Writing Catalog

Alexa Christopherson

Grade: 12

Hathaway Brown School

Instructor: Elizabeth Armstrong

Dont look up

Personal Essay & Memoir

Dont look up

I am on top of the world, yet I know there's a long way to go.

From the Postavarul Peak of the Carpathian mountains, everything seems so small compared to where I began. As I inch closer to the edge, all I see below me are mountain ranges that span for miles, and above me are nothing but clouds. Despite my sore legs and aching back, I treasure the cool breeze against my cheek, a reward for my journey. I see my mom behind me looking nervous at the sight of my brother and me, but instead of making us turn around, she grips our hands tightly and lets us bask in the beauty. This journey didn't start at the top, it began at the bottom, as most do, and it was far from over.

My mother immigrated from Romania to the United States when she was 18 years old with nothing but a suitcase, a violin, and the determination to receive an education. My dad is a little different, I remember him on stage surrounded by crowds of people, and when he sang and played his guitar he wasn't just performing, he was shaping individuals with his music. I'm a product of them both - each determined in their own way.

Since I could walk, I have found challenges exciting and jumped on any opportunity I could. Weekly USTA tennis matches, debate tournaments, and piano recitals filled up my schedule. When I mastered the previous, I challenged myself to art, skiing, and chess. Regardless of the activity, I looked forward to the steps in front of me, and with each day of practice, I inched closer to accomplishing my goal. Whenever I used to doubt myself, I was told to look at how far I have come from the start, instead of how much I have left to go. It's all about perspective, and I challenge myself to see life through more than just one lens. I was born in America, so I see the world through my lived experiences, but at the same time, I see it through my mother, who at my age lived a completely different life in a vastly different world. My visits to Romania where I see my family, have allowed me to see my mother's country and the lack of opportunity that is so prevalent.

During my last visit, she wanted to teach me what struggle truly was, I saw helplessness, poverty, and strife. Every day we traveled up a mountain little by little until we made it to the top. Before our ascent, I felt overwhelmed by the size of the mountain; the peak wasn't even in view. My mother told us: "Don't look up, look forward," so we listened and looked forward. We took it step by step, even though we couldn't see the finish line. Hours went by of continuous walking, at times we were lucky enough to find a path, but the majority was spent creating it ourselves.

Climbing taught me that even when I am at the bottom of a mountain and it is hard to see its peak, by taking the journey step by step, the mountain will turn into a series of smaller hills where I feel a sense of fulfillment at every peak. My next mountain is driven by the passion to learn, the fascination with new things, and not just opening doors, but making them when there are none. Without my courage, I would not have had the chance to stand at the edge of the world and look every mountain straight on with determination to conquer them.