Of Overcoming Failure And Hills I know.

I am in a love-hate relationship with a hill.  We are only recently acquainted and I dread the things it could do to me. But first, some background. I moved to a new apartment block that sat at the bottom of a steep driveway. A hill so unreasonable, my taxi man Morris, in his trusted Corolla, with a cranky gear box, had one look at it and asked whether there were any stones to anchor on, in case he did not pick up momentum. It is a hill that is begging to be conquered. I know it will kill me before I can get fit enough to brag about my accomplishments. If I could overcome the psychological barrier of sprinting up 100m without any suicidal thoughts, the benefits would be real.

Getting fit comes at a price that I am less willing to fork out. It helps that the peer pressure is muted. My mates are not losing any sleep over their expanding midriffs. Having a terminal disease counts as a status symbol these days. It can only mean one is highly stressed which is proof of making more money than one can keep track of. Then there is the ever-ready excuse of ageing. I am not a spring chicken anymore and my health insurance is for emergencies.  There is never any time for exercise that could actually be beneficial to my health. Any spare time outside of work and sleep is reserved for clogging arteries and punishing my liver over endless banter sessions with potential business associates. They are all wages of sin that a hill run every other morning would put in check.

I know the discipline has to be found sooner rather than later.  Left to my own delusional designs, I will keep generating 101 reasons to skip my hill runs. Sometimes, the excuse is as elaborate as going on a long run in the early morning on flat ground, through poorly lit roads that have manholes that sunk cars, all to avoid the ultimate crunch of a sheer hill. Perhaps, it is because I know how it will make me feel. The taste of salt in my sweat, a patched throat that grates like sand paper and aching thighs with the sensation of a thousand prickling needles. It is a near death experience.

It is so easy to give up on hills yet I was not always this cynical. In my youth, hills were a craving. There was not a hill that I looked at with a frown on my face and suicide on my mind. The rewards were clear. The pain would not last and at the top of the hill, the view and sensation would be worth every step. I am not as confident around hills anymore, maybe only behind the wheel of a turbo charged off-roader. I stare hard at hills, gulp involuntarily and begin to line up my defences. First among them, the folly of indulging in life threatening activities and ever present danger of a sunstroke or pneumonia. If one has to die by their own hands, some dignity should be considered.

Once you pick up the habit of giving up, it becomes a default choice. It is the progress of small wins that I should be after but it is only comfort that I can think about. At the slightest hint of discomfort, I ready to throw in the towel and abdicate responsibility.

Some relationships are akin to facing that hill run every cold and early morning.  They resemble the irony of a gift that I desperately want but one that I am not ready to work for. You should hear me whinge in the morning, like Paloma, the Mexican telenovela diva.

Sometimes, I watch a motivation video to try to get me raved up. There is a particular one that I have on repeat. It is themed around a freaking eagle that does not seek shelter in a storm but soars above the clouds.  If a bald headed eagle with no purpose in life other than staying well fed can, so can I soar above the clouds of my doubts!

My buddy James, a trained psychologist who preaches water and drinks all the wine was no help either. I tried to explain that halfway through the hill, I see Donald Trump like walls. He advised me to get over my attachment to failure.

Psychologists say failure has a two sided view. One view is stacked with second chances and opportunities for growth. The other, is trained on shame, humiliation and defeat. James has a point. Failure is a forked road. One path leads to possibilities and the other to the self-doubt of defeat. My hill is a true relationship composed of two imperfect people, refusing to give up on each other. I have a lot of good reasons to give in but giving up is an option, not a choice.

My hill refuses to give up on me. Every morning, it waits, patiently.

Hill do them

Oyunga Pala is a Kenyan newspaper columnist. The blog examines the texture of everyday Kenyan life and the challenges of modernity and disillusion. The writings commonly feature the struggle of the Kenyan male to maintain integrity in contemporary society.


  1. You spoke right to me sir ..keep up

  2. Mature writing. Big fan

  3. Really enjoyed reading this blog…..made me laught out loud! The analogy is hilarious…:)

  4. Good article OP. The writing of the hill brought to my mind a teaching by John Mark Comer loveology part 1. If the four aspects are are a possibility and there is a safe atmosphere then the hill can be conquered.

  5. As a fat girl working for a Beyoncé-esque figure and a clerk who wants a career with a lot more pomp and circumstance, I know EXACTLY how you feel. In my case, though, it is more of a soul sucking abyss that I try not to look into but it keeps staring back as though daring me to succumb. And I was never one for forfeiting dares. But thank you for the much needed reminder to overcome. Thank you OP. Thank you.

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