The Memoirist
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The Memoirist


Backpacking Across Campus

Preparedness or readymade failure?

Photo by S Migaj on Unsplash

I take my son to college every day. He carries a laptop bag and a huge, chock-full backpack on rollers. At times he has another book bag. We have talked to him many times about scaling down. He doesn’t cart the whole arsenal with him the whole day. He leaves a lot of the stuff in the common room they have (that’s what I’m telling myself), but I know better. He’s autistic and this is his first year of college. He wants to be prepared.

Then I look at my work bag — my luggage. The backpack I carry is not noticeably smaller. It’s heavy. Its contents: 10 paperback books, Chromebook, MacBook, water bottle, laptop cooler, a giant bag of wasabi almonds, a large bag of shelled pistachios, and stuff.

I pack all that stuff to ensure I have enough to work on during the day. When I am working, I tend to go back and forth between tasks. I’ll check my email, write down an idea, start an article, edit an article, work on my book, put together stories or books for publication, etc. I felt as though I wasn’t getting any work done. And the thing is, I was.

I’m editing a book I authored. I’m publishing regularly on Medium and submitting nonfiction and fiction stories to various sites. I’m putting together another short story collection. So, it wasn’t the work I was getting done.

It was the work I couldn’t get done because it hadn’t existed. All the books and stuff represented work to be done. Stacked up, they became an unconscious list of tasks I was failing to complete. My son’s stuff is everything he needs to succeed, even for a day. It works for him. I equated the amount of my stuff I took with me as accomplishments when in reality all they represented was my readymade failure.

That day, instead of lugging my backpack across campus, I picked and took out what I needed: Laptop, book, gaming magazine, pocket notebook, drink, and necessary chargers.



We exclusively publish memoirs: The creative stories unpacked from the nostalgic hope chests of our lives.

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