There are probably a number of things in our lives that we keep longer than other people think we should. Things that somehow never feel like they quite belong to us, yet we can’t bear to part with them.
I have a bag that was passed down to me by my dear cousin, Carol. It traveled extensively with her before I ever received it and has traveled a fair amount with me. The bag is caramel colored leather with a wide strap that converts it from a backpack to a shoulder bag and it has so many panels and pockets that it somehow never seems full. I truly believe this bag is the reason that I am consistently stopped and searched by security at airports in the States and abroad, but I will not stop carrying it until it falls apart or I do.
This bag has history. It connects me to Carol, but also to the places in the world that it has been with both of us. It’s full of stories and memories both happy and sad. It has seemed to develop a personality of its own over the years.
This bag has become the metaphoric hiding place for a whole collection of ideas I have about myself and about life. Those ideas are tucked into its secret TSA-search-inducing pockets and hidden away until I take them out and spread them in a big circle around me so I can remember what they are…
First, and close to the top, is the idea that “home is where the heart is” which has always held special significance for me in my travels. If you love the places you visit, or visit the places you love, you will always be home and never be homesick.
Someplace in the middle is the idea that books expand your mind just as much as travel. Read. Be informed. Learn. These are the things that will make you see the world differently from the way you may have been taught to see it. And, at times, that can be the best catalyst for true change.
Last, and buried deep at the bottom, is the idea that I should’ve been a writer. I know that some people might argue that I still am a writer, but I mean that it should’ve been all that I do. Writing should have been my life’s work. It is easier to feel like a writer when I am far away from the drone-like corporate jobs that seem to devour bits of my soul on a daily basis; that is why this idea lives in the bag.
There are probably things that someone has done for each of us that, at the time, felt simple and kind but later turned out to be more significant than we ever anticipated. There seems to be a common belief that there is a proper time in which to thank someone and that once that time has passed the expression of gratitude is somehow less valid. I disagree. This is my “overdue” thank you note that has special significance because I have waited long enough to recognize the true value of what was given to me.
Despite the fact that this bag has been in my possession for more than a decade, it will always be Carol’s bag. There is a part of me that will be perpetually indebted to her. I know that Carol gave me a different understanding of my own identity and a safe place to keep all of the things that reenforce it.
So, Carol, thank you for all of those things and for nurturing them so well when we’ve had time together. Whether metaphorically or literally, I will carry them with me always.