It’s the climb, not the summit

Virginia at summit

My first semester at Smith proved fruitful in both academic and life lessons – the most important being the need to embrace ambiguity. The 35 days (not that I was counting) we had over winter break allowed me to reflect upon one more, equally important, lesson: Sometimes, it’s the climb and not the summit that matters.

The marquee event of my winter break was a two-week honeymoon in South Africa, but the lesson that followed me home I learned standing at the 2,195 foot-peak of Lion’s Head mountain.

I should preface the rest of this with a few things: 1.) I am by no means a hiker; 2.) I don’t even qualify as outdoorsy; 3.) I nearly bolted when the guide informed my husband and me that there were “just a few chains and ladders” we would pull ourselves up with along the way.

Ninety minutes later, my group and I had reached the summit with time to spare before sunset. It was in that moment I realized that I was prouder of my ability to climb the mountain than I was excited about the sunset at the top. After making it back down that evening, I realized that I felt much the same way about my first semester at Smith.

Many of the courses did not come naturally to me. I am not an economist. I likely won’t ever lead a team of accountants. But I did successfully spend the last several months outside of my comfort zone. I did succeed as a poet among a cohort of quants. I came out of my first semester largely unscathed with a newfound appreciation of the resiliency I’d uncovered along the journey.

More often than not, it’s not the summit. It’s the climb.