I started my first ever creative writing course last week. As much as I’ve always loved writing and yearned to be a writer, I’ve never actually taken any formal training, done any workshops, anything like that. I think I’ve always been too afraid of criticism, even the constructive sort.
It definitely pushes me out of my comfort zone – not only do we have to sit and write for 15 minutes during the class, we then have to read our work aloud! This week, one of our prompts was to write about what we had in our bag, and that led me to write the stream-of-consciousness piece that follows. Sharing it here is one step further in challenging myself to put my writing out into the world.
The prompt wasn’t just about what we carry with us literally, but also what those objects say about us, our character, what we carry with us emotionally and psychologically. My piece ended up being very much about the weight of anxiety that I feel on a daily basis – the turmoil that swirls around in my mind over the most mundane things.
Some of my classmates related to these feelings – maybe some of you will too. I think it’s always good to remember that we never know what weight someone else might be carrying, what invisible demons they might be battling, what inner chaos they might be navigating. All the more reason to be patient and kind.
Quick note: Most of what follows is as I wrote it in class. I did some editing and added a final paragraph to round it off before posting here.
I carry a lot of things in my bag – not always the same bag, but carefully, deliberately the same things. You never know what you might need, and I prefer to be prepared. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail, right?
First and foremost, I have to have my phone. If I leave it somewhere, whether through forgetfulness or very occasionally deliberate choice, it feels a bit like I’ve lost a limb. I know this is ridiculous, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Its rectangular shape and reassuring weight are so familiar to me now, when I frantically tap a pocket or reach into my bag to check it’s still there, all I need is to feel those straight edges, the slightly curved corners, the comforting depression of the home button, which recognises my thumbprint.
Purse is probably next in the order of priority. Important to have both cards and cash, because I might go somewhere that only takes one or the other. That means coins as well as notes, and a good amount of small change. I don’t want to inconvenience anyone, make anyone angry with me if I can’t make the right change. Plenty of cards, in case one of them stops working, or I forget the PIN, or someone has stolen my identity and emptied one of my accounts. Or all of my accounts, so I also have the credit card, just in case.
Keys are next, jingly jangly keys, got to have a couple of key rings on there so they’re easy to locate, so I can reassure myself they’re still there and I can get home and no one else has them so they can’t break in and steal my stuff or let the cat out or be waiting for me when I walk in the door. That’s very important. Having my phone, my purse and my keys is the bare minimum to help me feel safe and in control. Few problems couldn’t be solved with one of these items.
Bare minimum, but of course I carry other things, just in case. Tissues, for sniffles or if I spill something or if someone asks for one or I go to a public bathroom and there’s no toilet paper. Painkillers in case I get toothache or a headache or, please no, feel the onset of a migraine. Chewing gum in case I decide to eat something pungent or just feel self-conscious and want to make sure I have fresh breath. Hand cream, in case my hands feel overly dry, or my elbows, hand cream is good for elbows too.
Important to have a pen and paper with me at all times, never know when I might need to write down something important. My phone could die and then I couldn’t take notes on it, or I might need to ask directions or frantically scribble down a phone number before the battery goes so I can call someone from a payphone with the good amount of change I have in my purse… although I bet some take cards now, like the buses do and parking machines and stuff. But just in case.
Water is good and I’m trying to drink a lot of it, though that causes its own anxieties because then what if I need the bathroom and I can’t find one? I’m constantly on high alert for bathrooms and identify all the possibilities in places I visit regularly. On campus, for example, as soon as I get off the bus there’s Starbucks, that’s a good shout. Then there’s the Queen Margaret Union on the walk up from Byers Road, which I’ve only ever been inside to use the bathroom.
I don’t think through all of this every single day. Sometimes it’s easier, some days my bag feels a little lighter. But on the bad days, it’s good to know where I can go to sit quietly for a minute, to gather my thoughts and check my bag for my phone, purse and keys. Then I can breathe a little easier for a while, at least until I feel compelled to check again.
Until next time – so much to say, so much to do, somuchkat.