I didn't know at the start of this year that I would climb to the ancient pyramid atop el Cerro del Tepozteco.
For the past two years, my boyfriend and I have spent our shared spring breaks in Mexico City. But this time, we decided to explore the surrounding region, including this day trip to Tepoztlán, Mexico. The capital met us with warm familiarity—we navigated the streets with relative ease and couldn't help but return to our favorite spaces from our first visit, like el Bosque de Chapultepec and the homely Coyoacán borough (also where Frida Kahlo lived, just sayin').
By the time we arrived to el Tepozteco's uneven stone steps, our muscles were already worn from the long walk from the bus station. With every lunge, my mind refocused from noticing my legs' protest to the satisfaction I usually feel after surpassing a physical challenge. It's a sense of release, a feeling like I can accomplish anything, even with the sensation that I can keep going in spite of how exhausted I am.
I thought about being in Mexico City a year ago, and how much I wanted to make this visit different. What had I been doing then? I knew now I focused so much on my future. But then? I hadn't yet known I would apply to graduate school, nor had I undergone any of the preparation.
At the beginning of 2018, I remember reflecting on my personal goals and felt disappointed, even scared, that I hadn't accomplished all I meant to do. I intended to write more, finally set aside time to practice German, and create a more organized running ritual. Was my work-life balance really that off-kilter? Since I finished my undergrad, I thought working full time would allow me certain freedoms I couldn't enjoy as a full-time student. Yet, here I was, almost two years later, realizing I still wasn't prioritizing my goals. I wasn't a better writer or runner, nor had I absorbed much of any German.
That was my logic, at least until I was hiking in the middle of foliage isolating climbers from the view of the Tepoztlán streets below.
I was ascending a mountain in the middle of Mexico, trying to recall how I got there in the year since I left the city. Maybe the year wasn't as empty as I had been telling myself it was. In the span of those months, I had given all of my energy to my applications for school, studying for the GRE, searching for advice from friends and mentors, and preparing my application materials (with just a smidge of perfectionism).
I may not have given as much time to my personal goals as I did this particular personal investment. But I don't think I could have without sacrificing what I wanted, which was to throw my best out there and see what I catch. It was the mental/physical refocus; I just could not have taken on all of these ambitions at once. The release wouldn't have felt as satisfying if I did.