I love to travel. But there’s one thing that completely stresses me out. No, it’s not the flight or going through security. It’s when the baggage carousel starts up. I watch as unfamiliar pieces of luggage start circling around, my stomach in knots. Mind you, I have never lost my luggage (knock on wood), but yet each time I travel I have this low-level stress permeating through my body. Five black suitcases pass by. A colorful hard-shell suitcase slides down onto the carousel. A woman rushes to claim it. There’s my friend’s suitcase…Where is mine?! I see a tan piece of luggage circling toward me. My spirits lift for a moment until I realize it doesn’t have the red tell-tale tape around the handles. All around me people awkwardly grab their suitcases from the carousel. Finally, my tan, slightly weathered suitcase makes its appearance. I can actually feel my body relax. Hello, old friend. You scared the shit out of me once again!
Why is it that we’re so happy to see and hold onto our own baggage? This is true with luggage and it’s true with emotional baggage. Divorce, illness, deaths, lay-offs, failures—all the tough things we go through—we use to define us. We hold onto these experiences, label them and continue to carry the stories with us into the future. Often, we’ve been telling the stories for so long that we don’t stop to ask “is this still true today?” For the longest time one of my stories was “I can’t exercise that much because I have asthma.” It felt good to let myself off the hook. But here’s the thing: my asthma was under control and had been for quite some time. I simply didn’t want to put this particular bag down. Having asthma was who I was and it gave me some odd sense of comfort. It was a story that started off true DECADES ago, but was no longer true. This piece of baggage no longer served me and I had to let go of the handle.
What about other people’s baggage? That’s a whole different story, right? Whereas we cling to our own baggage, we want others to drop theirs…STAT. How many times have we heard things like “he’s a nice guy, but he has a lot of baggage” or “I can’t date her—too much baggage.” Guess what? We ALL have baggage. Every single one of us has life experiences that we’re carrying with us. Some of us have taken the steps to work through these issues and now, what used to be a steamer trunk, is a small cross-body, barely noticeable. Some of us are just starting to deal with our “stuff.” Some never do. We’re all at different points on the journey—not better or worse—different.
It all comes down to how you deal with these past experiences. Are you going to let them define you, causing you to become smaller than you were meant to be, or work through them and use them as stepping stones to a greater life? The choice is yours. But wouldn’t it feel great to drop all the things that no longer serve you? Wouldn’t it be freeing? Trust that you can put the bag down. Give yourself a break. You don’t have to claim your baggage anymore. Give yourself the gift of traveling light.