Later that same day, after we crossed the treacherous waters hiking to the Tierser Alpl, I made it to the summit. I was first to the top and I was met by a cruel wind. It was lonely and cold, and I found myself wishing I’d slowed down, enjoyed the view, and taken time to have more conversations. Rather than stopping and waiting, however, for people to catch up, or to simply enjoy the view from the top, I snapped a few photos and I quickly faced into the wind to begin the descent to the Tierser Alpl, the Alpine hiking hut where we would spend the next two nights. Not only did the wind howl around me, but the snow was hip deep in places from the drifts, and no longer working hard to go uphill, my body wasn’t producing heat the way it had been. I cursed the wind and the snow and myself for being weak. It was cold and lonely at the top!
My thoughts began to wander and I began to see this sojourn as representative of my life. I love a good challenge, I love climbing to the top, I love pushing my limits. I rarely stop to admire the view from the top, to revel in my success, and never do I enjoy the unknown of the descent. I am always looking for my next mountain to climb. I have found it is often lonely and isolating at the top. In my family, I was the first to go to college, and I didn’t just go to any college, I went to Yale, yikes! Everyone saw me as someone who was perfect, who had it all together, and I couldn’t bear the thought of letting them down. Going to Yale set me apart and made me different yet again. When I finished Yale, all my friends from college were going on to law school and med school or starting Ph.D. programs and I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do, so I trained and ran a marathon. I didn’t wait long before I ran another and another and another, and finally set my sights on qualifying for Boston.
I’m not writing this to brag about my accomplishments, but as I climbed down the mountain in that deep, deep snow, and let my thoughts swirl with the wind, I realized I keep setting myself apart, isolating myself, never stopping to appreciate the journey, always fighting to recover from my missteps quick enough that no one might notice, never stopping to enjoy the success of achieving my goal, and I never, ever run down the other side of the mountain with reckless abandon, allowing myself to enjoy a little time coasting. I don’t think I’m alone. I think many of us fail to be still and to enjoy the journey, to revel in our accomplishments and to call them enough, to call ourselves enough. Instead, we are always making ourselves busy with the next conquest, striving for the next success. If we don’t slow down, will we ever take the time to learn the lessons, to appreciate the journey, to savor the view from the top, and to allow ourselves the time and grace to be human?