Hills, Metaphors and Effective Planning

Column by Ritika Agarwal
Ritika - JaeEun Oh

So, I’m standing at the bottom of the hill, hands on knees, doubled over in pain. My breath is coming out in short, sharp, bursts and I can feel a shooting pain just below my ribs. I’m on the verge of collapsing. There is no possible way I can make it up this stupid hill seven more times. Stupid, I think to myself. Stupid for thinking I could join track and field with practically no previous experience and a summer’s worth of bad lifestyle choices to overcome. Jen is standing a couple feet away from me, and I shamefully (and incoherently) tell her that I just can’t do it. I’m less than halfway through today’s workout, and look at me, I’m a mess.
Take it one hill at a time, she tells me. Don’t think about the whole workout all at once. Just think about the next hill.
Okay, then. One hill at a time. I don’t have to do this seven more times; I only have to do it once.
And magically, miraculously, I pound my way up the hill one more time. And then again. And again. And soon enough, I’ve done it seven times and my legs feel like jelly and my whole body is on fire, but I’ve done it seven times and I feel FANTASTIC.
Obviously, the hill is a metaphor.
We all have things we want to achieve, goals we want to accomplish. But the actual accomplishing part of it can be daunting and confusing and all sorts of annoying icky adjectives that make us want to avoid even beginning the task ahead of us. So, to all of you who have ever put off a piece of work for fear that it was too much to take on, here is a magical piece of advice that I’m sure none of you would ever guess was coming—take it one hill at a time.
Let’s dig a little deeper into the metaphor of the hill, because I think there are some more things to be learned from it. To begin with, why even try to climb the hill in the first place? Why put yourself through the kind of hell that climbing (running) up a hill seven times entails? Well, the answer is simple: because it is the only way to fulfillment and happiness. I know I’ve had phases where I’ve questioned the point of having goals—“Why not just go with the flow, cruise through life doing the bare minimum to get by? Throwing yourself wholeheartedly into something you care about is scary,”— you risk so much of yourself. You risk epic failure. But the fact is, happiness is proportional to hard work. Deal with it.
Second, once you’ve decided that the hill is worth climbing, how do you go about climbing it? It’s so easy to imagine a time when the hill is climbed and you’re at perfect peace with yourself and life in general, but why is it so hard to get yourself to start climbing it? One of my new hills this semester is to find an internship for the summer. But put that on a to-do list and there’s no way it’s getting done. Truth is, getting an internship involves a bunch of steps that you need to clearly define if there’s to be any hope of getting one. Instead of this:
1) Do laundry
2) Clean room
3) Get internship
My to-do list should really look something like this:
1) Update résumé
2) Look for possible internships on PioneerLink
3) Make appointment with the CLS to look over résumé, cover letter and discuss which internships to apply for
4) Print out applications and GET TO WORK
And preferably lay out a timeline to go with it. (Also, I don’t mean to suggest that doing laundry and cleaning one’s room isn’t important; I just chose to prioritize the internship. This is another important lesson. PRIORITIZE. Anyway … )
Finally, we must find a way to deal with the archnemesis of every college student since the beginning of time—procrastination. It definitely helps to admit to yourself how much something means to you, to not hold back and to have a list of clearly defined steps to get where you want to go. But what do you do when you hit a block and you want nothing more than to spend the next three hours on YouTube watching old “Hannah Montana” videos? I’m afraid I don’t have a good answer for that. It takes some kind of superhuman strength, some tremendous willpower, to finish that essay when it turns out that your thesis makes no sense, or to finish that column when you realize it is a structural mess and it must be essentially redone. But it’s doable. Just take it one hill at a time.
And to those of you who know me, I’m sorry for being the biggest hypocrite on the face of this earth. ‘Tis my job.