I spent 20 years after college pursuing the American Dream: Finding a career, earning a paycheck, buying a house, getting married. I met so many people along the way doing the same things. During that time, I was living life and everything seemed grand. Another 4 years passed and I was doing the same things, but a voice started to grow in the back of my brain. It started as a whisper just out of sight. Just outside of my awareness, but it grew louder. While I had accomplished many things, I had built a life of “mailing it in”. I was living a safe live…..a small life and all along pretending it was enough. I had no idea of how to change it or what I wanted it to change into. I just knew that what I had been doing was not enough anymore. The feeling of being lost grew. While I was pursuing the American Dream, I had stopped pursuing My Dreams.
Then I found rock climbing. It has become the palette with which I paint my life. At the time, I was 44 and weighed 260 pounds at 5’8”. I was certainly not an image of health and fitness. But, that first day, I looked around at all the people at the gym and knew I wanted to be one of them without really knowing why. Slowly I realized that I was seeing people truly happy with themselves. It wasn’t just their youth and vigor, but their drive and awareness of what made them happy. Somewhere along the way, I had lost sight of that.
From my days in martial arts, I had been taught to think of life as a stool with 3 legs: Mind, Body and Spirit. All 3 legs must be fed equally, or your life is out of balance. Get too far out of balance and you fall. Somewhere along my path, I had forgotten and so began the starvation of my Spirit and to a lesser extent my Body. In rock climbing, I had found a single activity that restored and strengthened all 3 legs. The planning and focus required to complete a climb sharpens your Mind and can often bring you to a near meditative state. The strength and balance required to move your body against gravity in the vertical plane builds muscles. To be able to repeat these activities day after day required a reevaluation of how I was feeding the engine that is my body. The sense of purpose, the accomplishment of pushing boundaries of what I knew to be possible began to mend the damage years of neglect had done to my Spirit. Once I took my rock climbing outside of the gym and into nature, I knew it could truly build my Spirit. The beauty and inspiration of nature, the dichotomy of hard rock and green leaves, the serene quiet and peace of the wilderness: These were the things I had been missing.
Today I find myself a changed man in all aspects of life. At 50 years old, I am the strongest and most fit I have ever been in my life. Some day, I will no longer be able to say that, but today is not that day. And while I found what I needed in rock climbing, I know others may not. Each person should seek out and embrace the things that work and learn to let go of those things that don’t work before they become anchors weighing them down.
About the Author: Richard Lonski was born in Kansas City. As the son of a pilot, he was born to a world of travel and exploration. While younger, he enjoyed traveling to new cities and experiencing new cultures. As he grew older, his exploration extended beyond city limits and into the wonders of nature. Richard came out of a decade in the restaurant industry with an affinity for good food (good Italian or BBQ done right please) and drink (preferably of the single malt variety, but any good whiskey will do).
Sharing laughter and joy with friends and family is one of his greatest treasures. It's likely what led him to marry his wife Beth, who is a professional clown and mime.
Richard’s personal exploration has led him down some interesting paths….each one leaving its mark on his life. Puppeteer, Black Jack Dealer, 2nd Degree Black Belt, and Small Business Entrepreneur are some of the more unique things he’s done in the past. He’s only been at his current passion, Rock Climbing, for 6 years, but it has led him on a wild and unexpected ride of sights and personal growth that he looks forward to continuing.