What and If are words, two very simple and overused bundles of letters, that when placed side by side can have the ability to permeate onto the unconscious and the conscious, inhibit the will to want and the will to do, and imprison people in a state of being immensely miserable.
I confess that, at one point or another, my life has gone through a series of “what ifs.”
What if I never said yes? What if I never left? What if I told them I couldn’t do it? What if they were right? What if they weren’t? What if…
However, a moment of distinct clarity created an impact on me during the Emerging Leaders Conference last October 21. A brave soul illuminated the minds of young people that night and I could still recall vividly what it felt like to be seated in a state of awe and apprehend the reality that this, right now, is our life and it’s not slowing down. She spoke to us with so much fervor and that was the reason as to why her words served as an avenue for broader realizations.
“Climbing Everest was not like the movies wherein it was made of puffy snow. It was hard-rock ice and it was steep,” were her first few words and from then on, everyone just had to listen.
Being one of the three Filipinas to be the First Women in the world to traverse Mt. Everest and the youngest mother to do so, Janet Belarmino was a living and breathing presence that took the stage, shared her story, connected with every individual, and inspired them with her takes on leadership, motivation, and determination.
In life, there are no shortcuts.
Janet Belarmino shared that before actually climbing Mt. Everest, she and her team had to undergo special kinds of training that would prepare themselves for the real deal. During the actual climb in Mt. Everest, it wasn’t as easy as going from point A to point B because they had to do several climbs to help their bodies adapt to the altitude of the mountain.
Listening to her talk about dealing with the harshest conditions and obstacles occurred to me that it is not that different to what we have to go through in life. The world can sometimes be a difficult place. However, if we are placed in situations we cannot change, what we can do is change the way we perceive the situation.
I was not chosen. I was asked and given the opportunity and I said, “Why not?” I did not say, “No, I can’t do that,” nor did I say, “That’s scary, I might not make it.” I didn’t want to go on living life with what ifs; what if I climbed Everest, what if I did this instead, what if…It is all about taking a leap of faith.
What prevents most of us from doing the things that we want to do is the fact that we allow mediocrity to that may cause us to fail. We inhibit ourselves from speaking up because we fear rejection. We stop ourselves from looking the other way because we don’t want to stray from conformity and be different. We settle for less because we don’t allow our curiosity to expose ourselves to the strange, the unfamiliar, and the extraordinary.
In truth, however, there is no greater loss than losing the opportunity to an experience that could’ve made you feel something worthwhile.
Each person has a specific role to play and you have to always be open in working with people. During her climb, each person in the team had a specific task to uphold that helped in maintaining and strengthening the dynamics of the group.
We can’t do things alone. It may seem scary and nerve-wracking but being open to working with people, immersing in diversity, welcoming changes, and adapting to various personalities could actually help.
What really mattered to me was not conquering Everest, but climbing it.
Despite the cracks and the steepness of the rock formations and the undeniably severe coldness of the weather, climbing Everest was an opportunity to notice, appreciate, and to marvel at a wondrous spectacle that is nature.
This opened realizations pertaining to our roles as stewards of nature and our responsibilities in being sensitive to the world around us. As young people, we must instill in our minds the conscious effort of valuing and safeguarding the environment and its resources because its importance is something that is rooted in each of us. We are not apart from it but we are all a part of it since everything is interconnected. We are nature ourselves.
“At that moment wherein the altitude was limiting our oxygen intake, our bodies were on survival mode. We didn’t have the luxury to think about taking a bath or brushing our teeth. Our bodies were using every thing it needed to survive. It was the thrill of being present and in the moment.”
We all have our moments of what ifs, of doubting ourselves, and of settling for mediocrity that when allowed to get the best of us, can haunt us for the rest of our lives. As young people, we must always remind ourselves to be open to new things, to be open to rejections and criticisms that can help us grow, to have the courage and determination to follow our passions, to never give up, to surround ourselves with positivity, and that we, despite our circumstances, can make a difference in our societies.
If there is one thing that I would like to impart from everything that I have realized, it would be this: The world is full of possibilities and when you find something that you are most passionate about, have the courage to seize it because from there, you will be able to transcend and transpire.
Indeed, as Janet Belarmino mentioned in her speech, we all do have our own Everests to climb every day.
Written by Ana Mariela D. Gonzales, WYA Asia Pacific and North America Intern Alumna, and 5th WYAAP ELC Volunteer
Belarmino Ventures is led by:
Janet Belarmino: On May 16th, 2007 at 9.03 am Nepalese-time Janet realized her dream and stood on top of the world, the summit of Mount Everest (8,851 meters / 29,035 feet) becoming a Global First for women with her team mates, Noelle and Carina accomplishing the First Women Grand Traverse of Everest from China to Nepal. After climbing Mt. Everest, Janet took on the epic and historical sailing voyage of the Balangay.
Todd Forney: Todd is a dynamic adventurer who spent 10 years sailing around the world on an engine-less yacht. He is an expedition leader, ice climber, big-wall climber, mountaineer and an outdoor training specialist who has soloed more than 30,000 sea miles sailing around the world.