Lightening the Load

“50 years: Here’s a time when you have to separate yourself from what other people expect of you, and do what you love. Because if you find yourself 50 years old and you aren’t doing what you love, then what’s the point?”

– Jim Carrey

Here I am, exactly 312 days from my destination – age 50. For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been in deep thought about my present location on the journey.

Every day, posts on Facebook and Twitter keep reminding me to “do what’s in my heart” and “let go of that which does not serve me well”. Right now, the journey to Finding Fifty is a bit rocky – my mental backpack is weighted down by a heavy load of “what ifs” and “I wish I hads”. It reminds me of the scene in Cheryl Strayed’s Wild where she is attempting to put on her backpack and stand up to get back on the trail. She’s struggling wildly because the load is more than half her own weight.

Am I doing what I love? You know, it would be a shame to reach 50 and feel completely unsatisfied with life.  Am I holding on to things that no longer serve me well, and if so, WHY?

The answers would be “NOT REALLY”, “YES”. As for the “why”, well, sometimes I don’t know.

So, this past weekend, I let go of something that I thought was essential for my journey.

I withdrew from the graduate certificate program that I had recently started. I finally realized it was weighing me down with self-doubt and frustration. It was becoming a stressor. An obstacle.

I kept it in my “pack” for many reasons:

  • Because I felt it would be a tangible achievement that would have been completed right around my 50th birthday – another “piece of paper on my wall and something to add to my résumé”;
  • Because the program was part of a nationally-recognized academic program, and the association with it might have helped boost my prospects for future writing projects;
  • Because I was hoping to meet other like-minded writers, make connections, and learn some new things to help my craft.

But most of all, I held on to it because going to this university was something that, over 30 years ago, I so desperately wanted to do but wasn’t ready for it at the time – financially or emotionally. I was attempting to make up for a very big “IF”:

“If only I had submitted that college application back in 1983.”

I knew I was in the wrong place the moment I scanned the discussion board and saw that no one else in the group seemed to have the same reason for being there. I admired their enthusiasm and dedication to their jobs/careers… but they weren’t headed in the same direction as I was. I didn’t want to discuss theory and its application to my present job; I simply wanted to write about things that make me happy, sad, confused, and hopeful.

I had taken a brief detour on my journey. My pack was becoming too heavy. I needed to shed some weight, so I did. The moment I clicked the “withdraw” button on the registration screen, I breathed a sigh of relief.

Back on the trail again. This time, with a quicker, swifter pace – the strained expression on my face slowly beginning to relax as I thought of the prospect of being able to get back on the path toward finding myself at fifty and doing what I love.

worry backpack

Readers:  Tell me about your “mental backpacks”. Are they weighted down with things you don’t need? Can you get rid of some of those things, or is it not an easy decision as to what stays and what goes? Are you doing what you love right now, or, like me, are you on the path toward finding it? 

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