My former professor, Linda Taylor, posted about a writing assignment she gave her students based on Tim O’Brien’s book, The Things They Carried. I liked the idea of digging through my bag to learn what the things I carry every day say about who I am and what I care about. Let’s explore!
My blue and red North Face backpack saw me through all three years of college. It’s been stuffed to the limit with books on the days when there was no time to go back to my dorm between classes. It withstood three seasons of Indiana’s rain and snow. It’s been squished under seats and in overhead bins on flights home for Christmas break. It traveled with me to the Bahamas, Northern Ireland, and Tajikistan. It has been on mountain peaks and beaches and in bazaars. And now, it’s coming to grad school with me. Some of the things I fill my backpack with these days are the same as I’ve always had and some are new.
My planner is an ever-present item in my bag when I leave the house. I need a transportable place to keep track of assignments and meetings now that I’m in school again. I got this one on New Years Eve, all starry-eyed about what was ahead of me. Its cover is soft pink and velvety smooth with shiny gold details and its typography is mid-century modern. It felt well suited to 2016.
On the key ring I usually have stored in a side pocket of my backpack are two discount cards—one for the drug store, one for the grocery store. I like having them on my key chain as well as in my wallet so there is less chance I’ll end up at a checkout line without them. My mother raised me to always be on the alert for a good deal, and discount cards help me save money almost effortlessly.
I’ve stashed away (and mostly forgotten about) a tube of lipstick and another of lip gloss. They are there for those occasions when I might need to look a touch fancier at a moment’s notice.
Folded up in the front pocket of my backpack is a reusable grocery bag. I put it there hoping I’ll remember it for those quick stops at the grocery store when I need to pick up a few items on the way home from school. Carrying a cloth bag out of the store gives me a sense of satisfaction plastic bags never do.
These ordinary objects, hardly worth examining, represent growing up, taking responsibility, expanding the realm of my practical knowledge. They are symbols of what I want to become, the changes I want to manifest at this time in my life. They help me make plans, save money, look the part, generate less waste, and get stuff done. With these items and in the best way I know how, I am looking forward, moving ahead, growing.
What’s in your backpack or purse? What items do you carry with you every day and what do they say about you?