First, climbing mountains always leads to achieving good perspective. I trekked for four days on the outer rim of Kathmandu, Nepal, and my final climb on the peak was up a half-finished building with no walls. On the roof, I watched the sun set over hills draped in curling smoke. In Hong Kong, I scaled a sharp mountain path, the “Dragon’s Back,” that ended in a quaint surf town at the bottom. I cooled off drinking a coconut on the beach. I witnessed the sunrise over earthy plateaus and the Judean desert from Mount Masada. And from a perch in Puerto Rico, I looked over a pure rainforest amidst a cacophony of wild fauna. Each time, the physical height gave me an incredible life perspective, because each peak was a reflective moment when I could ask myself, “How did I get here?”
My answer is different this year than in years past when friends ask me how I feel about returning to campus. I tell them: this time, I’m collecting armor. During my gap year, I wrote down and sought out lessons about myself to remember when I returned, accruing an arsenal of stress-relief coping mechanisms. But my most cherished tool in this stockpile was one I never expected.
It became too much for Lisa, the woman next to me. She interrupted, agitated, “But it doesn’t matter what we do! We talk and donate, but nothing will change unless big people start to care about little people. And they never will.” We awkwardly sipped our drinks.