What would you do with your life if no one was there to judge your decisions? If there was no concept of what’s the right way to live?
My name is Rea, and I’m a professional athlete living in Denver, Colorado. Most of the time, though, you can find me in my van exploring the mountains. I love my life; nights when I can’t fall asleep because I’m so excited about the adventure awaiting tomorrow outweigh those mornings when I don’t want to get out of bed by a million. But it wasn’t always like that.
Growing up, sports have always meant the most to me. My mom put me on a bike and on skis as soon as I learned how to walk, and when I picked up gymnastics at six years old, I thought that was going to be my sport forever. When people asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up, “an Olympian” was the obvious answer. Then things changed. I had to quit. Sports took the backburner; I threw myself into academics and ten years later I found myself in graduate school at Stanford University doing my PhD in Applied Physics. I already had three science degrees – B.A. in Physics, Astrophysics, and Masters in Material Science and Engineering. I was good at it, and I liked it, but when you asked me what I wanted to be in life I could never answer with so much passion and conviction as I did when I was a child.
Then, an opportunity knocked on my door – I realized my stress outlet of obstacle course racing could potentially sustain me as my full time job. Dropping out of PhD seemed wrong; I had no idea if I would still love to train once it became a “job”, and it didn’t seem right to give up a position at a university that so many people wished and worked so hard for. My life looked perfect on the paper… but it wasn’t perfect for me. So I took it.
I know my change of life direction from a career promising stability to the uncertainty of being a professional athlete didn’t make sense to most people around me. I think it’s important to live your life on your terms, take charge of making decisions that have the potential of making your life better, regardless of how they align with what others think your life should be.
To be fearlessly, unapologetically, you.
By Rea Kolbl
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Proceeds support a women’s scholarship to climb Mount Kilimanjaro