Everything I need to carry can be configured to fit into my backpack. I place my computer at the back because it’s a larger object. Then, still close to the back (so that the pages won’t get ruined) comes my notebook with its detachable pages. I dread ruined pages. After that comes three binders and other smaller items such as reading books, a planner and pencil case. The planner is on top and the pencil case next to it. This way, the levels are even. In the smaller front pocket I carry a pair of earbuds.
When I didn’t need to worry about being organized or keeping my bag light, I stuffed everything into my bag haphazardly: the larger notebooks in front and my smaller planner in back. The planner was spiral bound and contained the inner workings of my life, including a page of doodles my best friend had shown me how to do. So the spirals came undone and I lost the page of doodles. It was dreadfully ruined by the weight of too many heavy books; too many things to do. Not that it mattered so much then – that is until I lost my friend. As the planner unraveled and the doodles fell out and were crushed, the spirals that held my friends close to me came undone. Yet, instead of relieving weight like the ruined planner, it shifted to settle in my heart, a small spiral bound burden of many mistakes and grievances. Now, I pack everything as neatly as I can inside the backpack.
I used to await the last few days of summer with anticipation because I got to go shopping for school supplies and buy notebooks by the dozen. Colorful, blank and inviting, these notebooks were always ready to be filled with another year’s worth of learning. Of course, that much paper weighed quite a lot, but I didn’t need to carry all of it everyday and at least it didn’t get any heavier as time went by. Now I carry empty binders, somewhat colorful but glaring. Their complete emptiness dampens any feelings of anticipation. I carry them everywhere I go, in my backpack and in my mind. Even in my sleep. They sag already with the prospect of how full they will become, heavy with the weight of expectation. However, there is no option but to fit them in my backpack.
A pair of earbuds weigh very little. On the outside, they fit nicely and neatly into the smaller pocket of my backpack, or even in my pocket when I need them to. But inside, they hold infinite possibilities and beauty: all the music I could potentially listen to. The thin white wire conceals a violin and a bow and all the years I have spent learning to use the instrument over hours of practice. The thought of the earbuds weigh down on me sometimes when they are not with me. They cause me to think about all of the time I could be using to improve and progress at violin; time I have already lost. The earbuds also make me anxious when the music they hold scratches, hesitates or sings in my ear, “you’re not good enough”. Sometimes they have made me sad when I thought that maybe I should put them down and not carry them anymore, but only until I remembered their potential and all the empty space they have filled with beauty. My backpack would be empty without these.
The thing, by far, I am happiest to carry is a book. Any book. There is never one lacking from my bag be it small, fat, a classic or action packed. All books, once opened, have a weight canceling effect. When I read a good book, I feel free. I forget all about spirals and binders, pens and messages. In books, I meet new people; people who can’t leave because they are written black on white. I see new places and endless life. I am so lucky to carry many, many books, because they allow me to hold other worlds in my mind. It would not even be worth carrying a backpack without a book inside.
Everything I need to carry can be fit into my backpack. The things will stay with me forever; whether I wish them to or not because they fit too tightly to be pulled out. Some things weigh a lot, but make me float inside. Some things weigh nothing, but hunch my shoulders and drag me down all the same. All of them I need, all of them I must carry, with all the memories and implications that accompany them. The things I carry form my survival pack; the things I carry form my worst enemy. The things I carry form me.
Image from: https://fineartamerica.com/featured/the-violin-john-d-benson.html