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Sedona, Arizona, United States
~Adventure Seeker ~ Animal Lover ~ Lifetime Learner ~ Battling Lyme ~ Contact: emily.sukiennik@me.com

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Why you haven't seen me online for a while.

It's been a very long time since I've written on my blog, the last post being about an individual that I knew who died BASE Jumping and how that had effected me. I guess that says something in and of itself....I think it had more of an impact on me than I originally thought it did. 

For the longest time I was very, very involved in the outdoor adventure community. Living in Moab, Utah (the now mecca for outdoor adventure sports) and myself being a slackliner and highliner I surrounded myself with all types of athletes from rock climbers to other highliners, BASE Jumpers, Wingsuiters, "rope swingers", mountain bikers, and many others. It was a thrill and I felt like I was in my element. I loved it; it was so empowering to be surrounded by other adventurers and in some respects we inspired and encouraged one another to push our limits. I felt like these were my best friends and that I was happier than I had ever been. But on some occasions it seemed to be the opposite. In order to be successful in the extreme athletics that we were involved in it started to become competitive and those that I thought were my friends somehow became my competition, which was never the intention. Not only that but people were starting to get hurt, and people were even dying.







I started to feel like it wasn't worth it anymore. People were injuring themselves and dying all around me. I had a friend in 2011 fall while rock climbing which resulted in brain damage. In 2012 there were multiple BASE Jumping accidents; people were crashing into the rock walls after jumping and having to get rescued and flown to the nearest hospital. A friend of mine broke her femur base jumping and is now, I'm sure, stuck with thousands and thousands of dollars in medical fees. Another person I knew passed away while BASE Jumping and then a year later, two more. Then, another rock climbing accident that resulted in death. At that point I really started to question why I was involving myself in such risk in the first place. While I was on a highline I felt free, I felt challenged and I felt powerful. I loved the feeling of accomplishing something after pushing myself and trying so hard. So much fear was involved and overcoming that fear was when I felt invincible. But was it really worth it?

For a while, I was very well known within the slacklining and highlining community. (Please see my website www.slacklinedynamics.com if you would like to see some of my accomplishments). I was one of very few females who could walk a highline successfully, especially long ones. I was walking pretty long lines and was able to perform a variety of tricks in the exposure of lines hundreds of feet high. I could keep up with the boys. My ego was flying high and I felt like that was what I was meant to be doing and I thought that I would be doing it forever. But, the thing was....I wasn't making any money doing it. Nobody was willing to pay me to highline whether it was for a periodical, a tv show, a performance or whatever else it was. I kept getting the following words "Hey! We would love to feature you in our magazine/newspaper/article/tv show but we can't pay you....this will be great exposure for you!" At first I thought this was alright and I let it slide. At least I would get exposure so that in the future people would know who I was and then would be able to pay me! But years started to go by and I kept hearing the same story over and over again...."This will be great exposure for you! Sorry we can't pay but you will be on TV!". I was really starting to get frustrated and so the passion that I had for what I was doing started to dwindle as it became harder and harder to get by.

The two things that really started to separate me from the sport that I had once loved were the injury and death's surrounding me and the lack of pay. At one point I was living out of my car with my dog just so that I didn't have to pay rent so that I could actually continue to do what I wanted to do, which was make it as an athlete and an artist. It was an experience that I chose to go through because I thought it was my best chance.

I started to realize that perhaps my type of athlete and artist just don't get paid and that's how it's set up to be. In order to get attention and get published to "eventually" make money I needed to have photographer's, but when the photographer would then contribute their photo's to the media they would request money from whomever was publishing the story. A lot of the photographer's would say "Hey Emily, so if I do get paid a decent amount of money for this I will certainly split it with you". But alas, that didn't happen even once within the four to five years that I was seriously pursuing the sport. So all in all, the athlete or artist doesn't get paid but the person holding the camera and/or the publisher or magazine or TV show does? I was out there performing my art and ultimately risking my life and I all I was really getting was my ego stroked? There seemed to be something very wrong with that picture and it seemed that I was just getting jerked around, manipulated and used for someone else's benefit. Without the artist/athlete.....there is no story to begin with so how is it possibly that I wasn't getting compensated?

Eventually I became more than fed up with my situation and moved away from Moab, Utah. Nowadays, I hardly slackline anymore. I have hosted and taught at a few women's slackline events which is something that I still very much enjoy, but I rarely slackline on my own. Nowadays I work full time for a company in Arizona and am loving life more than I ever have before. Since I have fallen away from the "big dream" of making it as an athlete I am able to stop and smell the roses. Working full time I make enough money to support myself and my family. I have a nice roof over my head. I no longer stress about "getting this gig or that gig" or getting paid for a performance or an article. Instead I work for my own money and get paid fairly for it. I enjoy my days off more than I ever had and I experience such joy in the little things like my dogs, music, flowers, weather, my fiance, just a normal everyday hike or being safely on the ground rather than up in the sky.




All of this being said I think the main point that I would like to make is that there is something very wrong with how athletes and artists are compensated. The way that everything is structured really doesn't allow for these individuals to succeed. It takes way more work and hardly any compensation for it, and sometimes it involves risking your life. I know top-athletes to this day that do not get paid fairly for what they do and what they have accomplished. I wanted to bring some light to this and also explain why I have dropped off the radar a little bit. I still love the sport and love what it has given to me and my progression in life. I am incredibly grateful. Having been able to push myself to those limits really helped me develop as a human being in ways that I can't explain. I am a different person and a stronger person than I would have been without it. Perhaps someday in the future my excitement vigor for the sport will return and you will see me out there again but for now I am very happy where I am....on the ground. :)

PS- Oh yeah, and I've also taken a pretty big interested in the search for Sasquatch. Perhaps I'll start writing about that on my blog instead....