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When Living a Dream, Make Sure It’s Your Own

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Brian Fletcher and Erik Svege on Mt. Baker's Coleman Glacier.

There comes a point where the living for the weekend becomes such an obsession that it’s time to build a life around the driving passion. Life isn’t supposed to be lived in two day chunks followed by 5 days of monotony and anticipation. It’s supposed to be chased, squeezed, challenged and loved, every single day.

There is a quote by legendary climber Jim Bridwell that says, “my best vacation is your worst nightmare.” I’ve found that this is a double edged sword, as I’ve felt the consequences of living someone else’s dream before finding the inspiration and strength to pursue my own.

I had a great day job, working with a brilliant team in a photography studio for a very successful artist and entrepreneur. My boss at the time was fascinated by the fusion of photography, social media, real-time curation and high concept fine art. His pursuits on these subjects had resulted in a 6-week artist in residency at the famous Ace Hotel in Manhattan. In a room off of the lobby, we created an ever changing photography exhibition sourced from our travels in New York City and from the world photographic community. By all measures, it was a success. To my employer, this was the ultimate assignment, a bold dream realized and recognized. To me it was hell.

It wasn’t the crew, or exhibition, or the hotel, or the long hours that got to me. It was the sense that I was so far removed from the things I hold dear.

Self portrait with garbage, NYC.
Self portrait with garbage, NYC.

With my family and close friends on the other side of the country, and the wide open spaces of the Cascade Mountains a world away, I felt literally trapped in NYC with no pressure release valve. Manhattan became an Alcatraz.

Trapped in Manhattan.
Trapped in Manhattan.

As soon as the plane wheels chirped on the tarmac in Seattle, I was on the phone with my favorite climbing and skiing partners. 24 hours later I was driving north to Mount Baker, a 10,781 foot tall Volcano near the Canadian border.

We left the parking lot in the dark early the following morning. We were high on the mountain by the time the sun began its beguiling dance across the glacial landscape, and though I was rendered speechless by the scene, my camera stayed busy creating images that would be worth far more than any words I could muster.

First light on Coleman Glacier.
First light on Coleman Glacier.

We summited under crystal blue skies and tried to take in the views that allowed us to see far into Canada to the north and to the ocean and high desert to the west and east. In that same seemingly infinite panorama, there was not a single person or structure to be seen. Just mountains reaching out in every direction, inspiring 10 lifetimes of future adventures.

Panorama from the summit of Mount Baker, Washington.
Panorama from the summit of Mount Baker, Washington.

I was euphoric, and I was cleansed. The fulfillment that no quantity of fancy meals, live music or hip crowd could offer as I wiled away the hours in Manhattan was achieved in a single day in the alpine wilderness.

It took me the better part of a year to arrange all of the puzzle pieces that would allow me to resign my job and to start my outdoor photography company. It was paramount to me that I make the transition without burning any bridges, that I be respectful to the people and position that had given me so many amazing experiences and fostered countless meaningful relationships, and that I gave myself as much breathing room as possible for the ramp up time that would be necessary after taking the leap. So the jump came slowly, but once I had decided, it was just a matter of logistics, an easy situation for the committed mind.

Self portrait, NYC on left, Mt. Baker on Right.
Self portrait, NYC on left, Mt. Baker on Right.

This was almost 5 years ago, and I feel blessed every single day to be able to seek moments of otherworldly beauty and self discovery through exploration.

The mountains are my sacred place, skiing and climbing are my favorite way to experience them, and photography is how I share the places and moments that have helped to form the most self sufficient, optimistic, heroic, fragile, and deeply connected version of myself. I hope that, in a positive way, I can help people push themselves closer to the edge wherein they can examine life and and better learn about themselves.

Dreams and nightmares are part of life, and they are very personal. Once you’ve done the work to find your definition of each, there’s nothing to do but to pick one and live it.


About the author: Scott Rinckenberger is a Seattle-based photographer and storyteller seeking art through adventure. To see more of his work, visit his website or follow him on Facebook and Instagram. This article was also published here.

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