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What's In Your Backpack?

I was at my son's baseball game last night, explaining to The Spouse how I had compared adding up negative experiences to adding bricks to a backpack and then wondering why you can't perform your best.  Before I finished my story, he said, "Yeah, like George Clooney."  

"Up in the Air...."
"The movie!  Clooney's character talks about that."
"WHAT!  I wrote about it yesterday in my blog! I haven't even SEEN the movie!!"

So apparently, I am not as creative nor as brilliant as I thought.....(it is not the same thing I am still taking credit for good parenting!  He wouldn't get the adult version.  I do.....ugh...but he wouldn't.  He would cry if we lit his backpack full of video games on fire.)

I have been thinking about this backpack thing though as I watched the kids play ball.  Some of them followed the same pattern as my son....loading up their backpack with bricks with each miss or poor pitch.  Others became more determined....hunkered angry.  Instead of "loser" or "you can't do it" their inner dialogue ran something like: "STUPID, STUPID STUPID!"   They got angry.  Different brick, but much the same effect.

Only once, have I ever met someone who seemed to be able to keep their inner dialogue tuned in to a positive channel.  Never mind not adding bricks, she seemed to have a backpack full of rainbows and puppies!  

When I was 24 years old, I decided to take a year off after university to travel before I attended teacher's college.  At least that's  the way I like to remember it. The reality was, I applied to teacher's college but didn't get in......anywhere.  Twenty-four might sound old to be finishing university, but it was the days of grade 13 and when a four year university degree with two teachable subjects gave you the best shot at becoming a teacher. 

What I had really wanted to do was to take a year off after high school to travel (where I thought I was going to get the idea....) but my parents basically bribed me to head straight to university, as they feared I wouldn't go on to further education if I got a taste of working and my own money.  It was pretty smart of them...and maybe they thought I would forget their promise of cash for travel during the four years of my undergrad degree (um, no, by the way). 

After my last "thank you for your application. Unfortunately....." letter I filled out an application from a program called S.W.A.P. (Student Work Abroad Program) and decided my I would head to Australia to work and travel for a year (there were so many other country choices but I was intimidated by the language barrier.  At least in Australia I figured I could manage the accent and would have a better shot at getting a job).

My parents and I went to the "meet and greet" session with other parents and students in Toronto to review the program, meet fellow travelers and get our hands on all the paperwork required for a foreign, temporary work visa.   There I met Kim, newly graduated from high school and also off to Australia.  We soon realized we lived not too far apart and would keep in touch over the summer and meet up at the airport in Toronto when we flew out.

Once in Australia, we both had a bus pass and like many of our fellow travelers, we hauled our gigantic backpacks on and off our backs as we drove around the country, stopping in various towns to crash at a hostel for a few days and take in the sights.  We actually had our packs weighed and mine came in at 72 lbs and Kim's at 90 lbs.  Kim was taller than me, and more athletic and seemed to manage her pack without any trouble. She actually skipped with it on sometimes.  

While bus was the most economical way to travel around the country, it often dumped you off at your destination of choice in the middle of the night after a long, sweaty, smelly drive.  No matter what the time of day or night, Kim seemed to be able to fall asleep immediately on the bus.  And no matter the time of day or night, when I poked her awake, she woke up with a smile on her face.  Happy to be wherever...happy to know a van would take us to some hostel...happy to grab her GIANT back I said...rainbows and puppies!

Sometimes I would wake her up just for fun.  
"Are we there?" she whisper through her sleepy smile.
"Oh.  Sorry. No." 
"No worries!"  Another smile and off to sleep again.

There was not getting this girl down.  And the worst part annoyed me. How could anyone be so happy? 

Once, when a bunch of us were staying in a holiday hotel (ok so it was 10 of us in a two bedroom place) I actually got so frustrated with her cheery attitude I physically tackled her.  I implied it was all in jest but in reality, she was sitting, I was standing...had leverage...I was gonna sit on her till she finally complained.  Instead, she flipped me onto my back and sat on me, pinning my hands to the ground on either sides of my ears.  

As I spat out curse words, she just laughed at me--still thinking it was a joke and not understanding that I would have slapped her...if only I could have moved....

So why did her sunny outlook on life drive me nuts?  Jealousy?  For sure!  I wanted a piece of that but because I was so used to complaining as my default, her joy somehow felt like a deficiency in me.  Misery loves company as they say and nothing showed this to be more true than that exact moment in my life (some 23 years ago I remember it like it was yesterday!)

Kim is my Facebook friend, though we drifted apart years ago.  She is married with a few kids, is a teacher and whenever we do connect for a chat, seems to continue own that damn rainbow puppy backpack!   I am going to send her a message today and see if she can share any wisdom about how she did it/does it that will make any sense to me now that I am doing the soul work I have so needed for years.  

Work in Progress.....


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