Thursday, September 27, 2012

In which I can't find my backpack

Today when my yoga class was finished, I went to grab my backpack. I had set it along the wall next to my Chacos, and figured that a Study Abroad backpack covered in buttons with various inspirational sayings would be fairly easy to find. I was wrong. It took me a good 30 seconds to find my stuff because, I kid you not, every backpack in that room was a Study Abroad backpack covered in inspirational buttons and every one of those backpacks had a pair of Chacos next to them.

Okay...I might be exaggerating the littlest bit. But...still.

For a minute there, I felt this strange surge of pride. I'm finally one of those people. One of those people who studies abroad and rock climbs and listens to weird indie music and hikes and takes yoga classes. One of those people I used to dream about becoming back when I was a wide-eyed freshman.

And then I felt a little bit self-conscious. If my yoga class is any indication, pseudo-granolas are a dime a dozen here at BYU. Why on earth did I idolize them so much when I was a freshman? They're just normal people. If I can be one, anyone can, yeah?

This led me to thinking, what good are the labels we give ourselves and others? Why was it so important to me to be one of "those people," and is that okay? I think felt uncomfortable at first because I was conceptualizing my goal (becoming a granola/hippie/whatever) with solely outward indicators (shoes, music choices, outdoor activities, tie-dye clothes). And that feels shallow to me. It feels wrong to measure my personal development by what I wear or listen to or do on the weekends.

And so today, I've been re-examining that dream of mine. And I think all of these external trappings were just the embodiment of a collection of character traits I wanted to develop. Among these personal traits were open-mindedness, physical fitness, serenity, connection with nature, mindfulness, adventurousness, boldness, joy, tranquility, compassion, and kindness. And the tangible objects that best fit my image of somebody who had developed these traits happened to include Chacos and rock climbing gear and Iron and Wine CDs and a passport full of stamps.

So, am I really of "those people" now? Depends. On the shallow, outward level...maybe, though I haven't gone hiking in over a month, I'm really not that good at yoga, and I listen to a lot more Ke$ha than I care to admit publicly. And on the deeper, more abstract level...definitely not. I've made great strides, to be sure. I consider myself far more adventurous, bold, calm, and open-minded than I was 4 years ago. However, I still have miles to go in terms of optimism, compassion, and kindness. And, sadly, all the tie-dye shirts and climbing shoes in the world won't get me one step closer to that goal. That is going to take real effort, introspection and time.

It seems a little silly that a simple event like not being able to find my backpack has thrown me into this kind of introspection, but I think it's valuable. I often run the risk of measuring my (and other's) personal worth by silly, shallow criteria. I probably needed this jolt to remind me that yes, I've got the shoes, the music, and the hobbies, but that doesn't mean I've got it made. And that the people I meet who like different music than me or who choose different ways to spend their weekends, may be way far ahead of me in terms of developing their inner selves. And while outward indicators can seem to indicate a person's personality and values, they are rarely reliable and never sufficient.


  1. This is a wonderful thing to reflect on–working towards our real goals and not just insufficient indicators. I'm glad you had this bit of introspection and I'm glad you've shared it so we can be reminded to do the same. Thanks!

  2. You are. More importantly you are YOUR OWN brand of pseudo-granola. People call me granola sometimes, but I don't even rock climb. :)

  3. this is beautiful and I love it - I think the hardest thing about becoming similar to something is wondering how the journey was to get there in the first place. I bet half the room has wondered or wonders or will wonder the exact same thing. thanks for sharing!