Carrying Life’s Baggage

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People tend to make a big deal out of decisions. Is it the decisions themselves that are difficult, or rather consequences of those decisions that are hard to live with? Decisions are like the baggage of life that we carry around, while consequences are the contents inside those bags. We tend to spend more time worrying about what our bags look like on the outside. Meanwhile, inside those bags are things we wish we never brought along on this journey of life.

It is easy to make decisions when we do not understand the consequences that follow. Ignorance is blind, and often leads to foolish outcomes. Some psychologists have said that reasoning is established over time, still being formed in young people well into their twenties. Without this reasoning, young adults fall prey to poor decisions because they do not know the outcomes, some of which may last an entire lifetime.

At first, it does not seem fair that a person would have to pay for an unwise decision for the rest of their lives. The lack of fairness does not change the fact that decisions will always carry consequences, good or bad. The interesting part is that when we do not have the foresight to know what our consequences will be, we can always ask someone who might know. The trick is the handoff between those who have the knowledge and wisdom, and those who do not.

It is a humbling experience to admit when we do not know. But when we can ask for help, it can steer us clear of many poor decisions in life. It is not the decisions we should be mindful of as much as it is the consequences. Working to understand the consequences makes it easier upfront to decide, especially when we cannot live with certain outcomes. It is when we can avoid those outcomes and make the best decisions for our lives today that we will enjoy carrying life’s baggage.

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Trapped by a Memory

When I hear the word memory, I often jump quickly to a good memory. Of course, I have my share of bad ones too, but I choose not to dwell on them. Some memories were created or heavily influenced by others while the rest were born out of my decisions. We seldom think about it but when it comes to the latter, it’s important to remember that today’s decisions become tomorrow’s memories. A good question to ask ourselves before deciding is whether we will enjoy it later as a memory.

I consider myself better than most at making bad decisions. It comes totally natural for me, like a gift! We were given two things that tend to fight with each other, our head, and our heart. The clash takes place when our head knows better, but our decisions follow our heart. It’s commonly said to follow your heart, which might be good, unless of course your heart has been corrupted. There are times when our head can rescue our heart and also our heart can influence our head.

The heart is deeply affected by our feelings. When experiencing negative emotions, it is easy to become engulfed to the point that we ignore all rational thought. This is bad! Mainly because what follows afterward is a poor decision. Tragically this leads to even further despair. Sometimes we even get stuck in cycles, repeatedly making one wrong decision after another. It gets to the point that it can be hard to break free. It is not impossible though; it just takes a change of both mind and heart.

Before acting on a negative emotion, ask whether you will enjoy the memory of what could take place next. If you are not sure what could go wrong, tread carefully. This is where experience is the best teacher, although we suffer due to the painful consequences it brings.

Decide wisely. It is easy to become trapped by a memory.

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A Video Store Dream

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“Hey, Mom, can I go to the video store?”

“Sure,” echoed a sarcastic voice from the kitchen.

I thought to myself, well she did say yes, and that was good enough for ten-year-old me. So, off I went on my bicycle. It wasn’t just a video rental store, it had video games too. The whole ride there I thought about what game I would rent. There were so many that I wanted to try. I’m sure I was tired by the time I arrived because it was about four miles from my house. The single speed bike I had then required more effort than say a mountain bike or ten-speed. I got the game I wanted and eagerly peddled back home.

My excitement level was over the brim, ready to try the new game. I was not prepared to find my mother waiting for me with arms crossed, standing in the driveway. Her excitement level far surpassed my own, although I am not sure it was excitement. I must admit, there is a look that only a mother can give. It’s the kind that puts fear in your bones. I was ordered to come over to where she was. When confronting me about where I was, the bag in my hand gave it away.
Immediately I looked for the escape door! I knew I was in trouble. When I informed her that she said I could, she scolded me all the more. Then she snatched the bag with the video game in it.

“But Mom, I already paid the money to rent it.”

“Guess what?” she asked sternly. “You won’t be playing it! Should’ve thought about that before you went out and did something stupid like this. What if you were kidnapped?”

