There are some words I have found in Swahili that I wish we would use more in English. The main one being bado. The word bado means “not yet,” and it gives me hope. Hearing “not yet,” instead of a mundane American “no,” is so full of promise. It hasn’t happened but it just might! Did you send the email yet? Bado. Did you get the promotion? Not yet. Do you have a six pack and a six figure income? Did your book get published and become a best seller? Are you a mermaid? Not. Yet. There is hope for the future.
Bado became especially relevant to me recently. Dad showed up in Tanzania about two weeks ago with brand new hiking boots on his feet and my hiking boots in his suitcase. I briefly ran the idea of climbing up Mount Kilimanjaro with him in when I was home in April, and here he was, in the very African wonderland I texted him about and showed him as far as my Facetime Internet would let me. Did he understand the stories of dust and colorful fabrics and hectic situation I desperately tried to explain on the phone? Bado. But there was a chance he would in the future.
Kilimanjaro just so happens to be the highest mountain in Africa and is nearly 20,000 feet high. My beautiful Colorado friends, I hate to tell you this, but that’s way higher than our highest Colorado mountain. And we are high in Colorado. My YouTube circuit workouts left me feeling prepared for what was about to ensue as a physical workout, but not for the mental piece. I understood the mental part of physical exertion: sometimes uphill body battles led to lengthy mental journeys. When I ran that marathon back in college, I had enough thinking time to re-plan my entire life. I was going to quit my job, drop out of school, move to North Dakota, maybe buy some livestock. I had plans to cut my hair, go vegan, start doing cross fit. When there isn’t much to think about except tired lungs or burning calves, the brain finds new things to consider. Kilimanjaro was no different: it was seven days and six nights of nothing but re evaluation.
The climb up Kilimanjaro is filled with physical transitions that seem to coincide with the mental shifts nearly perfectly. The first day is gradual uphill slope, filled with rainforests and birds that seem to match the thoughts: “I hope I brought enough socks. I wonder what we got on the work email today. Will we have soup for dinner?” But, the terrain changes rapidly and your mind follow suit: I exchanged a long sleeve t-shirt for a winter jacket and two pairs of socks, and my thoughts prepared to dip into something a little colder: “I’m coming home in December and I don’t know where I am going to live. What job will I have?”
By day four dad and I put on hiking boots, rain coats, winter mittens and scaled a rock wall on the way to the summit, and the mental chatter seemed to cling to the side of the wall as well, “What have you even done with your entire time in Africa?” My mind travelled further than Dad on his journey from Denver to Kilimanjaro with the situations and trials of the future that I anticipated hitting in the next few months: jobs, insurance, relationships, family. And we hadn’t even hit summit day and apparently that was the time when both the physical and mental were truly tested. But the truth was those situations hadn’t surfaced or required thought or a reaction. Bado.
There seems to be one rule when hiking up the highest mountain in Africa and this is it: figure out today. Finish the current and don’t worry about tomorrow. It’s not here, not yet. Being an American woman with a plan (and occasionally an attitude) this is always easier said than done. I can consider the next twenty four hours, but it will be riddled with concerns out of my control: “Will I be cold in my tent under ten million stars tonight? Should I have not sent that text message?” It’s then I realize the necessity of breaking this present time down even more. Worry about this morning. Worry about this hour. As we neared the top of the mountain at 19,000 feet the concern became even more consolidated. What do the next fifteen feet of your journey look like? What is your thirty second plan? Because at that type of altitude making the decision to stay standing and put on Chapstick takes a lot of effort. Forget the rest the day, the rest of the trip, the rest of my time in Africa and the rest of my twenties. Bado. The next moment was all I can forecast and control. And maybe that’s how it should be.
I think at job interviews they should ask you for your four hour plan instead of your five year plan. Because it is in those small moments that things become accomplished. Books don’t become written, ideas don’t become businesses and nations don’t find peace over a casual realization that five years has already passed. The real movers and shakers find success in those hours when they are cold and tired and still decide to get out of bed. To take the next step forward. To write the next word when it’s difficult to finish or read or understand. It’s not in the entire mountain, the entire novel, the entire year in Africa. It’s in that uncomfortable moment that you choose to remain.
So Grandma, don’t worry, I kept dad safe and he has no desire to climb another mountain. Bado. And mom, I’m still coming home to America, but not before I finish what I set out here to do in Africa. I’m not done. Bado. And world, I am not worried about what you are throwing at me next year, next month or in the next work email or step up the mountain. Because I’m not there. Bado. But I will be.