Monday, October 20, 2014

Saying Goodbye to My Yellow Backpack

Ten years ago in high school, my then (and now!) best friend, Susanna, gave me this yellow Northface backpack.

At the time, I needed a new one and couldn't afford the then-trendy Northface packs being sported around school. When she gave it to me, it was practically new. Sue is and has always been there to help me out and keep me organized and on top of everything, even down to having a cool backpack.
The bag supported me and my books throughout high school, college and grad school. While I've never really been attached to stuff, something about that bag connected with me and I carried it for years. When I graduated grad school, I went traveling for 3 years around the world. I packed a traveling bag with clothes and my yellow Northface with the essentials I wanted close by.
Backpacking, for a long period of time shaped me and taught me things about myself that I was desperate to learn. There's a community among backpackers in which only the genuine are accepted, and the genuine are instantly accepted and loved. Lifelong friendships are formed in weeks and it seems that there are no outsiders. You can arrive in a hostel one day, and the next, be surrounded by a group of people you never want to leave. With each good bye, I packed my yellow bag and ventured to new hostels, new countries and met wonderful new friends. Some of those friends lasted as long as my stay, while some recently made the journey across the world to be at my wedding.
Traveling reinforced so many things about my personality that I knew, but were reinforced: adapting to change and new environments, chasing adventure, and working hard (more on that another day). What I didn't expect to learn though was how much stock I put in what other people thought of me at home. And how compelled I felt to measure up to what everyone else had or was doing. Without the pressure to have trendy, new stuff, I carried around my beat up old bag without giving it thought. No one commented on it and I never felt weird carrying it around. To be fair, most backpackers carried beat up old bags, but even still, you might know someone for weeks before they even asked you what you did for work back home. Because only the genuine survived in the backpacking world, anyone trying to be someone they weren't just to fit in, stood out and had a tough time connecting. This environment cultivated a true connection and a real appreciation for who I was. For probably the first time in my life, I was 100% myself all of the time. When you're truly connected with who you are, your inner voice and deeper desires connect with your thought process and have a much louder voice and provide a guidance that you simply can't ignore.

That inner voice was yelling for me to move back home and start the health coaching practice that would become Sweat and Butter.  I had been coaching clients along my travels but felt driven to come home and build a community that would guide and inspire them, as my travels had done for me. With me, I brought my yellow backpack. My first year home, I carried that thing around like a kid with a blanky. I carried it fearlessly to workshops, client sessions and corporate meetings.
Recently, I've become increasingly self conscious about walking into meetings with my beat up yellow bag. I went back and forth between, "It's me they're meeting, not my bag," to "First impressions mean a lot." Trading in my bag for a newer, more professional Michael Kors seemed like a betrayal to the powerful self confidence I gained on my travels. True to my ‘all or nothing’ tendencies, I attributed letting go of my bag to erasing everything I learned on my journey. I felt like moving home and fitting into trends meant that I had to let go of the confidence I carried with my Northface.
As my business grows, it is becoming more and more important to support my clients to stay true to themselves by staying true to myself in my practice. I encourage my clients to "fit out.”  What I've discovered in my struggle to let go of my bag is that you aren't defined by what you own or how you look. I preach it all of the time, and yet, fall prey to it myself from time to time anyway. What I didn't realize is that you can become equally defined by what you choose not to do, if the reason not to do something is out of fear of change and refusal to let go.
So today I ask you to bid my bag farewell with me. Across thousands of miles and over dirty floors, buses and business meetings, my bag has served its purpose.
Sibe on a bus with my bag. Ok, So we weren’t always slumming it.
As the zippers fall open unintentionally, and my belongings fall out on the sidewalk, my bag sending me a message. Move on, keep growing, and find a new bag to carry these changes through the next phase.

And as I move on, and my life continues to grow and change, my needs and my bag will too. Just like your body is always changing and it's important to not get stuck on one way of eating, your life will continue to grow and change and it's important not to get stuck on a belonging or in one way of living. Even if that way of life has served you in many ways, we're spirits born to ever shift and grow.
So share with me, what behaviors or belongings are you holding onto? Why are you holding on and what will change when you let go? 

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