“It’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” ~ Edmund Hillary
Today’s post features a guest writer for Mama’s Empty Nest, although this guest is no stranger to me. Let me introduce you to my oldest daughter, a self-proclaimed “science nerd,” adventurous traveler, and an excellent writer. Out of those three attributes, she only actively pursues two, but her mama thinks she should step into the writing arena because she has so much to say and is very adept at saying it.
Five years ago, my “the world is so big and I want to see it all” firstborn traveled to Africa with her husband and one of her best friends for a specific purpose: to take a week-long trek up Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest peak in Africa (in Tanzania) and the highest single free-standing mountain in the world at 19,341 feet.
It was quite a physical feat to accomplish trekking through five distinct climate zones as they climbed the mountain, but what my daughter learned about character and perseverance is of even more importance. Please read what she so beautifully wrote about facing mountains before us (and we all have them in one form or another), enjoy her photos from that trip, and be encouraged by her story:
Someone recently asked me what the proudest moment of my life has been so far. My mind immediately went to Mount Kilimanjaro – but reaching the summit was only part of it. More specifically, my proudest moment happened on day three of our seven day hike, when I felt like I had reached my breaking point.
I was exhausted – I had barely slept in the week leading up to the climb because I was incredibly anxious about it, not to mention it was impossible to sleep well while actually on the mountain. I felt sick – the altitude made me nauseated, gave me a persistent headache, and made me completely lose my appetite.
I was frustrated with myself – we had somehow started hiking that particular section with the “fast” members of our group and I was having a hard time keeping that pace, so I felt like I was slowing everyone down.
And I was out of shape and in pain – I had badly sprained my back months prior, which had derailed my training for the climb, so my fitness level was not where I wanted it to be, AND my back was still hurting.
At that point, I felt like there was no way I could do it. It was too hard. I had way too much working against me. I stopped to sit down on a rock and burst into tears.
I did NOT want to keep going. I wanted to turn around and walk down off the mountain and crawl into my bed back at the inn… and it would have been so easy for me to do that.
But after I was done with my little crying fit, I remembered the vow I had made to my husband, my friend, and myself that I was going to stand on that summit no matter what. Kilimanjaro had become a dream of mine, and I was not going to give up so close to achieving it.
So I made the decision to get up off that rock and keep going in the direction I had been heading. Just one step at a time.
“I will persist until I succeed. Always will I take another step. If that is of no avail I will take another, and yet another. In truth, one step at a time is not too difficult. I know that small attempts, repeated, will complete any undertaking.” ~ Og Mandino
It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. On summit night, the altitude affected us so much that we were literally taking one step every two to three seconds. We passed people who were on their hands and knees, vomiting. We saw groups turn around with less than 45 minutes left to go until the summit.
But we did not turn around. Our whole group made it to the summit. We hugged each other in celebration and posed for pictures and I cried – this time for a much different reason.
I used to have this tendency to think that strength and bravery are demonstrated by doing big, scary, adventurous things, and I think that’s why I like to do those types of things – to prove to myself that I’m stronger and braver than I usually think I am.
Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro WAS one of those big, scary things, and I’m so proud of making it to the summit, but more than anything I am proud of that moment, on a random rock near Lava Tower, where I decided that I was going to keep going.
I’ve come to learn that true inner strength is proven in the small moments where you want to give up, but you don’t let yourself. Maybe for you it’s when you decide that instead of hitting the snooze button, you’re going to wake up early in order to stick to your workout plan.
Or when you decide that instead of letting your marriage unravel, you’re going to go ahead and schedule that first counseling session.
Or when you have a bad day, but get up the next morning to do it all over again.
Continuing to talk to God, even when you’re angry with Him. A class that you’re struggling through. A dream career that’s taking years to obtain. Loving someone when it’s hard.
Whatever you’re going through, whatever is too hard for you right now, you’ve got this. Don’t give up on your dream, or the promises you made. If I can get up off that rock and keep walking, so can you.
“Perseverance is a positive, active characteristic. It is not idly, passively waiting and hoping for some good thing to happen. It gives us hope by helping us realize that the righteous suffer no failure except in giving up and no longer trying. We must never give up, regardless of temptations, frustrations, disappointments, or discouragements.” ~ Joseph P. Wirthlin