By Guest blogger Rachel Elizabeth, Florida
“Pole, pole” (pronounced poe-lay, pole-lay) he said to me in Swahili as I stared up into his kind face ready to collapse from exhaustion. It meant “slow, slow” but really took on more of a meaning like the old saying “slow and steady wins the race.” Somehow I found the strength to nod and reply with a smile and “pole, pole” as I took one more step in the dark, frigid night.
What was I doing climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro? I had no idea this fanciful whim would be so overwhelmingly difficult. Growing up I had always been a quitter. I used to convince myself I was just easily bored and would move on from one extracurricular activity to another. Indian Princesses for a year, then softball for one, gymnastics for one, acting for one, horseback riding (for you guessed it—one year!) … the list goes on. But as soon as each activity got tough and it came to disciplining myself in order to keep advancing in the field, I would just move on to another. The trend continued through high school—I even quit cheerleading mid-season my senior year to volunteer at a local animal shelter instead. It seemed like I was doing a good thing at the time and that I had simply moved on to something else of interest—no big deal. Except I had let the rest of my team down and I didn’t realize the impact of this at the time. I had even been this way with friends. I had moved frequently from school to school never feeling quite satisfied and hoping for something “better” each time I left. Thank goodness Kappa would later come along and show me that the strongest and best friendships involve time, sacrifice and remaining there for each other even through the rough patches.
When I joined Kappa my sophomore year, I was hesitant to get involved. Looking back, it wasn’t that I was afraid of losing interest in these new sisters. Deep down I was afraid that they were going to lose interest in me. It wasn’t until my junior year when I moved into the house that I really got to know some of the girls better and became more involved in their lives. There were a few times when it was difficult balancing school, my job and other student organizations I was involved with Kappa life and I thought about moving out of the house and placing those friendships on a back burner. But I’m so glad I didn’t! I am still the best of friends with many of those girls whom I watched “Grey’s Anatomy” with on the couch over a bowl of ice cream, or cried over a breakup with in the bathroom, or studied with in the den, or held Bible study with in my room. I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything, and it was Kappa that showed me the beauty of sticking with something.
Three summers after graduation, I found myself climbing to the peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro, by myself, in the middle of the night. My father and sister had set out with me but had been unable to complete the overnight summit due to developing altitude sickness. I set out on the fourth day of the journey by myself with a new guide whom I had never met (our main guide had accompanied my sister back down to the hut to reunite her with my father), and I was about to embark on a 20-hour hike, in the middle of the night (to avoid avalanches), on no sleep. I struggled to breathe. I wanted to quit. But I thought of the lesson that Kappa had taught me and all the rewards to be gained from sticking with something. I kept going, one foot in front of the other, until I reached Uhuru peak (19,344 feet high to be exact!) just as the sun began to rise over the mountains. I cried when I was about an hour away from the top—not so much because I was exhausted, or my feet were blistered, or my nose was running from the bitter winds, but because I knew at that moment that I would make it. My fear of not knowing if I could stick it out disappeared, and I realized that all I had to do was keep putting one foot in front of the other and the payoff would be oh-so-worth-it. Fellow sisters, whatever you commit to, I encourage you––to fully commit! Whether it be friendships, leadership positions, classes or Kappa. There may be times when it seems easier to part ways, only put in a mediocre amount of effort, or let yourself slack off, but know that if you stick it out, the rewards will be greater than you can ever imagine!.