The Hike

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”
Eleanor Roosevelt

Sluggishly I emerged from the warmth and comfort of my bed and silenced my blaring alarm. It was now 5 a.m. on a Sunday morning. Such an ungodly hour to have to rise in my opinion, especially since I spent most of the night *limin' with friends. The time had come for me to get ready to hike my second waterfall in Trinidad since my arrival to the island for Medical School. The Rio Seco Waterfall, is listed as an "easy" hike, with a distance of 1.25 miles, but the waterfall is worth the hike. Or so most TripAdvisor reviewers said, this is what I would be finding out-just how challenging this hike is. 

My friends and I made our way from our lodgings at the Joyce Gibson Inniss Hall on the Mt. Hope compound, down to the University of the West Indies Main Campus where the rest of the eager hikers were gathered. As many yawned, and tried to mentally and physically awaken their senses, my mind ever so often posed the question "Why did you sign up for" Luckily, I didn't have time to dwell on the question or to change my mind. We gathered into the 'maxi' (24 seater bus/jitney) and made our way to Rio Seco Waterfall. 

The maxi driver was kind enough to drop us off up the hill, eliminating some of the winding, steepening terrain we would have encountered. The hike started off as 'easy', in that for about 20 mins we were walking on a paved road, which then ran out and the real hike began. At some point in the previous week, it had rained in the forest and in Salybia, which meant we would be encountering lots of mud and water in addition to the small rivers we would have to cross. Imagine my excitement. It pays to have the appropriate and correct shoes for every occasion, and I soon found out that my Nike cross trainers were not made for hiking muddy terrains. 

We went up hills and rocks, and we went down hills and rocks. We crossed two ice cold rivers in one direction, and met them upon our descent. We were shaded by the canopy of the trees, and I even came close to loosing a shoe or two in the mud. Overall it was an adventure and the waterfall-the reward, in the end was breathtaking. 

As I hiked, the thought emerged how my hiking experience that day was so similar to medical school, and the entire process of getting to where I am at this moment. From the initiation of the hike, there was this bird called the Pawi, that makes this shrill noise, however it never revealed itself to us. Imagine my disappointment. I likened this bird to all of the negative influences I've encountered along the way thus far and whom many of you reading this have also met or will at some point run into.  You know, those persons who have nothing better to do but to ensure they impart their misery onto your life by trying their best to defame your character. Sad, I know, but it happens. That bird taunted us the entire time. There would be moments of peace and quiet, and a few bursts of laughter and the sounds of casual chatter and then you would hear it.  That loud annoying shrill. After a while, it became background noise, and no one paid it any mind. The same is true about those "nay sayers". Remain polite, stay true to yourself and your beliefs and you'll be surprised how quickly the talk of the market won't have any effect on you. 

The melodious sound of the river, I likened to the encouragers. The sound of the river only increased, the closer we came to the waterfall. Persons will always be there to offer encouragement and support, and this tends to increase as your goal is reached. I've been blessed to have persons globally and locally, who at the right moment flood my FB inbox, what's app and my personal email with encouraging words and thoughts, all of which makes this journey all the more bearable. 

I don't know how often Trinidadians in the area frequent this waterfall, but on the day of our hike, we were constantly being greeted by persons heading to or leaving the waterfall. As the hike moved forward, and it seemed as though it would only get worse; being greeted by children and other adults with smiles and cheers, made me realize that the hike is not impossible, and that it very well can be done with a smile. It reminded me that like the hike, medical school and its tedious schedule and overwhelming course load, is not impossible and it can be completed with a smile once taken in strides. 

There was always a gradual incline and decline, and this was similar to the gradual incline and decline I am currently experiencing with my courses, my motivation, and my overall general psyche'. There are days when I feel like a Spartan, and can grab life and the sort by the horns, and own it. Then there are those days when I question why I am here, and if I have what it takes to truly be a GREAT doctor. Like the hike, the gradual inclines and declines are the true test of your willpower, and without them it would be one flat walk. And that's just boring. The same is true with medical school. It's not easy (if that was the case then everyone would be doing it), but it's doable, you just have to remember to not allow the declines to consume you, allow them to run their course, but don't dwell on them. 

At certain points along the trail there were these handmade wooden railings, that I must say I appreciated especially when there were sudden changes in the terrain and a sudden slip to the left would result in a nasty fall over the edge. These railings I likened to all of the resources at one's disposal while in medical school. There are textbooks, e-books, mobile device apps and the advice and guidance of upper years. They are all available to buffer the blow of the coursework and they provide invaluable solace and direction needed for the journey. 

Lastly, the reward. The rushing, bustling, waterfall. I likened this to achieving the ultimate goal. Arriving at the destination. To know that you survived the shrills of the pawi, while being guided by the increasing sounds of the river reassuring you that you were heading in the right direction, that you didn't allow the nay sayers negativity to engulf and devour you. Instead you took on the cheers of fellow hikers (students) who had experienced the rugged terrain and overcame it. You met the gradual incline and decline and moved forward, holding onto the railings. Now at the waterfall you can bask in the coolness of its waters- the excitement and sheer joy, of surviving all that you faced during the application process and interview, and will face in medical school. I'm awaiting that day. 2018 is so close yet so far. I shall encounter so much more, but after this hike and realizing the similarities, I appreciate all that I will be faced with in the future and I implore you to do the same. 
Pick up that MCAT book! 
Study for that exam! 
Proceed with writing that personal statement! 
Question why you're wanting to embark on such a hike, and be prepared for all that is in store. 

*limin': Liming is, in other words, an activity not subjected to a formal set of rules. Its value to the participants is entirely contingent on the shared meaning that can be established spontaneously. A typical lime begins when two or several acquaintances (neighbours, colleagues, relatives or simply friends) meet more or less by chance; in the street, at the grocer's, outside somebody's home, or in the rumshop. For it is impossible to lime alone: liming is inherently a social activity; it is constituted by the (minimally) dyadic relationship and cannot be reduced to the individual agent. A second necessary condition for a lime is the presence of an ambience of relaxation and leisure. Both (or all) limers should relax physically (recline in chairs, lean against walls etc.) in a manner enabling them to converse at their ease. Thirdly, the situation should assume an air of openness: a lime is in principle open to others who might want to join. Liming is, in other words, a social and public activity.

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