The procrastination to write this feature has extended over 5 months since I first got the invitation from Miisa. I can find many reasons why, including personal tragedies, lack of time and career responsibilities. Ultimately, I think it came down to fear. Although, I am a go-getter and spend numerous amounts of time and energy empowering people, it is very rare for me to publish personal writings.
Having witnessed DrivenWoman in its infancy, I must not deprive you the chance to hear the founding scenes, for there lays the spirit of determination and daring greatly. It was my first year of chasing an aspiration to immerse myself in the world of business, to learn everything I could and understand my place in this field.
After spending the previous 7 years or so engrossed in the world of criminal law and international war crimes, I was ready to explore my capabilities in the commercial world. It’s 2012 and I had recently taken up the entrepreneurial task of managing a co-working space for the fabulous commercial property company I had joined 8 months prior, Workspace.
One sunny afternoon after a brief telephone conversation, Miisa arrives to view the creative space I managed on Brixton Road as a potential customer. With her refreshing aura and charisma, it was not hard for us to get on like a house on fire.
I admired her zest for life and massive goals.
It is on this occasion that I was introduced to an idea she had, a forum for like-minded women who help, push and inspire each other on their journey to success. I loved the idea so much that I wanted to be part of it so I offered to host her event at ClubWorkspace Kennington. Months later, Miisa did get in touch again; a date was set for the event and DrivenWoman took off. We collaborated on several events thereafter, I grew so fond of this forum that I purchased a membership and joined the monthly group meetings.
It was on my second group meeting that we took part in an exercise which encouraged us to write down all things in our wildest dreams we would want to achieve. On my list of many desires that evening in 2014 appeared an entry that I realized was so crazy to write down – yet I did.
I wanted to climb a mountain.
I happen to be a lady who loves glamour and high heels, hates running for the bus, and is not a big fan of walking longer than 15 minutes. I assure you, I most certainly could not have described myself to be in optimal shape for such challenge.
However, less than a year later on a beautiful warm day I found myself in North Africa at the bottom of the Atlas mountains. Together with a group of 10 wonderful individuals, we were there to conquer the highest of the cluster, Mt Toubkal. As our mini bus cascaded through the hills higher and higher towards the village of Imlil, I was excited and humbled that I was about to make an unrealistic desire a reality.
I smiled many times but I also cried a lot. It so happened that I was mourning a darling friend Juma, whom I had learned had passed away as I was making my way into Gatwick airport the day before. I was devastated and sad but at no point did I dare think about not going ahead with the challenge, which included raising money for XLP.
I saw the sad events as another of life’s ways to test my character.
Besides, Juma loved life and people so much he would certainly have approved that I carried on. Trekking for an average of 7 hours a day for 4 days is no easy feat. Climbing Toubkal was certainly the most physically and mentally challenging thing I have ever done but it was also a most enchanting life lesson.
Without a doubt the last day when we attempted the peak was the hardest. Every part of my body ached with pain, every time I moved my foot in front of the other it hurt so much that I walked like someone whose legs had been broken. But I had to reach the summit, for those young people XLP supports, for Juma, for the people who doubted me as well as those who supported. More importantly, I had to do it for my future children and myself.
I conquered Toubkal by setting small goals; the next big rock, the small patch of greenery, the waterfall just ahead.
I lost my smile many times during the difficult moments and retreated into my own mind. My brain focused on the next step and my heart focused on the next breath and so it was for several hours until I reached the summit.
The spectacular views on top of Mt Toubkal were nothing like I had ever seen, so empowering, so inspiring. There on top of Africa, my motherland with countless mountaintops spread across as far as the eye could see, I smiled a smile of utter satisfaction and inhaled the freshest air.
This challenge has taught me so much about how to reach your goals and climb a mountain.
Never underestimate your desires, boldly announce them. And never underestimate your capabilities to fulfil them. All you have to do is focus on your next small step.
You can conquer any mountain!
Raissa A Uwineza is a business host and community manager at ClubWorkSpace.