By: Danielle Krey, 2019 Girls Mentor
Going on my fifth year as a mentor for the 2019 Explore Austin girls team, it’s crazy to think that graduation is around the corner. I am constantly telling my close friends about memories shared with “my girls”, I can’t help but reminisce on our time spent together. As I think about their transition to their new stage of life, I stand in complete awe at how fast it has gone. The adventures have been plentiful, the laughs abundant, and the friendships true. In celebration of their amazing accomplishments, I wish to share a story to illustrate just a glimpse of what it was like to be a mentor for the 2019 girls team.
The story begins at three in the morning in the middle of the Colorado mountains. The group was going to summit Mt. Baldy at almost 14,000 feet. The days prior, we had been practicing our mountaineering skills nonstop. For those of you who don’t know, mountaineering is a mix between hiking and climbing with an additional friend – snow. Such trekking involves the use of ice axes, crampons, rope teams, and terms like “self-arrest.” This was the day we would be able to show off what we have learned from our beloved trip leaders.
The journey started out smooth with a few hours of night hiking prior to the sunrise. We hiked over a stream and through the woods until we reached our first, steep snow-field. We broke into our rope teams, secured our equipment, and were ready to climb. With one last glance up the daunting mountain, we began the hike up. I was in the middle of the rope team with two girls on either side, one of them being Nayeli. Everyone was inching -and I mean inching- their way up. It seemed way steeper when climbing than it had from the ground. Just as the sun rose over the mountains to hit us in the face, Nayeli looked at me and said, “I don’t think I can do this…”
To be completely honest, I was scared too and my first thought was, “Just don’t look down.” Knowing that this comment wouldn’t be much comfort to her, I opted for, “You can do this. There is no going back” and we pressed on together. It was a slow ascent, to say the least, but we trusted our trip leaders, we trusted our ropes, and we trusted each other. We finally made it to the top, and later summited the mountain. When all was said and done, the day had turned into an 18-hour escapade. The victories were just as frequent as the obstacles, though it would take hindsight to reveal this truth.
I truly can’t find another memory that represents my group of girls more. First, there was a will for adventure, second there was a moment of wondering what we got ourselves into, and finally, there was the inevitable push to reach the goal. This process, in all its hardship and glory, was a repeating cycle; each component cultivating a team environment. Our experience was as real as I have ever experienced: one grand adventure.
Let’s face it though, adventure doesn’t only exist in the outdoors. My girls have shown me their will for adventure in everything they do, including in their plans for the fast-approaching future. They want to be doctors and lawyers and writers and politicians. Their will power to face challenges is inspirational.
Just as I have seen them face challenges, I have seen them question themselves. This is where it gets real. You see, there was one part of the story that I left out: summiting the mountain that day was optional. Nayeli and every other girl in the group made the decision to go. I can’t help but think that in that moment on the snowfield, Nayeli questioned her decision. She is not alone in this experience for it happens to everyone. There were times as a mentor when I wondered what exactly I got myself into, and only half the story would stand if I pretended those moments didn’t happen. I saw hesitation. I saw the self-doubt. I saw questioning. One could even argue that there is no adventure without some level of these setbacks. What truly captured my heart was watching each and every one of them carry on anyway.
All 14 girls in my group are graduating the Explore Austin program because each and every one of them was serious about their role as an Explorer. They tried their best even on the days when it was hard. Sometimes, there wasn’t an option to go back, and other times, they made a deliberate decision to press on, to decide that this is what they wanted.
Their graduation is truly an occasion to celebrate. I am their mentor, but often I feel I have learned more from them. Our group was teamwork in its truest form.
To my girls, I will still call you my girls. I don’t know what the future holds for you, but I know that the number of obstacles you face will only be an indication of your countless victories. In my future moments of hesitation and doubt, I’ll remember these treasured memories of pressing on, and press on we shall to another grand adventure.