The Climb vs. the Mountaintop: My Journey to Self-Discovery

“Amplify” is a series of reader-submitted reflections that seek to shed light on the unique life experiences of Black women. If you are interested in submitting a post to The Pedestal Project, please contact us under the “Connect” tab!

Sarah Jurden_HeadshotSarah Jurden currently serves as the Assistant Director of the Academic Investment in Math and Science Program at Bowling Green State University (BGSU). She graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration from Mississippi State University and received her Masters of Science in College Student Personnel Administration from the University of Central Arkansas. Sarah is currently in working towards obtaining her Doctorate of Education (Ed.D.) in Leadership Studies from BGSU. She believes education truly provides individuals with opportunities to change their own lives, better the lives of the individuals around them, and enrich the communities in which they live. In her spare time, Sarah enjoys traveling to new places with her family and friends as well as cheering on all MSU sport teams (#HailState).

“It’s all about the journey, not the destination” is a saying we have all heard before. We’ve heard people we admire, both famous and not, describe the phenomena of  reaching the mountaintop in their particular industry but quickly realizing thereafter that it was the journey they enjoyed and not the actual award. Do I disagree with this? No, not at all, but while on the journey it can be frustrating to hear someone who has reached the pinnacle of success you are striving towards say it is all about the journey and truly believe them. The journey I am referencing and the one I believe we are all on, no matter our chosen profession is this journey of self-discovery. We are seeking to discover who we are, what we can contribute to society, and what our purpose truly is. We might not all use these exact words, but through our actions we are all on this path in some form or fashion.

I recently started a tweet (well, by recently I mean within the last month because I seem to only tweet on the weekends) by saying, “it’s something about getting closer to 30”. What I meant by this statement is the closer I am to getting to 30, an age the younger version of me thought was true adulthood, the more I have begun to reevaluate so many things. What I have slowly realized is I am not only reevaluating, but that I am on a journey of self-discovery. A journey that I honestly was not aware I was taking.

There is so much information from a variety of individuals telling us all how self-discovery should be done, but I am not here to do any of that. What I am here to do is to give an honest perspective of someone who wants to share the biggest self-discovery lesson I’ve learned thus far and encourage others to discover themselves and their true purpose.

Drawing closer to 30, though frightening, is not the ending or the concrete deadline we force ourselves to believe. I believe the closer I get to 30, the more I begin to give myself permission to be proud and disappointed in the journey, all at the same time. For a long time I thought it had to be one thing or another. You either had to live life by accepting the fun parts of the journey because there was always another hill to climb or you had to be a person that accepted the mountaintop was what you wanted and it was about reaching the top and celebrating what you have conquered. I never thought about being able to have both emotions and both perspectives. I had to ask myself,  “Are you “self-discovered” Sarah?” The honest answer is no– it’s not only no, it’s not by a long shot, girl!

Self-discovery is not something you write about after it’s over.  To me, self-discovery is saying I am going to give myself permission to say I believe in both perspectives and not believe in both at the same time. As someone who is currently still in the coursework stage of the doctoral journey I find myself wondering the best way to capture my thoughts but also the general concepts of the research. I also compare myself to my older brother, who has written articles for various online publications, and wonder if I am I doing a topic justice. Then I realize all of these thoughts are pieces of this revelation. Self-discovery is finding your truth, but understanding your truth changes, your truth is inspiring at times, your truth is terrifying at times, and your truth, at times, is hidden. I do not present myself as someone who is an expert in anything. Sometimes, I am the best version of myself and at other times, I look in the mirror and realize I still have much growing and developing to do.

I often joke with close friends that I have a few “Mama, I made it!” moments. You know them. Those precious moments where all the hard work and sacrifices were worth it. The moments when you get to call your biggest supporter, in my case my mom and receive congratulations from people who mean the most to me.  What I’m learning is those moments are every day. They happen every time I figure out who I am as well as every day that I figure out who I am not. I have heard a number of people recently talk about either being present or living in the moment, but what I want to suggest is to live in all spaces at all times. The spaces of reflection, the present space, and looking to the future with hope. The spaces of evolution when I sit and look around my office and remember that, at my core, I am just a girl from central Mississippi who has grown, but has so much further to go.

I encourage all of us to get away from this prescribed or dictated version of what self-discovery is supposed to look like. Again, I am not saying the articles, books, blogs, and videos are not helpful. I honestly have read and watched many of them myself. What I am saying is embrace everything and nothing all at once, the fun and messiness of it all. Be happy in the moments of accomplishment and allow yourself to be disappointed when you do not get it right. Self-discovery is a messy, beautiful, yet scary process that we must all go through, yet our version will truly look as an individual and unique as we all are.

I challenge everyone to enjoy the duality of your self-discovery. To not be so engulfed with everything and everyone else that you forget this is a journey that fully allows you to be selfish. A journey that is only about you, while simultaneously about how you interact with the world. So I offer congratulations for your accomplishments so far as well as encouragement to continue to push yourself. Lastly, to everyone who is also realizing they are on this journey, I will do what any true Southerner would do when I pass you on my path, I will smile and wave. Enjoy your journey; we are all on one!


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