I had no answer for her. At that age, I was not aware of all the terrible things that could have happened on my little adventure.

“Was it worth it?”

“Yes,” I replied in a serious tone. “Yes, it was. I’ve dreamed about this day my whole life.”
After she huffed and puffed, and nearly blew my house down, I was grounded for two weeks. No video games. No bikes. My parents retell that story to this day, and it brings a familiar laugh. Fortunately for me, I’ve pursued much bigger dreams in the years since!

Live by Your Choice

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Are you the product of your choices or those of another? Hopefully, it’s the first because you are the one that has to live with those choices! The truth is most of us have given in to peer pressure at some point. Doing so causes us to lean toward other people’s choices in order to fit in with them. The voice inside that tells us not listen to them gets pushed back into the corner of our minds.

Young people get faced with this on a regular basis because peer pressure starts out early in life. It is a time when they are trying to figure out who they are and just want to be accepted. They haven’t realized yet that their opinion of themselves is far more valuable than anyone else’s opinion of them. Without knowing the consequences of their choices, they often let others choose for them. Sadly, the price can be severe enough to cause much heartache over the course of their lives.

There is a strong desire at that age to be either popular or be liked by popular people. Back then, we always rounded our age up, trying to get into the next bracket. In our rush to become adults, we were tempted to try things that made us appear like adults. Girls tried on makeup. Guys tried to shave before they even had facial hair. With all the variety of drinks we have available now, children are even drinking coffee now. They witness people smoking cigarettes, vaping, drinking alcohol, stealing, or doing drugs. Their eyes see things that they should not be seeing at their age.

Somehow one of their friends gets hold of something and the pressure starts to build. If strong willed, they may resist for a time. If enough pressure comes from the outside, without strength enough on the inside, its only a matter of time before they give in or are smart and run far from it. No one ever decides to become an addict. It doesn’t happen overnight, which is why most people get fooled, and certainly not to someone like them. It starts with the statement, “just this once”. After that, the trick is in thinking that it can be stopped any time. For some, that statement is true. But for the unfortunate rest, it might be too late, and they become enslaved to an addiction.

This is why parents and guardians always want to know, who do you hang out with? If you hang out with the wrong crowd, you will eventually end up doing the wrong thing. If you don’t know the consequences of the actions you are thinking about taking, talk to someone wise who does. Live by the choice of the one who should have the greatest interest in your choice, the one who stands to lose or gain the most because of it; you.

Hide and Seek

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One of my favorite childhood games was hide and seek. One child closed their eyes, while the others went and hid. The ages of those playing determined how secretive of a hiding spot they would find. The youngest picked spots where they were easily seen. While hiding behind a plant, their eyes were covered and they could not see the seeker, which meant to them that they themselves could not be seen. They had no idea half their body was exposed. If generous enough, the one searching spoke out loud their confusion as to where the others could be hiding.

As the years passed, I liked the game less and less. When it was too easy to find someone, the game had no challenge and interest was lost. If it was too hard, I simply gave up. Those still hiding long afterward found the latter to be particularly disturbing. When they came looking for me, a surprised look crossed their face to find me inside watching television.

In adulthood, this childhood game of times past is reinvented. We hide but no longer want to be found out. Instead of hiding from people, we learn to hide things from people. What is hidden depends on our level of integrity. The whole point of hiding things is because we don’t want them to be found. People have cheated on income statements, taxes, cost of services provided, etc. Many have cheated on their spouses or partners. Students have cheated on exams and homework. For those who feel guilty, they try to hide these things from other people.

Hiding things can be easy to get away with but there’s no guarantee it’s going to last. Those in hiding find out that someone eventually comes seeking. When found out, the seeker doesn’t greet with a smile and a laugh, like they once did. This time, those in hiding are often embarrassed, ashamed, and hurt by their own actions. Regret eats away at them. Loss, pain, and a host of other terrible things can result from choosing to live this way.

