Two weeks ago, I went on a week-long trip to Guam for our dad’s birthday. It’s the first long trip I’ve had since Europe in 2011, and packing for a trip that long is a little bit of a challenge. But since I had nothing to do that weekend (aside from the fact that there was a typhoon), and in an effort to get more organized with my packing and reduce pre-trip stress, I made a list early Saturday morning of all the things that I need to bring for my trip.
It worked, sort of. I was able to finish packing most of my things that night, and then I had little stuff to worry about by Sunday. But for some reason, my bag seemed to be a little heavier than I expected. Perhaps I over packed? But I didn’t think about it much, because hey, what if I need to wear a dress sometime that week? I was planning to go for a run everyday while I was in Guam, so I need to bring work out clothes. And then, since I was bringing a dress, I would need shoes, right? Oh, and I can’t always wear flats, so I need sneakers, too.
My luggage was well below the allowance, so I figured it’s all good. Maybe it’s just my bag that’s making things a little heavier. Either way, I was ready to go. And I didn’t even stress over any of my stuff.
* * *
I was writing my review of Allison Vesterfelt’s Packing Light: Thoughts on Living a Life with Less Baggage the other day on my book blog when I had a little epiphany of sorts. Her book was all about baggage, and what it does to us, and why we need to let go. Why packing light is a good thing because it makes the journey just a little easier. Not a lot, mind you, but a little. You don’t need too much stuff when you go on a trip, really. Just the essentials. It’s just that sometimes, we mistake the non-essentials for the essentials, because we can’t help but think: What if I need this? I’m pretty sure I’d wear this at some point. I really need three shoes for this. Or, how we always need to have extras for emergencies, even if that emergency is always so far off. We just want to have options, really, so it would be easier to make a decision because we have a lot to choose from. There’s something safe about having options, right?
But what if being safe hinders you from enjoying your journey?
Options make decisions really hard and really messy.
– Packing Light by Allison Vesterfelt, p. 72
And then I thought of those little lessons I’ve been learning in the past months, especially after I got back from Singapore. I wondered if that thing about packing light also applies to that, too.
* * *
On my way home from Guam, I almost exceeded my luggage allowance.
It was the peanut butter’s fault. It’s a known fact that Reese’s peanut butter is cheaper in Guam, so we bought a lot of it to bring home to people. Of course, I shopped, too, so there were more clothes than usual, and then there were the clothes I used over the week-long trip and unused clothes because I didn’t wear about a third of the clothes I packed. Yes, I didn’t wear the dress. Or one pair of shoes. I had 3kgs left from when I left, so I was kind of worried when I was packing my stuff again that I’d exceed my luggage allowance.
When we got to the airport, it was 24kg, 1kg above the allowance.
It was a good thing that my brother had space in one of their suitcases, so we transferred two jars of peanut butter in their bag (trivia: 2 jars of peanut butter = 1.1kg). My luggage is now 22.9kg, 0.1kg shy of the allowance. It got in fine, but it was heavy, and it was a hassle to fix the stuff again in the airport. Don’t get me started on our hand carry luggage, which we had to do a lot more shuffling around before we finally got our boarding passes.
And don’t get me started on when we had to bring our luggage to the TSA counter. That’s another story in itself.
But that part, before our trip home even started, it was stressful. So stressful that it almost made all the shopping and the peanut butter we had almost not worth it. I mean, sure, we wanted it, but was it worth the hassle? I started thinking: if only I didn’t pack that extra pair of shoes, or I never really used that dress anyway, so it’s just additional stuff, and Why oh why did I over-pack? If only I had left that pair of shoes I never wore, or just left the extra shirts I brought that I never wore, or limited my workout clothes to two (the total number of days I went for a jog while I was there), then maybe I wouldn’t have to re-pack my stuff and move those two jars of peanut butter in another suitcase at the airport.
* * *
One of my best friends told me, in a serious conversation we had one time, how he has learned to ignore things that don’t matter to him. How he doesn’t dip his toes in issues that doesn’t involve him directly even if everyone’s so worked up on it. It’s not that he doesn’t care; he just doesn’t let it bother him. He would listen to me rant about it, sure, but at the end of the day, he lets it go and it doesn’t bother him in his sleep.
The context of the conversation would be a little complicated, so I won’t go there. But I remember my reaction when he said that to me: But I’m a girl! I just think about these things! It’s in my nature!
But what if it isn’t? What if it’s not a question of nature? What if it’s really just because sometimes I blow things out of proportion? Like I make all the small things matter, because I feel like it’s all about me, me, me? When really, it’s not? What if I know that I can choose to just let it go and let it not bother me, because it’s not my battle to fight, anyway?
Often it’s easier to just think it’s yours and be on the offense, because no one messes with you (or the people you care for, for that matter). But what if it’s really not messing with you, anyway?
What if you are the one messing with it?
* * *
The thing I realized about packing light while I wrote my review is how similar it is to what I’ve been telling myself in the past few weeks: pick your battles. And by battle, I don’t mean fights or arguments alone, but you know, the things that matter to you. Like how you choose friends. How you choose the things you care for, the principles you value and the things that you will allow to affect you. What you deem important are the only things that really matter. You don’t choose to care about strangers as deeply as you care for your core people. In the same way, you should choose which things you will think about, which things you will care about and yes, fight for, because they are the more important things for you. The rest you let go because they’re irrelevant to you, and you don’t need them, anyway.
It’s like packing a suitcase for a trip. You decide not to bring that shoes because you won’t need it for the trip — even if you think you may need it. If you end up needing it but you don’t have it, then you just make do with what you have. Because you don’t really need it anyway. You just want to have it with you. But that would account for extra pounds in your bag that could have been put to other good use.
You don’t bring everything in a trip. You only bring the essentials. The extra space you get by removing the non-essentials will be filled by your journey, and you’d want to have that space because it’s far more important to make space for that than the your baggage. That’s why one packs light sometimes, right? So you’d have room for the souvenirs and the lessons and the newer things your trip will teach you.
I must pick my battles because I can’t possibly fight all of them. I don’t have to fight all of them. I’m not meant to. Some of them aren’t my battles. Some don’t need any fighting. Some are just not worth fighting for at all.
You choose which things really matter, and you let go of everything else.
* * *
One of the hardest parts of packing light, I’ve learned, is that it’s as much about what you take with you as it is what you leave behind. Letting go of everything isn’t the answer. In fact, sometimes letting go is the easy part. But packing light isn’t as simple as throwing up our hands and leaving everything up to God. It’s as much about holding on as it is about letting go — and knowing the difference between the two.
It matters what you put in your suitcase.
–Packing Light by Allison Vesterfelt, p. 194