I honestly could not tell you the number of hiking trips I have taken with students, but I can guarantee that one thing has happened on every trip. At some point, someone has asked some form of “How much farther?”—to the top of this ridge, to the top of that mountain, to that night’s campsite, or to the trip’s final destination. In response, I have always brought up the work of two female artists.
The 19th-Century writer Christina Rosetti wrote a poem called “Up-Hill” that began with these lines:
Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
Yes, to the very end.
Will the day’s journey take the whole long day?
From morn to night, my friend.
For Rosetti, life is a never-ending uphill climb, and I mention her poem during hiking trips in order to help students decide that a half hour uphill is relatively easy—or less nobly, to distract them from the fact that I do not know the exact height of each mountain.
Miley Cyrus’ songs are rather newer and rather less well-regarded in poetry circles than Christina Rosetti’s, but she delivers another equally useful message for mid-hike high schoolers in her 2009 song, “The Climb:”
There's always gonna be another mountain.
I'm always gonna wanna make it move.
Ain't about how fast I get there.
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side.
It's the climb.
Here Miley tries to tell us that we need to worry less about “how much farther” and more about being present in the moment and embracing the struggle, about enjoying the steps we take right now. Hers is a useful lesson in those moments when we reach a summit and gaze out in triumph—only to see more peaks stretch off in the distance.
You might think I am applying these same messages to you now, but nothing could be further from the truth. This year’s particular and peculiar journey does indeed have an end date, and it does matter what is waiting on the other side. On June 1st, a bit over two weeks away, school will end, and summer will begin. If you are tired, if the novelty of distance learning has lost its luster, or if you “can’t even with this place,” (to quote another great woman, Bethany from Jumanji), know that we certainly will make it to Memorial Day Weekend together, and we absolutely will make it to June 1st together.
Sometimes on those mountain hikes, I have had opportunities to sit with students who needed extensive rest or to carry an additional pack along with mine for a time. Just the same for these next two weeks, all of us at GSB will remain by your side as you take each step, “yes, to the very end.”