The Things I Carry

His bag is full of textbooks, spiral notebooks, and folders. Each weighing him down more and more. The constant stress of deadlines and fear of failure. On his wrist, a watch sits weighing 2.22 ounces yet to him it feels like the heaviest thing he carries. Time has always been his nemesis, stealing his freedom and ignorance. Forcing him to accept the reality that the world will not stop to help you up when you fall. He carries pens running out of ink, pencils with only centimeters left to sharpen, and his Chromebook always needing to be plugged in. Every night he leaves his stresses in the doorway and every morning he forces himself to muster up the strength to keep his posture with the tremendous weight on his shoulders. With his friends he shares the weight of secrets so colossal they could destroy friendships, so powerful that slipping up is not an option. Like an unspoken contract as he carries his friends, they carry him. It’s surprising how light everything is when someone else is benching it with you. Together the world does not seem so dim and gravity does not seem so strong. His inhaler sits in his bag for emergencies but he is more afraid of failure than the chaos of breathlessness. He carries himself, like a secret hand forcing a puppet to stand tall, smile, and crack jokes. To act mature and rationally in front of his parents, yet not too mature that he seems like a parent to his friends. With time he learned that he couldn’t carry everything nor everyone. He figured out how to take weight off, lost friendships and destructive comments dissolved in the air. He became stronger, hoping that would counter the weight but it only became heavier. He comes home from school to be drowned in emails, errands, and homework due in less than 20 hours. He tries to forget but memories never leave no matter how much information school fills his head with. His neck, strained from working so hard to keep it upright and appear normal. The bags under his eyes grow day by day, disappearing only for weekends at a time. I will never forget the day he finished finals last year. The confusion on his face, all he had known was the stress of the competitive academic world. He was lost, without a purpose. In a way he missed it. He missed the assurance that tomorrow would be no different, even though he hated the stress and fear it created. But as the summer days grew longer he found comfort in a stress free life. No longer did he need the constant pressure of homework to give him purpose.

Inspired by The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. Originally a high school writing assignment, I have updated a few details to feel a little more timeless.