Bending the Knee to the Mountains

Our trek into the Himalayas gave me obstacles I have never dealt with and experiences I never thought I would know. Since life kind of works this way, I figure I should preface my experience with the challenges before I move onto the wondrous experiences I had after overcoming these obstacles.

It’s impossible to describe the trek without talking about my knee. Prior to the trek, I was nervous about getting sick because my stomach is not always the best with new foods and environments. Never for a moment did I doubt my physical body, because there’s never been a problem with it! I haven’t broken a bone since 7th grade when I broke my toe, I am physically active all year and have been for a long time. So when my knee first began hurting a couple days before the trek, I figured it was a little thing that I would sleep off.

Journal entry May 15th, day 3 of the trek: “My knee is hurt. Bad. If you asked me 3 hours ago I’d say I wouldn’t be able to finish the trip. After icing it, I’m feeling more confident, but still nervous. I cried earlier; IN FRONT OF PEOPLE. But now I’m more relaxed.”

Sounds bad. But a couple paragraphs later: “First is that I should be appreciative that I still have my health; a knee is easier to deal with than a stomach. Second, I realized the significance in my devastation when I didn’t think I was going to make it. All the struggles and doubts about this program subside to my sheer will to do new things and live my life. I can do this.”

That day wasn’t the worst my knee got, but it was the beginning of the struggle I am still dealing with. Since that day my knee has not been very good at all and got to a point where I could barely walk. Now I am able to walk, albeit with a significant limp. But here I am, sitting in the Hanifl Center after completing the trek. I was also able to complete one of my personal goals of the trek: to have fun!

I would not have had fun if I did not overcome another obstacle related to my knee: accepting help and putting away my ego. From filling my water to fetching items from the tent to taking breaks to splitting the load of my pack, I was forced to accept help. This seems like an odd obstacle but the whole experience was deeply humbling and forced me to rely on others, which I typically try to resist among peers. This was capped off when Gunga and Gyan had to physically carry me down a long, snowy hill because I could no longer walk, and we changed campsites because I could not make it the two kilometers to our planned campsite. This all culminated in me taking a horse the rest of the way, which was pretty cool but also not how I pictured myself finishing the trek.

Despite all of this, I was able to rise above the pain and my ego and enjoy myself. The view of the mountains! The night sky! The horses and cows and sheep and birds and dogs with collars to protect against panthers! Again, the view of the mountains! The villages! As large as snowcapped mountains and as small as water spouts shaped like snakes, the trek was incredible.

I am left with a few hopes and conclusions. First, I sincerely hope that, despite me being a physical burden on the group at points, I was able to rise above my injury and still be an asset to the group, not a liability. I also understand that in life I will be faced with new challenges that will force me to take help and humble myself. Lastly, while I still am figuring out my own leadership style, I see that I am at my best as a leader when I am most natural, so I should try and learn how to best be myself. From making my thoughts heard to saying something when I feel the need to say it, not getting in the way of myself is vital to my leadership style. In order to figure out my own leadership style, I will have to be determined, strategic, disciplined, and accepting of help.

This experience was deeply humbling, and while I have heard (sadly) that the end to Game of Thrones has mixed reviews, I can’t help but think of when Jon Snow refused to bend the knee/submit to Dany until she saved him. This trip forced me to bend the knee to the mountains, to being myself, and to the help I have received from others. After all, now that I reflect on it, I can’t think of a single accomplishment in my life I have achieved without help.IMG_0624.JPG