Oct 26, 2011

Older Works pt. 2

                             The Things I Carry
My bag isn't heavy, in fact, it's really light. Not much in there aside from the usual and necessary. Two notebooks for class, a few pens, the syllabus and the required reading material. Recently, I've been carrying an extra T-shirt for those hot days when a collared shirt is more an act of self-torture than dress wear. I also carry a handkerchief to wipe away the sweat that inevitably comes from wearing a collared shirt all day.

I have my cell phone too. I hate it. Not in the sense that I feel the need to get rid of it, but more like a sense of caution about something I don't fully understand and am afraid to use for fear of hurting myself or others. A friend of mine recently called me to complain that her mother had changed her cell phone plan and now she "barely had enough minutes to hold a decent conversation." She was angry and shocked that her mother, claiming she was too dependent on her cell phone, would lessen her minutes. I "uh-huh-ed" in agreement, but silently I laughed that nervous laughter of someone who is happy it's not happening to them. That kind of dependence on something freaks me out. That's why I hate my phone, I'm afraid I'll become addicted like my friend... I don't want that.

I carry keys to my house, doesn't seem important except when you forget them, but I guess that goes without saying. I also carry a small piece of a blanket I'm told I had when I was a baby. It's pink and blue, faded, but still soft. It's like a rabbit's foot to me though, it's not for good luck. I think it reminds me of times past when I was more optimistic, and not so jaded. Hopefully, I'll get back to that outlook.

I carry other stuff too. I carry crazy thoughts and fantasies that span from being a knight-in-shining armor to playing quidditch and then on to some flight of fancy involving big guns and cool matrix-like slow motion and kung fu. I carry thoughts of girls, that I have loved and the ones that loved me. There is a difference that I am dimly aware of only in retrospect. It seems this difference is quite subtle and easy to miss, something I've done more times than I can count. I carry a smile; well, to be honest, it's more of a grin. Quite disarming and charming if i do say so myself. I've got it perfected so that it throws just enough slyness to keep people guessing about what I may be thinking. It walks the fine line that separates mischievous and devious, always staying on the mischievous side, but pushing the boundary just a bit.

I carry a fair amount of pressure. That would a generalization because this pressure comes in so many forms it's hard to tell them apart. They mix and become a haze of urgency. It's never tangible, but it's always there, poking and prodding me. It keeps that feeling of unease in me, a small knot in my stomach. It rarely surfaces, but when it does, it's like a blanket that engulfs me, weighing me down to the point where I feel I can't move, nor do I want to. Everything seems so hopeless at these junctures I wonder why I bother. The only way to get our of that is to do something, get something done. You feel loads better and the blanket lifts a little, allowing you to move. Mind you, this isn't depression, it's just pressure. As far as I know, depression doesn't give up so easily.

As I said before, the pressure only feels concentrated because there is so much of it. It comes from different places. Academic pressure is probably the biggest. Must have good grades, we've all heard the speeches about good grades opening doors. It's true, I know, that doesn't mean the pressure isn't still there. Parental pressure is also among the larger ones. I always thought that as I got older it would be easier to deal with parental pressure. It's not true, but I handle it, it hasn't broken me yet, I'm strong. Societal pressure, being a black male is one of the toughest jobs I've ever been given. The worst part about it is that there is no way to mark your progress unless you're doing horribly or really well. Currently, I'm doing neither. Where does that leave me? I try not to think about it because that leads to depression, which we all know doesn't give up so easily.

Cultural pressure goes hand in hand with societal pressure. I find myself wondering if my success has alienated me from other black people who aren't as successful as me. When I hang out with my friends do I "keep it real" by wearing the latest styles and speaking in slang? My father would have a conniption if I did this, yet I don't feel comfortable in his word of polo shirts and khaki pants. I've reached a happy medium for myself of jeans and T-shirt; sometimes I wear nice dress shoes with the ensemble. Sort of a tip of the hat towards my father and his boat shoes. He'll laugh at me and say that someday I'll find my own style. He views the way I dress now as a transition to something else that he will ultimately approve of. I like how I dress. I've found my style.

I carry a lot. And, despite the load, I don't strain or struggle. I just hump it and keep going. I guess you get used to it after awhile. raging over what you carry doesn't solve anything because other people are carrying just as much. If you see me, I'll give you my smile and say that everything is cool because it is. After all, my bag is really light.

1 comment:

  1. This piece is from a class at the U of C on writing description. I took it during the summer of '04. We were reading "The Things they Carried," by Tim O'Brien and were tasked with creating our own list of carried item. One kid in the class literally did an inventory of his backpack!