Through the municipality of Monistrol de Montserrat, I approach the beginning of the day’s hike with the Montserrat mountain range in the distance.

Shades on, cap on, backpack on; I am ready to begin this trek. Today would be the day that I could finally say I hiked a mountain. My self-efficacy in this sense was at an all time high, and I took advantage of my optimism by transferring my mental power into physical energy. My first few steps through the municipality of Monistrol de Montserrat were taken with focus and vigilance. After all, the first portion of the hike consisted of unsteady mounds of rocks that tempted me to sprain an ankle. Whenever I enter a high risk situation I come ready with this cautious mindset. It was just like my first experiences as a UIC student. During my Freshman Orientation I felt the pressure of my first impressions influencing all of these new people that I would meet. I was mindful of my words and actions so not to risk starting off my college experience on the wrong foot.

These unique peaks of Montserrat led to the idea of these mountains to be sacred.

Once I become comfortable in a certain action, running on a track for example, I tend to steer off into autopilot. I would not say that I was particularly comfortable climbing up Montserrat, but there was definitely a numbing point of automatic motion when my mind started to wander while my legs continued to mimic Stair Master at a level over 9000. Benefits of a wandering mind: reflection, realization, and appreciation. While seeing the scenic views increase in altitude, I reflected on my height on this mountain and my tininess relative to the rest of the world. I realized that though I may be small, I am not insignificant; I still have the power to make an impact on the people I meet in a positive way. I now appreciate even more my role as a health educator through Peer Health Exchange since it allows me to offer the knowledge, skills, and resources necessary for teens to make their own healthy decisions.

At the altar of the monastery the Escolania (historic boy’s choir) sing to an eager crowd that fills up every pew.

An extra journey after reaching the monastery led up to the Cross of San Miguel.

I was surprised to find the last few steps up Montserrat to be the most difficult, so difficult that at one point I could only release wheezes and whispers while Eddie encouraged me to keep going. However, the final spikes of pain were worth the effort once I reached the top of the mountain, entered the Benedictine monastery of Santa Maria de Montserrat, and heard the chiming voices of the Escolania (historic boy’s choir). The contrast between the hot, heavy, and tiring hike versus the cool, calm, and nearly majestic atmosphere within the monastery was overwhelming. The strong sense of spirituality in the air engulfed me, and I was living for it. After realizing my body’s physical capabilities in enduring that hike I was then able to revisit my soul. There are just not enough words to describe such an introspective experience, but I will leave it at this; I rediscovered a curious part of me that works to search for the meaning of life. Montserrat taught me that my actions must be purposeful, and I know that I will be able to live up to this expectation by being vigilant and empowering for others.