Recently my boyfriend and I were in Scotland, where we camped next to Loch Achray. From our tent we had a beautiful view of Ben A’an, a 454 metres (1,491 ft) high mountain. Yes, I’m aware of the fact that in the UK a mountain is officially defined as a peak of 600 metres (1,969 ft) or higher. However, given that the highest point in the Netherlands is 322 metres (1,058 ft), I personally classify Ben A’an to be a mountain.
We woke up to a clear day and the tantalising view across the lake seemed to draw us towards Ben A’an. Described by my ‘Wild’ guidebook as ‘giving perhaps the best views-to-effort ratio of any Scottish mountain’, we knew we had to make the ascent. So up we went, my boyfriend sometimes slowing me down when my enthusiasm would make me speed up to an unsustainable pace. We saw a beautiful mansion disguised as a castle, heard a stream rumble, passed a bridge and walked along a big sad stretch of cleared trees. And then the steep part came. The part about which I questionably asked: ‘Ehm, do you think it’s that peak?’. Until we caught the glimpse of a bright red jacket and realised that, indeed, the last part of the climb would be that steep.
Now mind you, the whole week we resided in Scotland I was low on energy through a combination of factors. My upcoming period being one of them, the changing of sleeping places each day being another. That meant that steep ascents weren’t really my strength that week, so to say. And to add insult to injury, the entire climb up was forested. We would climb for a bit, and then I’d rest, and I wanted to enjoy the view while I rested. But all I saw was trees. I could see flickers of sun rays, patches of blue lakes, or the clouds passing by above us. But I couldn’t get a full picture of it’s beauty, the beautiful view that I’d read about.
I was tired and impatient. With every break I wanted to enjoy the view, to reap the benefits of this climb. Why did I have to wait so long?! I wanted instant gratification. And yet, the only thing I could do was to keep climbing. Put one foot in front of another, and continue going. Even if I would’ve insisted on standing still to force a glimpse, the biting midges would spur me to keep moving.
And then the trees gave way for an open mountain top. As soon as the beauty of the view became visible, I regained energy to make it all the way to the top. What I saw now was only a partial view, and this was already beautiful. It made me curious for what the full view was, curious to reach our destination.
The forested part of our ascent felt a lot like the last few years of my PhD. A time of persistence, despite not knowing what the view will be like. Maybe you recognise that feeling in a different situation in your own life. But now that I’m slowly emerging from the forest, I’m starting to see the view. And it is beautiful. It makes me curious for the rest. It’s a reminder to not give up during the hard times, because they’re here to lead us to new heights.