Carrying Life’s Baggage

Photo by Max Ocon on

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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An Unexpected Coach

Photo by Jopwell on

This photo reminded me of someone in my life who played an unexpected role that I will share more details about later. When I see many golfers today, they are dressed to impress. In addition, strapped to their golf carts are some of the finest golf bags, filled to the brim with expensive sets of golf clubs and accessories. As a young man in his mid-twenties, my older brother discovered the game of golf. However, he had none of those fanciful things. He bought a cheap set of clubs from a yard sale. The bag showed its age, partially dilapidated but still capable of getting the job done. Inside it was an old set of irons and woods. They, too, had seen better days, yet were still capable of sending that little ball flying.

Before he died, he tried to get me to play golf with him. Eventually he found a better set of clubs and gave his first set me. I resisted his efforts though and we never played on the golf course together. He seemed to enjoy it enough that he went without me. One day he gave me some plastic golf balls with holes in them and informed me that I could practice out in the yard. After a brief demonstration, I could see that he was right. The way they were designed, they did not have the ability to go far.

We played a little bit in the yard, but it never amounted to much. To me, I could not see the point in hitting such a small object, at times wildly, and then searching for it when it got so easily lost. All evidence showed me that it was purely a game of frustration, a treasure hunt I had no interest in. Back then, I had other interests that were pursued, but golfing was not one of them. Later, he died, and I never got a chance to play a real game with him. I soon felt the sting of regret.

Years later, I changed jobs and made new friends at work who enjoyed golfing too. By that point, I had become bitter about the subject of golf. For years, I lived with the regret of not doing something with my brother that he really enjoyed. It took quite a bit of convincing on their part to get me to go out onto the golf course. I still remember the first time I played. It was on a small, nine-hole municipal golf course. I was decent at minigolf, but when it came to the real thing, it was something else entirely. At first when I watched others do it, I thought, how hard can it be. I hit my first drive and where it stopped, nobody knows! Must have been something wrong with the club, better try another. Then another. Wouldn’t you know in that whole lousy mismatched set missing random clubs, there wasn’t any that worked well. No wonder my brother and the previous owner got rid of them! By hole seven, I had given up all hope of ever playing golf again. The only redeeming factor was that I enjoyed driving around on the golf cart.

At that time, the fall leaves on the ground made finding the ball even more difficult. That one experience golfing was it for me that year. But the following spring came around, and my friends from work were after me again. A league forming and one of them needed a partner. I was a little hesitant at first, but eventually agreed to join them. One of them took me on as a “project”, even though he was on the opposing team. We played every week until the end of the season. Under the guidance of my unpaid trainer, by doing what I was told to do, my golf game got much better. It turned out to be fun when I could find my ball, although the golf cart was still the highlight of my experience.

I played for a number of years after that, with many different players. Thanks to the help of my dear friend early on, who became like family to me, I came to really enjoy the game of golf. It was something my brother wanted me to enjoy with him, but I missed out on. In my regret, I stayed away from golf altogether. Had it not been for my faithful friend, I would have missed out on it. But he was willing to teach and encourage me through the struggles and gave me something he was not even aware of. His efforts helped me recover from regrets that I lived with for years. One day, I took time to explain all this to him and expressed my gratitude for the gift he gave me.

Whether it is through friends or family, the gift of recovery is often needed during life’s unexpected circumstances, such as death or family hardship. In the weeks following my brother’s death, so many people chipped in to make life easier for my family. Every time we turned around, someone was dropping meals off at our home, providing much-needed relief during those tough times. I’ve watched similar responses when people were hospitalized. People that care enough, act and provide relief in whatever they can. Who knows when we might be the recipient of such needed care. When you begin to understand how truly remarkable it is to give like this, then perhaps you will understand more the value contained within.

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