Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What's In Your Backpack?

The other day I was sitting with friends talking about the future.   Where we want to go;  what we see ourselves doing in ten years and things we know we need to work on.   As we answered each others questions, I immediately realized what I was feeling.  Weighed down.  Weighed down by the amount of things going on in my life, the weight of stress my job can bring me, and how I let myself worry about things more than I need too.  Time is finally catching up with me and I am starting to run out of energy.

In the movie Up in the Air, George Clooney’s character, Ryan Bingham is a motivational speaker that often gives a talk called, “What’s In Your Backpack?”  He talks about how each of us is carrying around a metaphorical backpack that contains all of our possessions and commitments.  Our backpacks get heavier and heavier until they are so filled with “stuff” that it is nearly impossible to move.  Hence we feel the weight of our life.  Lately I have been feeling the weight of my own backpack and it only keeps getting heavier with time. 

George Clooney’s character argues that we should “set our backpacks on fire” and free ourselves from this burden.  This would be extremely hard for me to do.  There are so many things inside my backpack and I don't think I could bring myself to take anything out.  Inside my backpack are relationships, friends, family, work, my volunteering, my possessions, memories, my goals, worries, and so much more.   When I think about how much I make myself carry inside my backpack, I can't help but ask myself why?   Why put so much on myself when I know it will only slow me down that much more?

At the end of Ryan's (George Clooney's character) motivational talk, he encourages us to burn our backpacks so that we can see what we would really want to save if we could.  We would be forced to choose what really matters and would give us the opportunity to start fresh.  If my backpack is as heavy as it is right now, how am I going to fit more things inside in the future?  Of course it is not easy and it will take time for me to lighten my load.  Until then I need to be aware of how much I am carrying and putting on myself.  I can only carry so much and if I continue to stuff my backpack to its capacity, the straps will surely break and I will break as well.  One thing I do know for sure is that I will always carry my relationships.  No matter how weighed down they can make me feel at times, they are 100% worth it and I will never get rid of them. 

For those of you who have not seen the movie yet, I want you to read the speech so you can see how moving this portion of the movie is and if you have seen it, I encourage you to re-read it.  I hope it inspires you to think twice about how much you are carrying and if everything is necessary in your backpack? 

"How much does your life weigh?
Imagine for a second that you're carrying a backpack.
I want you to feel the straps on your shoulders. Feel them?

I want you to pack it with all the stuff that you have in your life.
You start with the little things.
Things on shelves, in the drawers, the knickknacks, collectibles.
Feel the weight it all adds up.

Then you start adding larger stuff.
Clothes, tabletop appliances, lamps, linens, your TV.
The backpack should be getting pretty heavy now.

You go bigger.
Your couch, your bed, your kitchen table, stuff it all in there.
Your car, get it in there.
Your home, whether it's a studio apartment or a two-bedroom house.
I want you to stuff it all into that backpack.

Now try to walk. It's kinda hard, isn't it?
This is what we do to ourselves on a daily basis:
we weigh ourselves down til we can't even move
and make no mistake; moving is living

Now, I'm gonna set that backpack on fire.
What do you wanna take out of it?
Photos? Photos are for people who can't remember.
Drink some ginkgo and let the photos burn.

In fact let everything burn and imagine waking up tomorrow with nothing.
It's kinda exhilarating, isn't it?
This is how I start everyday of my life.
Now this is gonna be a little difficult, so stay with me.

You have a new backpack.
Now this time, I want you to fill it with people
Start with casual acquaintances, friends of friends, folks around the office.

And then you move into the people you trust with your most intimate secrets.
Your cousins, your aunts, your uncles. Your brothers, your sisters, your parents.
And finally your husband, your wife, your boyfriend, your girlfriend.

Get them into that backpack.
Don't worry I'm not gonna ask you to light it on fire.
Feel the weight of that bag.
Make no mistake your relationships are the heaviest components in your life.

Feel the straps cutting into your shoulders.
All those negotiations and arguments and secrets, the compromises.
You need to carry all that weight.
Then you set that bag down.

Some animals were meant to carry each other to live symbiotically for a lifetime.
Star-crossed lovers, monogamous swans.
We are not those animals.

The slower we move, the faster we die.
We are not swans, We're sharks."

~ Up in the Air- 2009. 

What's in your backpack?  How do you keep it from weighing you down?  Are you a shark or a swan in this world?  Send me your thoughts or stories.  I would love to hear from you. 


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