My backpack is not a very sentimental bag. It doesn’t like greeting cards, flowers, or sappy love songs. But as we approach our fifth anniversary together, I wanted to take a moment to thank this black piece of canvass for having my back on five continents, in nine countries, and on thousands of journeys and adventures.
From the very beginning, our relationship was based on practicality. You were the largest backpack on jansport.com and your lifetime guarantee told me you were ready for a serious commitment.
I too was looking for something enduring. As a freshman in college who thought that we actually needed to bring textbooks to class, I stuffed you to the brim with 30 pounds of reading materials. Only later did I come to realize my folly, so I quickly replaced that 30 pounds with books for pleasure and binders and notebooks for extracurricular activities.
Just as Tim O’Brien wrote in his masterful book, The Things They Carried, about the burdens that soldiers carried during the Vietnam War, you too have stories of the things you carried. The journalist in me wants to ask you those secrets, but how do I recall the random things that you hoisted these last five years?
Nothing stands out beyond the requisite equipment of a student/traveler. Hundreds and hundreds of books. Granola bars. My Nalgene. A Centre College coffee mug. Pilot G2-07 pens. Hand sanitizer. My iPod. Dirty socks.
Perhaps it is not the novelty of the things you carried but how you carried them. Through thick and thin, good and bad, you never let me down. When I went far beyond my comfort zone, to the ends of the earth, you were my safety blanket—sure and steadfast—connecting me to home.
Every night that I stayed up until 5 a.m. studying in college, you were there.
When I first stepped foot outside the United States, you exited a millisecond behind me.
When I got lost in Chongqing and spent four hours searching for my hostel, you reminded me that I wasn’t alone.
Together we reveled on the black sand beaches of Cameroon.
And when I was elected student body president, you congratulated me by carrying two bottles of champagne.
You and I even started a business together. When I paid the first four months of rent at Jakob’s Lounge, you carried the money from the bank to the landlord.
And during my scariest moment in Uganda, when I saw a motionless body on a road in Kitgum, you jumped off that truck to help me find the police.
Now don’t get me wrong. There have been times when you and I had to separate, but those were mostly my fault, not yours.
I had to leave you behind when I took the LSAT. That evil test made me leave everything behind—even my sweatshirt, which had a nefarious pocket in it. Near freezing, I took the test as quickly as possible to return to your warm embrace.
I also couldn’t take you bungee jumping or white water rafting on the Nile—would that have voided your lifetime guarantee?
And then there’s the time I betrayed you. I wanted to take you climbing in the Rwenzoris—I promise—but that big gash in your side just would not have held up in the rain. I know I cheated on you. That Osprey hiking backpack just came into the picture and trekked up those mountains with me. But sometimes even the best of friends have to separate and I was so happy to reunite in Kampala and take you to Ethiopia and Kenya.
(That Osprey backpack was too heavy anyways. I would have climbed Weisman Peak much easier with you on my back.)
I’ve only washed you three times in the last five years—never mind those rotting bananas—and you haven’t complained once. I almost killed you with that vicious dryer in Australia, but even though you’re frayed and dirty, you’re still just as handsome as when you first arrived in the mail.
So here’s to the must rugged, dependable, unrelenting backpack anyone could ask for. You might need to get sewn up before we start law school together, but don’t worry—I won’t ditch you for that sleek-looking Fossil messenger bag in my closet at home.