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The climb

Making the journey worthwhile

I graduated from high school in June 2001, three months before 9/11. I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in August 2008, watching stocks collapse and the Great Recession begin. And here I am today, having earned mymaster’s degree in May 2020, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Another academic milestone in the midst of life-altering chaos. Is this a theme?

I feel a bit like the mythic king Sisyphus, pushing a boulder up a never-ending hill. Although I may have cheated death once or twice, this seems an exaggerated penance. So with the rhythmic histories of past graduations echoing in my ears, I set out once more, boulder in tow, to climb another mountain.

And yet,this Sisyphus is happy.

I am happy to venture into the unknown to tackle a seemingly insurmountable task.The mountain slope will not cede, and the obstacles will never yield, but what growth exists in a world where safety and security were always guaranteed? I am happy for the challenges that push me to become better.

Life can be a series of mind numbingly dull tasks, but unlike Sisyphus, we are not on the mountain alone. On either side of us, infinite rows of triumphant humans—your family, friends and neighbors—are pushing their own burden with varying degrees of enthusiasm in unison with your own. If you can take your eyes off the rock in front of you and instead focus your attention on the people around you, you will see them, shoulder to shoulder beside you. In my experience, it is the people we sweat, bleed, fall and cry next to who make the journey worthwhile.

So if you are graduating like me, and the gods seem to have given you a monumental and unending task while cruelly tossing sticks and snakes into an already arduous path, take a minute to breathe. Step away from the uncertainty of whatever crisis happens to be unfolding on your part of the mountain and look around at the feats of strength that surround you. They steel me for the journey to come and make me proud to stand among my fellow climbers and push.

Mike Wilson, EHD20M, earned his degree in Teaching English as a Second Language. He has taught students in Peru and Germany and looks forward to his next opportunity abroad.

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