It was below freezing and I was sweating profusely. A light snow dusted the ground, hiding small patches of ice that littered the rocky trail and made each step questionable.
It wasn't supposed to be a tough hike, but the weather, the extra clothing, and the weight on my back were all adding to the challenge.
I generally hike alone and for a short trek like this one I wouldn't have brought a backpack. However, a friend came along this time and insisted that one of us bring a bag for food, water, and extra warm gear.
I always prefer a challenge so I asked to be the one to carry the bag. But halfway up the trail, sweating, and out of breath, I suffocated my ego and handed the bag over to my friend.
Without the bag, my body felt so light. I began hopping from rock to rock, practically running up the mountain without so much as an elevated heart rate.
The freedom was exhilarating.
And then I landed on a patch of ice and almost slipped.
I was so free of that weight, so free of the burden of carrying that bag, that I had nothing holding me back. There was nothing slowing me down and I almost lost sight of reality.
I could've slipped and broken my leg. I could've fractured my spine and become paralyzed from the neck down, preventing me from ever reaching the summit of a mountain again.
All weight isn't bad. All things that hold us back are not bad.
Earth's gravity holds us back, but it also keeps us from floating off into outer space.
Time holds us back, but it also keeps us humble and reminds us what's important.
My backpack held me back, but it also kept me from leaping onto slippery rocks.
Sometimes we need to carry things with us to make us better prepared for what's ahead. If we start eliminating everything from our life just because we deem it unnecessary, we had better be ready to accept responsibility for all that extra freedom.
We had better be ready to do something with all that extra potential.
Minimalist aspirations must be accompanied with a willingness to accept responsibility for the freedoms we inherit. Otherwise, minimalism is nothing more than a selfish attempt at tricking life into giving us more than we deserve.
Instead of dropping the weight and getting high on freedom -- whether it's freedom from expectations, material possessions, lifestyle commitments, or a backpack -- we need to ask ourselves why we're freeing ourselves and what we're going to do with that freedom.
My friend and I reached the summit safely. I was thankful for the extra gear in the bag when the sweat on my hands and face began turning to ice in the sub-zero wind chill.
All weight isn't created equal. Eliminate what you don't need, but be proactive and make decisions based on your long-term goals.
Before you eliminate something from your life, define exactly why it needs to be eliminated and then examine how you will use the resulting freedom. Potential without direction is inert.