Carry only what you need

“Carry only what you need.”

I don’t remember where those five words came from, but I’ve made them mine. It’s become a life mantra: less authoritative than scripture, but just as necessary.

Every day, we carry stuff – good and bad. Things like love and pain, fear and hope.

Sometimes the stuff is light – so light we forget there’s anything in our hands.

Sometimes the stuff is heavy – so heavy we can’t forget there’s something in our hands.

And sometimes we’re carrying so much stuff that it doesn’t really matter how light or heavy the individual things are.

Regardless of what we’re carrying or how heavy it is, we should always be certain that it’s necessary.

Bearing burdens isn’t always bad. Heavy loads can make us stronger and build up our endurance in the future. Trials and challenges force us to learn how to deal with the uncomfortable parts of life that require maturation and refine our character. And we need that.

Some of the heavy things we carry only stick around for a little bit. Things like heart-break and failure can be momentarily uncomfortable, yet have the potential to shape us into better versions of ourselves.

But there are times when heaviness isn’t necessary. Life is full of mistakes and imperfections, which can quickly fill our hands with regret and shame. And since life is so dynamic and filled with endless opportunities for us to mess up, our loads can quickly start to get heavy, and not in the good, character-building way.

At the beginning of the summer, I made the decision to drop all the things I was carrying just to be carrying, and it was incredibly hard. I made a conscious effort to stop focusing on the ways I don’t measure up to my peers, the ways I’ve failed myself and the ways I feel others have failed me. But I never realized how quickly all those things find their way back into my hands.

Only carrying what I need has become a daily task. It’s the intentional process of identifying when I’m allowing negative thoughts or feelings to cloud everything else. It’s choosing to replace them with positivity and figuring out how I can let them make me a stronger person.

Life can be really hard, especially when so many of us are focused on figuring out how to live it well. It’s easy to get caught up in stress, frustration and shame, but it’s essential that we learn how to determine which experiences and feelings are worth holding on to and which we don’t need to carry.