Just because you can get away with something doesn’t mean you should do it. Even if no one else finds out about it, you will still know. Chances are it will eat away at you. It can cause unexpected fights where you go off on someone else, when in reality, you are the one at fault. Deep down, you know you did something wrong. It is almost like having a tracking device hidden within your soul, waiting to be found. Best to stay clear of all this mess by making better choices, ones that won’t need to be hidden.

Only Me

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When upset or angry, there is often a temptation to become self-destructive in some way. We downplay things to justify our behavior. Whether we do it with intention or not, is not what this discussion is about. Should anyone care enough to call us out on our behavior, they are likely to receive a snippy answer. “What do you care, I’m only hurting myself ,” were the words I once heard, basically telling me to mind my own business.

It is easy to fool ourselves into thinking that the only harm will come to us. When contemplating cause and effect, there seems to be an infinite number of ways things could turn out. Every new variable added, adds a degree of complexity to any equation. To declare with absolute certainty a specific thing will happen is sometimes hard to prove. A common example of this is what people do with their bodies. Many people are quick to judge another by how they treat their bodies. Without getting into the different vices that affect our health, any and all of them have possible side effects eventually. In the short run, it may be true that you are not affecting anyone but yourself. However, if given long enough, something is guaranteed to happen that will affect another person or even many people.

Our health or the lack thereof affects our families, friends, and employers. They are the ones who visit us in the hospital. They are the ones who care for us when we cannot do it on our own. They too, pay a price for our decisions. When we aren’t feeling good, our productivity goes down. Our employers pay us the same wages yet get less output from us. We would never want to pay someone less when they are not working as hard, yet we expect employers to all the time. The list doesn’t stop there. It simply goes on in the unseen realm where any combination of things could happen.

It is a long chain of actions and reactions, linked together. When you actually care about someone’s wellbeing, it’s hard to accept that they sabotage themselves. But each person was given free will, who are we to take that choice away from them? We can pray for them and try to encourage them. Outside of these things, there is little we can do, since they may or may not accept what we want for them.

When it is you committing self-sabotage, recognize that others may suffer as a result of your action or failure to act. Neglecting what we ought to do in the name of self-sabotage is wrong and, in many cases, selfish. I’ve been there, done that and would be a hypocrite to say otherwise. Nonetheless, we should always strive to do the right thing, not just for ourselves but for others who may have to live with our decisions too.

Revise your Strategy

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If you have ever been disciplined enough to develop a strategy for life, that is awesome. My question for you would be when was the last time you reflected and revised it? Strategies can be highly effective but sometimes only for a period. In competition, if a person makes the same play repeatedly, their opponent will soon catch on. Charging headfirst into battle may work against one person but is a terrible strategy if going into battle against a hundred. The point is strategies must be reviewed to make sure they are still effective and giving the desired results. If not, then it’s time to make some adjustments.

Even worse is if you have no strategy at all to revise. You do have one but fail to acknowledge it. If you won’t take the necessary time to look deeply into your life, then your strategy is to have no strategy at all. By making no choice, life chooses for you. Life is filled with consequences, especially when we live with the mindset of whatever will be, will be. We either own our life or surrender it to circumstance.

I’ve wrestled over the issue of not strategizing in my own life. At my job, it is much easier to identify problems and work to find and implement solutions. But outside of work, it is so easy to let life happen to me rather than design the life I would like to live. My own lack of discipline led me to live without a strategy. After a long day at work, it is simply easier to let whatever comes next just happen on its own. Everyone is tempted by different things, but the downfall often lies in overconsumption. Too much television, time on phones, gaming, eating; all common things that make us slip.

Without a strategy in place, we fall prey to poor decisions. The common argument is that to live restricted is not to live at all. With that mindset, we feel robbed when we deprive ourselves of something. Unknowingly, we chain ourselves to all manner of addictions and lose freedom in the process. People often come up with new year’s resolutions, but the truth is, your strategy can be revised any day. The best choice is today, regardless of what day of the year it is. By putting forth thought and effort, you can create a strategy for your life that will in time deliver the life you want, not the one you must live with.