There was no life-changing summit nor glorious sunrise on a mountaintop, but only a failure on my first major climb in the tallest mountain of Malaysia with my father, that pushed me in becoming who I am today. Everything I am and everything I will be, I owe it to that moment when I failed as a 12-year-old kid in a place I never thought I would fall in love with— a moment of failure in the mountains that stuck with me until this very day.
It was raining during the entire climb with no clear view of anything, just surrounded by the thick rainforests of Borneo. It was my first major climb in a mountain. I was drenched and soaked. I was left alone cold in the cabin at about 3200 meters above sea level as everyone I knew carried on. I honestly do not know what stopped me that day from climbing to the summit, but one thing is for sure, that it never stopped me from climbing again.
The mountains became a place I knew I always wanted to come back to.
It was where I felt at home and connected with the same 12-year-old kid that promised himself that he will explore the world, climb higher mountains, and find a way to do so.
Commitment to passion
It was only three years ago when I turned 18 and legally able to travel alone. I saved my allowance from my parents and used all the savings I had in high school from competing in E-sports competitions, tutoring grade school students, joining photo contests, and doing odd jobs just to be able to buy my first camera and be able to climb in the Philippines and Asia.
I joined different organizations in college that enabled me to keep on traveling, to keep on climbing, to keep on shooting, and to keep on learning from the world I knew so little about. I just saw myself week after week, and month after month going back to the mountains, taking photographs, while at the same time trying to balance my studies and the three jobs that I have today turning that same promise into a passion.
It was difficult, and it still is. I didn’t want to disappoint my parents by giving up on school, and more so I didn’t want to disappoint my 12-year-old self by giving up on my passions. Don’t let anyone tell you that your passion for the arts, photography, or whatever your heart yearns for won't bring you places. Trust the universe - It will.
Turning passion into purpose
I knew I just had to trust in the universe. I tried to find this purpose as we all humans do in everything, always asking the question “Why?”.
I threw myself everywhere I could possibly can, failing endlessly at many things, giving up on most times, but always remembering to start anew.
I started on different projects, learned more technical mountaineering, read books, found mentors, met my inspirations, practiced my photography, studied a bit more in my field of engineering, and worked deeper in environmental conservation, where I grew a deeper sense of appreciation and learning of both the beauty and fragility of our world, where I drew the answer to the question “Why?”, as I found my way 9 years back in time to the same story of the 12 year old kid in the mountains. Only this time, the story wasn’t anymore about me, it was the story about all the other 12 year old kids out there, who have different promises, dreams, and passions for themselves where I can only hope of the same promise for them— a promise of a better future in the planet we have, and a passion for the greater things in life.
As I embark on a new journey in my life today being 21, I come to write a different story about the mountains of our world. A seemingly impossible dream especially for a young Filipino boy to climb the 7 summits, the tallest mountains in each continent of our planet, in the hopes of inspiring the youth in conserving and protecting these places.
And as with all of us today, in our pursuit in our own dreams and goals in life, I guess all I could share is that we should never let what we do become who we are. The stories, the moments, the failures, the promises, the passions, and experiences are the things that can truly make us. Find inspiration in it, draw motivation from it, and have a sense of greater purpose in all of that it is.
Story and photos by Gab Mejia