A memory I often revisit is in when I was a child, living in New Westminster, British Columbia. This suburb is entirely built on a hill, sloping down towards the Fraser River. My family lived on what was near the bottom, a short distance away from the river, although numerous factories and other industries blocked our view.
My elementary school was located some distance away, practically straight up the hill. I walked every day, up the hill in the morning, down the hill in the late afternoon. The weather in British Columbia was always either sunny, or raining. Only very rarely it snowed. I was never prepared for any eventuality regardless.
During those times of the year when it snowed, the mild weather always ensured that the snow melted quickly during the day. During the night. all that water froze. Frozen water is also called Ice in many countries. It is however, largely unknown in New Westminster.
I hated those mornings, staring at the steep, seemingly endless ice-sheathed slope I was forced to ascend. I knew how difficult it was going to be, I dreaded it actually. But every day, I walked up that hill.
Cautiously, ever so cautiously, I would plant one foot, then brace it as I prepared to move the other. Such determination would have been unusual to observe in one so young had any been watching. Plodding focus brought me up that hill, 2 meters, then 10. Then it happened, as it always happened.
The sidewalk seemed to grow weary of my feeble attempts and of it’s own volition would shift, pushing me back down the hill. I had done nothing wrong! My feet were planted, my pace steady. I had taken no unnessary risks. Yet the bottom beckoned.
Spreading my feet wide in an attempt to maintain my balance, I watched helplessly as the progress I made fell away. As I came to a stop, I realized that I had still some progress. I didn’t have a backpack then, just a paperbag containing my lunch, a bologna sandwich with mustard on one side and buttered on the other, and a small collection of worn pencils stuffed in one of my jean jacket pockets. I moved the lunchbag into my other hand, hoping it will help with my balance.
I resumed my climb.
I have no true recollection of the number of times I walked up that icy hill on those ‘winter’ mornings. No recollection of the munber of times I fell and hurt myself, freezing my hands as they pushed against the frozen sidewalk. Forward progress marked by frequent backward progress. Dogged determination took me to school, every day.
I tried so many other ways to get to school. Different roads, different paths. I always started off at the bottom of a hill, there was no way to avoid that particular fact. I never once considered asking my dear old dad for a ride however. That way was madness.
I am much older now, looking back on those times, that younger self that stopped at the bottom of the hill every morning and looked up at the climb ahead. It was then, and still is now, the perfect metaphor for my life. Progress marked by setback after setback.
It is also a exemplary example of my work to combat depression.
It is the Hill upon which I walk.
It is the Slide that pushes me down.
It is my determination that brings me up and over that hill.