Graduation season is upon us, and this year I’m one of the people adding add extra letters behind their names. During this transition, I find myself feeling like I’m standing on the top of a mountain. I’ve completed the climb that is my MPH program, and now I’m staring at what’s in front of me.
Mountain views are this special phenomenon where you can many destinations. Because you can see them so clearly, they seem close and easily attainable. However, only a few steps toward those goals means that you dip into lower elevations, and they hide below the treeline. That doesn’t mean that the places don’t exist anymore. It doesn’t mean that they’re unreachable. It just means that you’ve got to have the tenacity to believe you can get to that destination without being able to see it clearly. You may get glimpses every once in a while as you come to a clearing on the trail, but most of the time, you have to trust in yourself that your efforts will be successful and you can get there.
For me, this mountain hike can be a metaphor for public health. We’re in the business of having the grand goal of healthy people and a healthy world, but the path forward requires a many small incremental changes- much like taking a hike through the woods. Even though we’re moving forward, we can’t always see the clear way forward. We can’t watch our benchmark and measure how close we’re getting. We just have to trust that we’re getting there. It can be frustrating to seem like that next peak keeps moving farther and farther away, but that does not take away from the experiences on our path. Just as hikes through the woods may have small little “happys” like a serene lake, a gorgeous waterfall, or a baby fawn, our small public health victories should be celebrated as well.
As I face graduation, I see so many destinations that I could go, but I’m sure that it will be easy to get lost in the woods of bureaucracy. My goal is to keep moving forward, and even if I don’t get to that next big public health breakthrough, I will still enjoy the small ways I can help along the way.