canyon’s Colorado River segment

By the time I left the MFF, I missed the mountains, the open water, and feelings of unrestrained exploration. And while that’s not my entire life (like it is for some of these subjects), I think I’ve done a good job at prioritizing those experiences in my life when possible. From living in Seattle, to kayaking through marshes, camping in Iceland, or road tripping across New Zealand, I’ve selected to spend my money on many awesome adventures.

A less-grounded Chris would yearn to leave important things behind in the hope of high-risk, high-sparkle ideologies. That isn’t to say I don’t hold dear uncharacteristic or unique dreams, but I approach them with a more rational and successful methodology than once before. Furthermore, I’m pretty content with my exposure to those incredible opportunities while still maintaining many comforts of my current lifestyle. So what was I feeling?

What MFF really made me realize is that I haven’t done anything hard in while. I’ve been feeling hedonistic and content. I’ve fallen into a pattern of ease–reading instead of running, eating out instead of planning ahead, spending time with friends over working on projects. I chose these aforementioned activities carefully because they’re all good, valuable things. And I still have to choose, even if I’m choosing between two great ideas.

After watching these people carve 45-degree ski slopes, bleed from wounds delivered by the mighty Colorado, and work 16-hour days to keep the family business afloat, I look towards the challenges in my own life. How am I pushing myself? How am I achieving? What am I pursuing next?

Not in a “I’m bored with my life” way. Quite the opposite. I’m pleased with where I am, professionally and personally. But after years of boiling down my essential life and minimizing/automating daily struggles, I’ve freed up a great bit of time to work on higher-order goals. To start checking off some big items on my list.

MFF reminded me to choose long-term investments in myself and the life I’m constructing. This year is an exploration of what that is and how to start. It’s always a good–but hard–reminder to hear.

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