Packing the 2016 Backpack

Image: Instagram @cotopaxi

Image: Instagram @cotopaxi

One of my favorite books is Wild by Cheryl Strayed and there’s this absolutely fabulous scene where she’s preparing for her 1100 mile hike on the great Pacific Trail. She’s in this old rundown motel room near the trailhead, the backpack that eventually becomes her closest companion leans against the bed and neatly spread out on the dingy bedspread is everything she’s planning on taking with her.

The list of items conjures up images of what it might feel like to win an REI shopping spree. Tent. Sleeping Bag. Water. Food. Cooking supplies. Maps. Favorite books. Condoms. And that’s just the beginning. There’s something eerily familiar about all these “essentials” she packs. Anything and everything that might be necessary to survive out in the middle of nowhere with no one to save her but herself. 

After several hours of packing there’s nothing left to do but start. She bends down to lift her pack onto her back and… nothing, nada, zilch. The pack moves not a cenimeter. It sits in the middle of the room looking more like a 2-ton elephant refusing to move than a simple backpack. She uses two hands, bends, puts her legs and a big ole “RRRRRRggggghhhh!” giving it everything she’s got. Still nothing. Not even the slightest budge. In that moment, you can feel the sound of a needle on a turntable scratching the entire A side of a record, all her aspirations coming to a screeching halt.

The irony is she absolutely must get this thing on her back if she’s going to walk…ELEVEN HUNDRED MILES. Desperate she places the pack on the floor, lays down on top of it, and buckles herself in. She teeter-totters side to side getting enough momentum to finally roll herself over onto her stomach, the pack landing with a thud on top of her. With a deep breath she crawls to her hands and knees, and pulling herself up by the edge of a table, she’s finally able to stand. 1100 miles lie ahead of her and the backpack that affectionately becomes known as “Monster”.

With every step she takes you can feel the enormity of the 70lbs of “essentials” (these “essentials” more than 1/2 her body weight). She commits to carrying this, and so much more.

As we step into 2016 I can’t help but think about the equal enormity of what we each carry as we head out on the trail of a new year. The new, open and undiscovered trail that lies ahead has me more thrilled with anticipation than in recent years, and perhaps this is what has my attention on the backpack I must pack diligently of the “essentials” for my own personal year-long journey of overcoming, discovering and creating. 

In the past I’ve packed my own “Monster” just as Cheryl did, erring on the side of caution, taking everything I believed I would need to survive in the uncertain, the unknown, the yet-to-be-experienced. 

Being absolutely deliberate and keenly mindful–actually planning what I’m taking–this is new for me. I’m a doer, a scrambler, a reactor. I wing it and play-it-by-ear, wanting as much flexibility as possible to take things as they come, always being “sort of prepared”. (My own irony is my background is in brand “planning”–admittedly easier to do for someone else than for yourself, for your own life). 

It’s funny. As I look back, that desire for flexibility resulting in the “sort of prepared” mentality, more often than not has caused me to grossly over-estimate exactly what was really needed. And I realize now this the type of rookie-move that causes enormous pain and sorrow, and often results in the sad reality of under-achieving my greatest desires. 

I don’t know if it’s Mercury Retrograde, my maturity, or the types of desires I hold, but this year feels different for some reason than the previous. I have no desire to scramble and react, to be a rookie, nor to carry a Monster on back any longer. 

So I’ve been asking myself, “What do I really need to carry into 2016?” What is absolutely necessary and essential for me to achieve the vision I hold for myself? 

The truth is I don't need much. Very few things are really essential. And if I get really honest with myself, there’s not much I want to take with me. 2015 was what I’d refer to as a “doozie” and I’d just assume leave most everything there. 

So I’m leaving what I previously determined to be essentials. First and foremost I’m leaving the my fear. But not all of it because I truly believe we need to be a little bit scared to stretch ourselves and up level our game; I'm leaving the fear that pins me down and stops from realizing my dreams, definitely not invited.

I’m leaving my fear of taking physical risks like surfing bigger waves and skiing steeper terrain, which really are more about my fear of not being good and therefore not succeeding. While I’m at it I’ll also leave my newest and more paralyzing fear of actually succeeding (and where that came from I have no idea but it’s certainly not making things easier or more fun). I’m definitely letting go of perfection and the dull ever present hum of the worry of not being liked and not belonging, because this is absolutely holding me back from the greatness I know I’m capable.

I’m also done with the concept of “survival”. My whole life I’ve been in “making ends meet”, “covering my ass”, and “just enough” mode. That is a heavy load to carry creating that dreaded sense of lack, less and limits, and leaving little room for spontaneity and wonder. And while I’m at it I think I’ll also leave behind making a fool of myself, procrastination, struggle, the icky concept of “stuck”, the limiting idea of enough, and any form of not believing in myself.

I absolutely will take all the beautiful memories of Pancho. And I’ll take my writing, yoga, running, surfing and great affection for anything outdoors and in nature. Oh, and I can’t forget to pack my curiosity, my creativity, my imagination, my strength, nor my big open heart. I’ll make sure and take the lessons I’ve learned through the important, yet painful, failed attempts that have absolutely made me stronger, more me. And of course I’ll take the successes.

Instead of being weighed down and coming up short of what is actually possible, this is the year of :

  • fully expressing my bright, powerful, gloriously golden light regardless of what others think,
  • moving forward even if it’s only one step at a time, 
  • reigniting my enthusiasm and passion for what’s really important, 
  • creating an overwhelming sense of urgency for what I really really want, 
  • and knowing I can be, do and have anything I set my mind to. 

It’s also the year of leaping even when everything inside me says it’s too scary, it’s too risky, it’s not quite perfect. 

So with that in mind, I better make sure to pack magic, courage, action, gratitude, and a good supply of my unique brilliance. And for sure mint chocolate chip ice cream to make even the hard days seem all that more magical and sweet and my big-ass smile because it can absolutely power-up mine and anyone else’s day!

What I know for certain is I’m making plenty of room for all the MORE–the awesome unfathomable and unexpected miracles–I discover along the way.

My wish is for your 2016 backpack, just like mine, to be filled with what’s really essential, what’s truly needed, to have the courage to leave behind all that weighs you down and holds you back from what you are absolutely capable–which is a whole lot more than you think–and to leave plenty of room for the miraculous that's sure to pass you by if you're already to overloaded. Happy packing! (If you're looking for ideas of what to leave behind this year, check out MoreSeekers recommendations in Fast Company Magazine)

With MORE:love,

Melissa