Yesterday I experienced the frustration of feeling like the journey was nearing its end, when in actual fact it has barely even begun.
I mentioned in a relatively recent blog post about my month long visit to Kenya in 2006. On one of the weeks, we climbed Mount Kenya – the second highest mountain in Africa. When we reached the summit day, I’d woken in a particularly poor state – I’m in no hurry to explain the details…trust me when I say it was messy…but I was struggling. As we set off in the darkness of early morning, we knew we would reach the top at some point that day. But there was a moment that I’ll never forget. With my energy all but spent and carefully watching my footsteps as we marched onwards, murmurs began to grow in the team that we might have reached the summit. Snow was beginning to fall by this point and the wind was becoming increasingly harsh on our faces…but we pushed onwards, more and more adamant that we were only minutes from the summit of the mighty mountain. Our eyes slowly drifted above the crest of what we believed was our final destination only to see that we were still at least a couple of hours from where we were aiming for. Every single member of the team, who moments earlier were bloated with excitement groaned in exasperation, utterly deflated by the realisation that we were actually nowhere near where we wanted to be.
That moment flooded my memories yesterday when I realised how far from my current intended destination I was. Feeling an incredible temptation to give up altogether, I spent some time processing the day that had just passed. I was reminded by my Kenyan experience that in fact, the story was far from over.
We found reserves of energy that day that I don’t think I’ve discovered since. Pushing through snow, climbing step rock faces, weathering the bitter gusts of wind that battered us in the latter stages of our ascent, we eventually made it to the summit of Mount Kenya. That horrible moment when we thought we had given all we had was in fact only a limit that we’d put on ourselves. It was clear that we still had a lot more to draw from in our reserves, although we hadn’t believed it at the time. That day, I learnt for myself that we humans are capable of far more than our ‘intelligence’ would lead us to believe. Giving up when the chips are down is certainly an option, but it’s not the most courageous one. We could have easily turned around and retreated for the base of the mountain again, comfortable in the knowledge that we have climbed most of Mount Kenya. I’m so pleased we didn’t. I now have an achievement that I can truly be proud of.
I’m going to look at yesterday’s situation in much the same vein. Whilst I feel exhausted at what I thought was the end of a journey, the realisation that it isn’t is going to galvanise me rather than deflate me. Instead of turning round and heading for safety, I’m going to keep climbing. This might be the toughest part of the mountain to overcome, but I’m going to reach the summit. This is my current mountain to challenge and I’m going to give it everything I have.