This weekend I got to thinking about emotional and psychological baggage that we accumulate over the course of life and how it affects us and our relationships. We hear the term “baggage” all the time.
“Don’t date her, she has too much baggage.”
“He just went through a nasty divorce, and has excess baggage.”
Baggage is bad. Right? Or is it? The term certainly has a negative connotation in our society. It’s something we are meant to avoid or, if we have a lot of it, it is something we need to shed.
Really though, how can someone go through life without picking up certain items and throwing them into the metaphorical suitcase (or three) that we all carry. We can’t. Everything that we do and everything that happens to us molds and shapes the person we are. It’s not bad to have baggage; it means you’re living your life. What defines you and impacts your relationships is not the amount of souvenirs you’ve stuffed into that suitcase, but more how you’ve handle them.
Looking at my own life, I can name some pretty heavy trinkets I’ve gathered during my 31 years on this planet. Let’s make a list:
- Friend was killed in a fatal car accident where I was the driver.
- From age 18 to age 24 I dealt with life’s problems by searching for answers in the bottom of a whiskey bottle.
- I’ve destroyed friendships and loves due to excessive drinking and a fiery temper.
- I got black out drunk, got in a fight, and woke up on a D.C. sidewalk in handcuffs.
- I married who I thought was the love of my life, learned she wasn’t for a variety of reasons, and subsequently got divorced.
- I have massive Student Loan debt.
- I didn’t speak to my brother for two years.
- I don’t always finish what I start.
- I failed the Bar Exam three times (I’ve since passed).
- I lost my job and am now unemployed.
I’m sure the list could go on, but those are the SportsCenter Top 10. These things don’t define me, but they are a part of me and are necessarily baggage that I carry around. I can’t dump the baggage because I would be dumping a part of myself. I can, however, own my past and understand how it has shaped my present to be the person I want to be. My best self.
Through therapy I came to terms with the guilt of my friend’s death. Through self control and determination, I stopped turning to alcohol has a bandage. There are relationships that I’ve broken beyond repair, but I’ve learned from my mistakes. I still talk to my ex-wife, even though it can cause headaches for other relationships (we have a child together so we will always have to be able to communicate).
Point is, that I’ve not let my baggage weigh me down. I’ve allowed it to shape me and I’ve learned from every experience and tried to grow as a person. I can’t have regrets because without the past I wouldn’t be who I am today. I wouldn’t have my beautiful 6 year old daughter. I wouldn’t have moved to the state of Washington. I wouldn’t have my law degree. I also wouldn’t have found the true love of my life.
Truth is, I’ve never been happier with life than I am right now. I am so thankful for how my past has shaped me for the better. I feel like I have found who my best self is and I strive for that every day. I often fall short, but I am grateful to God for all the good in my life.
I’ll end this post for now. It is 11:30pm here on the West coast and I am typing this on my phone while I clear my head walking around in the brisk night air. Plus my fingers are cold so I’m sure there are plenty of typos.
Don’t be afraid of baggage. It is what helps define us; just don’t let it weigh you down. Own the good and the bad and learn from everything.