My backpack got progressively heavier and heavier throughout the school year. I’m sure it had nothing to do with my tendency to accumulate unseemly amounts of flashcards. Every night/early morning when I’d get back to my dorm I had the opportunity to experience one of the best feelings of relief: taking off the 40 pound weight that I had trudged along with me up and down the stairs to my classes, meals, and dorm. No matter how many ribbons I put on it, that backpack was the bane of my college existence.
Yet I couldn’t go anywhere without it. Without my backpack, I lost my immediate access to study materials and homework. Without this access, I could potentially be in a situation where I was not being productive. Without productivity, I felt purposeless. Tasks and to-do lists gave me the feeling of meaning that, while ultimately hollow, kept me motivated to keep moving and learning and making more to-do lists.
The problem of the heavy backpack lies in me grasping tightly onto an identity that was built on empty definitions of accomplishment. I don’t carry around a backpack during the summer, yet I still have multiple cross-referencing task lists to perpetuate this unfounded identity.
The paradox of the heavy backpack is that the thing that I couldn’t let go of was the very thing that was dragging me down. A never-satisfied need to be productive is what could make and destroy me simultaneously.
Sometimes other people’s backpacks aren’t as easily seen as mine. Maybe they aren’t tangible at all. I think it would be safe to suppose that almost everyone carries their own burdens that they both need and despise.
Let’s try lightening the load a bit.