Baggage ClaimI just returned from a trip to Minnesota, and I’m sitting here writing and staring at my suitcase. Those of you who know me are familiar with my fascination for the things we tote around with us. (For proof of this, reread Relevance from Afar.) And yet, as much as I put off packing until the last minute–and have been known not to unpack for up to a month–I’m still intrigued by what we decide to put in the baggage that we lug around.

Packing, for me, is haphazardly tossing random things into a suitcase, then systematically combing through all of it and deciding what stays and what goes. This second process of choosing what to carry is what I find so arduous, and so interesting, because we are all a product of this baggage that we carry.

Some will argue that we don’t choose life’s baggage, that’s assigned to us, or even that it chooses us. I disagree. While we can’t help what we’re handed in life, it’s up to us how we carry it and whether we let it weigh us down or make us stronger. It’s one thing to drag around what we’re given. It’s another, entirely, to know that we can then choose what stays and what goes if we’re just willing to put in the painstaking work.

I have spent many years eradicating baggage from my life, letting go of situations that weigh me down, taking things that aren’t working and putting them out to pasture, holding on to the things that matter, taking the opportunity to understand the baggage that others carry, and all of it can be summed up as the practice of creating a strong and peaceful heart and learning to wear it on my sleeve.

And now?

Well, now I think that if you’re willing to take the painful inventory of these things you carry, and you realize they’re necessary to your life, then carry them. Claim them as your own and carry them with pride. But let’s not forget that the more you travel, the less you pack. The more you put yourself out there–and here is where the heart on the sleeve comes in–the more you hone in on what you truly need.

So here I sit and stare at my suitcase filled with necessary items for December in Minnesota: sweaters, knee socks, a coat for shaking off the cold, hammers for the class I traveled to take, and all the other things I deemed necessary; and a detail springs to mind from, no kidding, David and Goliath. The detail is this: When David faced Goliath, he did it without armor. He did this because the armor was too heavy.

When the very stuff that’s protecting you no longer fits, when it makes you unable to move, it’s time to take it off. Let it go.

Walk on without it.

Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, and is a multi-blogger, poet, and traveler. To learn more about her current writing projects, or for ways to donate toward their completion, see