Growing up is hard. Life’s challenges come at you a mile a minute and the compound fractures your brain can accumulate from the stress number in the teens when you are trying to figure it all out. Life is hard and, unfortunately, for a young adult juggling the pressures of independence, relationships, finances, education and trying to figure out what to do with more decades ahead than you can fathom, it can be pretty darn overwhelming.
No one ever said pulling your own wagon was easy.
I remember when my daughter was little, we bought her a cool Radio Flyer wagon with removable wooden sides. Every evening, she wanted to take a ride all over the neighborhood in that Cadillac of wagons. As soon as she was big enough to walk and make her own demands known, she insisted on being the one to pull the wagon instead of ride. As tiny as she was, she tugged and pulled with all her might to move those four wheels forward. She quickly realized she didn’t have the might to pull Mom or Dad, but slowly accepted that she could, indeed, pull a few of her own stuffed and fluffed friends. And pull she did!
I think back about those wagon pulling sessions now with a different perspective and find an important lesson:
everyone has to pull their own wagon.
Coming of age is about teaching us to learn to separate ourselves from the challenges and struggles that weigh us down and hold us back. Learning how to distinguish that which ‘feels good’ versus ‘good for us’. It is a series of bumpy roads and switchbacks that put a lot of weight on us. It all forces us to learn who we are, what our character is composed of and helps us build the spiritual, emotional and mental muscles that will allow us to pull ourselves through life.
We get to choose if we will allow hitchhickers in the wagon to weigh us down and distract us from where we are going. The burdens of their problems and the distractions they can create can mire our wagons in the mud. It can slow us down, tip us over and – God forbid – break us. We have to ask ourselves – as we look at those friends and fellow travelers – are they pulling their own wagon? Or are they riding in ours?
We all own our own responsibility to know our strengths and limitations and map out our path ahead. Finding friends who can share the journey and walk along side of us on the path can be beautiful; but if they are putting their load in our wagon, the journey can quickly sour.
My heart is heavy for those who are struggling to learn how to pull their own wagons. It is not an easy, overnight lesson. It comes with years of bumps, skinned knees and tears. But each disappointment brings new learning. Don’t miss that part! Don’t skip the joy of “righting your wagon,” getting back on the path and pulling ahead. Don’t be afraid to take the path less-traveled or veer away from the pack and go alone.
And when you find yourself a few steps down a path that doesn’t feel like the right one, there is a pretty good turning-radius on that wagon – it is ok to turn around, go back and find the old path. No one will judge you when they see you coming back to start again. In fact, your truest friends will be waiting on the path with open arms to greet you with unabashed love and joy! That is what life is all about.
Most importantly, never lose the confidence that YOU can pull your wagon. It is yours. Don’t allow anyone to pull it for you or weigh you down with their baggage.
All you have to do is just jump up, grab the handle and go! Your world awaits!