Reflections from Mt. Doom

“Frodo: I can’t do this, Sam.
Sam: I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness, and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end, because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines, it’ll shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.
Frodo: What are we holding on to, Sam?
Sam: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo…and it’s worth fighting for.”

As I sit here watching the moon rise over Mt. Doom and the sun set over the valley, I can’t help but consider the journey of Sam and Frodo. LOTR has so many wonderful parts that make you ponder life. The quote above is from the part of the journey where Frodo is losing hope because Mt. Doom seems so far away and the challenge is unsurmountable.  And when all seems hopeless, good ol’ Sam encourages Frodo and reminds them what they are fighting for. This quote always gets the emotions going for me. It reminds me to find hope in times of despair.

In comparison to their journey, my graduate school journey is like a walk in the park, but I’ve had those moments of despair. Moments where I wonder, is it worth it? Why should I keep moving forward? What am I fighting for?

And once again, good ol’ Sam is right… That there is something good in the world and it’s worth fighting for. My dissertation will not save the world as Frodo and Sam saved Middle Earth, but through my research, I do have a chance to make a difference. A chance to empower others. A chance to bring change for the good.

At the conference I just attended, we considered in one session the legacy we were leaving behind. I’m still in the midst of research but I hope my legacy can bring good to the communities where I work in the Solomons. Through researching topics important to Solomon Islanders and by mentoring students in the Solomons and the US, I have a chance to make a difference. If I want to accomplish those goals and leave a positive legacy, I need to keep pressing on even if the road ahead is uncertain.

When I consider giving up I realize I’m not just giving up on school, I’m giving up on myself and what I see as the gift I’ve been given. Graduate school is hard and honestly, it sucks sometimes, but this experience and opportunity is a gift. A gift to go to new places, meet new people, and study new things. A gift to do what I love and pursue dreams. I’m truly blessed.

So when the journey gets tough, as I know it will, I will continue to remember what I am holding on to… That through my research I will do good so that others have a chance for their good to shine out more. And when all seems dark, I will remember the darkness is just a shadow that is passing. A new day will come.  And so, I will keep on keeping on.

Note: This was written as I overlooked Mt. Ngauruhoe during a trip to Aotearoa/New Zealand this past month. I’m just getting around to posting it. Hopefully, more from our trip will come.  If not, check out my Instagram for pics! IG names: @racheldehicks or @mikehicks

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