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Essay: Carrying the Baggage

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 do 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 that load of hang-ups and heartaches we carry around, some we’re born with, others 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 could leave everything behind by leaving my parents’ house. 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.
“You weren’t loved enough as a child,” he said. “Most people aren’t loved enough.”
I knew our family had problems but I thought I had managed to escape, to reinvent myself. 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.”