The things people carry generally reveal a significant part of their character. Tiny, seemingly unimportant objects can carry the most symbolic weight to them, and yet we rarely discuss why we carry such things—extreme materialism and consumerism aside. In my recent fit of writer’s block (I blame it on the simple fact that I am lazy slob without a rigorous school schedule to keep me in place), I read back on one of my favorite essays I wrote my last year of high school. Having been in rigorous classes that expected long-winded written explanations of my every thought, I learned very well the act of constructing words in such a way to make the things I write seem more intelligent and hard to conceptualize than they actually are; however, for this one essay, I didn’t need as much fluff as I generally stuff my essays with. I wrote on the complexity and depth of emotions the simple objects I carried meant to me. Due to my writer’s block and appreciation for the topic I wrote on, I would like to share with you what 17-year-old me prized, and why. Hopefully it leads to your own internal examination of your external wear.
The Things I Carry
I carry two woven bracelets on my wrist. I made them myself, and they remind me of certain things; the bright yellow, brown, red and green bracelet reminds me of Native American corn fields just near the Rio Grande. Whether this is geologically or agriculturally accurate or not, this is what the badly-woven, too-big bracelet is to me—it is a tie to my past, to my ancestors and all they have done to land me here, a high school student sitting at her computer, facing the bright window, hearing cars go by and children play in the neighbor’s yard. This bracelet also reminds me of Earth and nature, and that segways into wholesomeness and safety. I have always had a profound respect for nature, I can’t remember a time when I thought the Earth wasn’t something I was connected to, mind, body, and whatever a soul might be. I don’t believe in the twenty-something gram wisp of white mist that seems to come to mind when one thinks of the soul, but instead I believe that each person has something incredibly unique to them, that is almost an invisible fingerprint to the universe.
But I digress. Although I suppose that is, in a way, the point to this essay; describe what you carry, not just physically, but what each thing represents. I feel the best way to get to the abstract concept of a bracelet being tied to a whole part of who I am is to simply talk until I find the truth. I know what some of the things I carry mean to me—that’s why I carry them—but to put such a thing into words requires that I get lost in myself, in my own words and memories, until I can’t remember what I had wanted to say in the first place.
I carry another bracelet. This one is blue, thin, like a blade of rolled-up grass. This bracelet means something to me, but I’m not quite sure what it is. It almost has a resigned feel to it, a parent-like, watchful feel. This bracelet might represent the less adventurous, more introverted and judgmental side of me. I really tend not to judge people, so much so that it has become a bit of a fault of mine. Even when I was a kid, I would say a cheery “hello!” to the vagabonds sitting outside Albertson’s grocery store. It’s not that I don’t realize that stranger-danger is a real thing, I just tend to be nice, while also being cautious.
I carry an old black jansport backpack with a ripped strap and several openings cut into the top of the small pocket. I’ve had this backpack since at least sophomore year, though I’m not sure exactly when I got it. Even though it’s ripped, I use it, because I worry about money a lot. My parents tell me not to, and we aren’t in bad shape as far as financials go, but the knowledge that every dollar I spend is two minutes of my dad’s toil in burning asphalt and unrelenting conditions haunts me. My mom also works, but because I grew up with just my dad bringing home the bacon, I never forget that he pays for it, not with money, but with sweat, blood, and cataracts.
The slits in my backpack? Well, I made those on purpose. Junior year I saw that one of my classmates had a solar-powered USB charger hooked on his backpack, and being the environmentalist and ever-curious person I am, decided to make one. After going to radio shack, tearing apart my old computer, and recruiting my friend to help record the process, I made a solar-powered USB charger from things my father bought at radio shack and computer parts. I sewed a clear Ziploc plastic bag onto the front of my backpack and cut holes in the top lip of the small pocket to accommodate my new device. As of right now, however, the charger sits on my book shelf, after two USB ports broke from light usage. It is still something I am proud of because I created something of use that could have potentially helped the planet, little-bit by little-bit.
I carry buttons and keychains on my backpack. I collect them, somewhat. I have one button from my favorite TV show, a favorite childhood movie, some from band competitions. One was a gift. Many were collections from a Southern California college tour with my mom, along with an astronaut keychain. There’s an old metal keychain of a broken boot that my father gave to me in passing. All of these are memories, snapshots, of my short life, and they all carry their own feelings and lessons within those memories. Memories are a big thing with me—I love memories—my memories, my parent’s memories, the check-out guy at Lucky’s memories, they are all important to me. I think this is, in part, why I loved Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, on which this essay is modeled after. I loved that all those stories were memories, and I was fascinated that O’Brien communicated what I have always felt to be true—in memories, what actually happened is not so important as what you felt. Most of my memories are less what factually happened and more what I felt, and that is why I connected to O’Brien’s story so well, I felt as if he had bridged the gap between what I could feel and what I could communicate.
Most of the time, I carry a book, a sweater, and my cell phone. These things seem to have less philosophical meaning than the afore mentioned items, but who knows, I didn’t think I’d have a lot to say on two small bracelets either. I carry a book because I truly love reading. If you ask someone why they love reading, some will tell you it’s an escape, or an adventure, or they read Judy B. Jones books with their mother growing up, but for me there is no definite answer. If ever I could describe to someone what reading is to me, it would be along the lines of seeing a world through someone else’s eyes, or being able to gain the knowledge and experience and vivid life from a good character, but even that doesn’t sit right—it’s too simple, too little for such a complex idea. Reading is more of a part of life, a branch of life if you will, and to not read would be to not experience all life had to offer. To be in the middle of a good book is paramount to…. Even now, there are no words. I simply do not have the capacity to compare reading to anything else in life that would accurately describe how I feel to be a part of the characters’ lives, maybe because reading is a form of storytelling, and stories are a part of life that cannot be interchanged for another part as if they were identical Pokémon cards on an elementary school playground—instead, trying to describe storytelling is equivalent to trying to explain color to a blind person. I am so addicted to reading that my favorite thing on my phone, save music and photos, is my reading app. It’s called Wattpad, and essentially, people from all walks of life write and post their works; some are incredibly poorly written, and some change the way I look at life, even if by the tiniest bit.
The sweaters I carry are easy enough to explain—I get cold easily, and I like the cozy feeling of being wrapped up in cloth. I thoroughly enjoy burrowing under a mountain of blankets as the gentle drumming of rain massages the roof and the windows and the concrete outside, and as I remain under my fortress, the world I live in seems both near and far; the heat of my skin under the feet of blankets and the constant rhythm of mother nature remind me of where I am, but it is the same exact things that take me somewhere else, into my own mind perhaps, where everything is more than it seems. In these moments I feel both safe and alive; I feel empathy for the critters outside and gratitude for the big critters I call Mom and Dad. When I am far from these moments, stuck in a classroom in the end of August, I can at least feel grateful for the AC system that lets me wrap up in my sweater and think of similarly pleasant days to come.Of all the things I carry, some are more important than others, but they all make up who I am. The things I carry make me, and I carry them because I am me—a wonderfully confusing cycle that would give any therapist a field day. In a way, I like my confusing life, because it is my life, and that is something I am immensely appreciative of. This crazy little length of time I’ve been given excites me, and that is something I always carry, something profound like a heart on a sleeve, and like a ridge of a fingerprint.