There is an African Proverb that says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” As a competitor, impatient and independent woman, I’m used to doing things on my own. People have asked me, “Why do you go by yourself on all of these trips?” It isn’t that I want to, however if I want to go, I cannot sit around waiting for someone else to say yes. Like I stated before I am impatient. When I decide I want to go visit somewhere, I usually have the trip planned within a few days. I’ve even been known to plan an international trip with in 24 hours not even knowing how I was going to pay for it. That 24 hour planning was for my trip to Kilimanjaro.
Once I got to Tanzania, I thought I knew how I would be able to tackle this challenge. I am not the “average” person. I work out a lot. I’m very active. I do not fit into what Americans consider average. I expected to be able to do this hike carrying my pack the entire way. After all, it was only three liters of water, some snacks and some rain gear. Why wouldn’t I be able to carry that? It is similar to when you start at an entry level position of any career field. They start you with the basics because they know you are new to it and want you to be able to be successful to start. What changed things for me was as we steadily climbed in altitude and the incline of the mountain increased. I knew these changes were going to happen. I knew in order to get to Uhuru peak we would have to go higher. What I didn’t expect was needing someone’s help in order to make this happen.
The day we hiked to the Lava Tower day was the second hardest day of the entire trip. It was 6 hours to lunch and then another 3 hours after that. The gain in elevation that day was incredibly hard, about 4500 feet gained to lunch. There was not only the elevation gain, but the angle of the hike was the steepest yet. I struggled. I struggled so bad I was about 10-15 minutes behind the rest of the group. That was incredibly defeating for someone who had been taught that only way to win is to be in first. I was also taught I need to carry my own weight when I was in a group. In this setting, I believed it meant I had to carry my own pack. Baraka was the CEO who was walking with me at the back that day. During the six-hour journey to lunch, he asked me several times if he could take my pack from me. The first time he did, I know I looked at him like he had three heads. You want to take my pack? Hell no! Do you think I am weak or something? Do you think I cannot handle this on my own? I didn’t actually say these things to him, but they definitely were running through my head. I politely declined and kept it moving. I also continued to struggle. I started to fall further and further behind the main group.
At one point, another group had passed me and the group was filled with adults I would guess in their 50’s or 60’s. That was crushing to my ego and my mindset. However, I did notice one thing about them. None of them were carrying their own pack. Their guides were helping them. About that time, Baraka grabbed my backpack and took it off my shoulders. I thought for a split second I should resist but my body let him take it. Immediately I felt a difference with the weight lifted from my shoulders. That incline was still tough but having someone else help me carry my load was so freeing. Each step and breath was a little easier. If only I had listened to him sooner and agreed to let him help me carry my load. I made it to lunch about 15 minutes behind everyone else and couldn't stop thanking Baraka for his help. I didn't care that it was his job to help me get up that mountain. I was very thankful he cared that I reached my goal.
We will each face a Lava Tower day in life. We will face many of them. Do not be afraid to let someone help you carry your load. It isn’t being weak. Asking for and receiving help is NOT a bad thing. If I had allowed Baraka to help me out sooner, I may have been able to catch up to the rest of the group or even better, hadn’t worn myself out as much. If you are unsure, ask. If you are struggling, ask. If you want to learn, ask. With everything that is going on in the world right now, please do not be afraid to ask. You will go much further together than you ever could alone.