The Things They Carried

"Always do what you are afraid to do"- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Once upon a time, I was a great basketball player. For a time in my life, everything was consumed by basketball. Everything was dictated by basketball. Everything was sacrificed for basketball. Then one day, I stopped playing. I walked away and never looked back.

The other day, I was trying to remember some moments from those days. Trying to pull the images to mind when everything hinged on a single shot, the clock ticking down, everything riding on the line. The game on the line. That all important thing dangling in that second. At that time, it always felt like life itself hung on that very moment.

It's funny now. I can't remember it at all. The memories blur together to form a bittersweet time of my life, a beautiful chapter, something I can only relive now by watching a documentary of those days that just happened to capture it.  It is experience I value, yes. But it is not any more weighted in mind or memory than say, the feeling of sleeping on the floor of my new apartment in Pittsburgh, standing on the Tube platform for the first time or walking around the townships in Cape Town with a 7 year old guide, maybe even less weighted.

It is funny to consider how something that once was so important can be all but forgotten. Instead, the things I carry with me are moments, experiences, feelings. And as I reflect on it, the things I carry with me are not at all what I thought I would. The moments that I often attribute the most weight, the most importance, rush past in a whirlwind of passion and emotion and then often leave as little as a whisper upon my mind. 

Instead I carry with me small moments, trivial oddities, profound revelations. Quiet moments on mountain tops. A taste, a few words of a song, a feeling of freedom. 

Yesterday, my sister recommend this blog about 75 Ways to Stay Unhappy Forever. And I had one of those perspective moments. The completely step outside of everything you are doing, thinking, feeling, fearing and stop moments. It was then that I tried to think about my life as a basketball player. My world revolved around basketball. Everything I thought I was, was related to basketball.

So why then did I try to think about it? Because I know now that who I am now and who I was then really have nothing to do with my success and failures as a basketball player. I defined myself by something I loved and ultimately ended up losing the thing I loved and my sense of self because of it. I look back on that time to check myself. I don't want any one thing in my life to ever again be able to rule every single thing I feel about myself. There will be success and failure. Joy and pain. Highs and lows.

The memory, or more the absence of a memory, reminds me the beauty and wonderment of life is not found in grand gestures, all important single defining moments or the sinking of a game winning free throw.

When it comes down to it, I'll take a life time of small beautiful things. There is no one defining moment in our lives. We cobble together the definition in the things we carry with us: a fading summer sky, a famous piece of stone, raw emotion, the sound of laughter, monk like musings at altitude, the feeling of the ocean on bare feet, an unexpected reminder, the relationships we build and cherish, simply being. Yep, that's what I'll carry.