Taking to the Mountains

By Matthew

Throughout this month, while I have been searching for concrete plans for the upcoming semester and thinking about what I want out of this year, I have taken to the mountains. Connectivity to nature has been a foundational pillar to my upbringing in Aspen Colorado. It has been preached and practiced by everyone from friends and family to the local schools and the community, and I have not hesitated to jump right in. I have learned so much from my experiences in nature, but in this last year, with all of the difficult decisions and circumstances we have had to face, I have found nature to be an incredible place to think and find clarity.

In particular I have been chasing fourteeners in these last few weeks. Fourteeners are peaks with summits above 14 thousand feet of elevation, and they surround my home town. I had never actually climbed a fourteener before these last few weeks, and they are an experience unlike anything I have ever done. Most recently I summited Castle Peak and Conundrum Peak in the same day, and what I have realized is that there are so many more memorable moments involved with these trips than touching that top point. Everything from conversations around the fire, to 3:30 am wake up calls, to even butt sledding down the remaining snow patches, is what makes these trips incredible. But what I sought out in particular was the time to think and look. Moments to do that are so rare in day to day activities yet so beneficial in every area of your life.

What I was hoping to find clarity with was where I should spend my time and what I want to volunteer for. Two opportunities became a possibility recently, and I was having a very difficult time prioritizing one over the other. The first is tutoring underprivileged students in European cities, and the other is in Hawaii working to help preserve the natural beauty of the islands doing watershed and animal research, or helping cleaning up beaches and forests.  They are both amazing but I can only choose one and I was stuck. While I was taking in the beautiful landscape trying to catch my breath, I realized that my passions lied more with the protection of the environment and enjoying the natural beauties of our world than tutoring students and the city life. That time helped me find clarity and to prioritize which of these opportunities was best for me, and I have no doubt that I will be back out there soon with other important decisions that need to be made.