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Essays by Karen Anderson: Carrying the Baggage

Illustration by Kacie Brown

A friend is telling me about the new man in her life. “I really like the guy,” she says, “but I’m finding out he has a lot of baggage.”

“We all have baggage by this age,” I say. She and I are no longer young but not yet ready to be old. We sip our glasses of wine and reflect on our own baggage, that load of hang-ups and heartaches we carry around—some of which we’re born with, some we collect over time.

“Actually, we had baggage when we were twenty,” I say, “but we didn’t see it then.”

When I was twenty, I thought I had left everything behind when I left my parents’ home. It took me another ten years to feel the weight of what I was dragging along. A siege of anxiety brought me to my knees and to a counselor who helped me identify my baggage and claim it.

My friend pours us more wine and I pick up my glass.

“Maybe the baggage itself isn’t the problem,” I say, “but whether or not you’ve unpacked it. You’ve got to decide what to keep and what to let go of.”

“I want a smaller bag,” she says. “A carry-on.”

Karen Anderson contributes "Essays by Karen Anderson" to Interlochen Public Radio.