BY JOSH PAPP
I have to say, becoming an adult is nothing like the life I had imagined it would be. In high school most of us are generally presented with an endless list of opportunities that one can devote their lives to, i.e. choose a "career". Many of these pathways, or "careers" performed in order for society to operate. Indeed, there are many common jobs whose services make our lives more comfortable. At some point we all receive care from a doctor, seek help from a mechanic when our wheels don't turn, or call a plumber the day after hosting a super bowl party. And for many of us who choose to stick to one of these paths they become a part of us, our identity, our life.
As I completed high school a year ahead of schedule I was eager to pursue the path I had chosen for myself from the tender age of 14, recording engineering. The first time I was paid to record a band was when I was 16. I loved everything about the whole process of making that first record. In my young mind I had found my calling. I was so eager to learn as much as I could, as quickly as possible, and enter the world of music production.
Fast‐forward five years and I'd landed a job at the longest running recording studio in Nashville, The Sound Emporium, originally opened by the late Jack Clement. I had achieved my teenage goal of landing a staff engineering job in a busy professional recording studio. Now all I needed to do was keep my head down, work for 40 or more years and retire in a tropical paradise! Well a funny thing happened during my time at The Sound Emporium, I discovered the wonderful world of rock climbing. It only took one trip to Climb Nashville to get me hooked.
I continued working in the recording studio day and night, always on call. Yet, in my brief moments of free time I'd run over to the gym for a quick bouldering session, or drool over epic stories and photos on Mountainproject.com. I slowly started to come to terms with what was happening in my life... I wasn't in love anymore with making records like I was when I was 16. A lot of it had to do with the way records are made in this town. Despite there being an incredible amount of talent in the studio, I felt it all lacked creativity and freedom, the two things that originally made music fun for me. What was I to do? I had, at this point, devoted my life to being a recording engineer. However, even though I had my "dream job" all I really did all day was dream of what the world was like outside of the studio walls. Not only was I becoming unhappy, but my relationship with my girlfriend was taking a major hit by all of the time I spent away from home. Once I realized that not only was I unhappy with my situation, but that I could possibly lose my love, I knew something had to change.
Around the same time I took some of my first outdoor climbing trips, and me being the more confident climber between my partner and I, I always found myself on the sharp end. Climbing on lead can be a real rush and it can also make one zen‐like. On my first trip to Foster Falls I was a total 'noob', but hey, at least I knew how to lead climb and clean anchors. However, during that first trip to Foster's I found myself in that zen‐like state, I had never before experienced such detailed focus of what was in front of me. Before I knew what was happening all of the anxiety and stress from my life had vanished. It suddenly became clear to me to that I had been too busy focusing on past and future events. Too rarely did I ever feel like I was "living in the moment".
Over the course of those formidable climbing trips a few things became clear to me and certain. For whatever reason, climbing made me realize that I am in control of my happiness. I knew that if my job, or any situation for that matter, stressed me out, that the stress and anxiety I felt was all contrived, it was not real. The only things that are real in this world are the people you surround yourself with and the experiences you share with those people. Things that are not real are the things I imagined I would feel if I engineered a platinum selling record or won a Grammy, or perhaps that tropical retirement plan I was banking on after I had made my millions. My whole life I had been measuring myself against others, always hoping that I would be acceptable in the eyes of society. But you know what? I was only trying to please others to make it seem like I was happy and had everything figured out. I wasn't just a recording engineer, I was Josh, I had dreams of travelling the world and catching up with my friends who live all over the globe. I wanted to build my own house someday, and build places for family and friends to live nearby. I needed to stray from my career in order to be happy. It wasn't a matter of finding happiness, I knew how to be happy, and I knew what kept me from being happy.
Therefore, I've since dedicated my life to love and happiness. That doesn't mean you need to be a flower‐toting, barefooted hippie living in the dirt. It just means that you need to follow those paths that make you feel alive, loved, and like yourself. Above all, rock climbing has made me learn to accept everyone, appreciate what I already have, and live for today. Like you've heard before, there's no changing the past, and there's no telling what tomorrow will hold.
"As I ascend the rock I strip away the fear and weight of uncertainty." ‐Dean Potter