A Certain Lack of Focus

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

What's in Your Bag

backpackSo at some point between elementary school and adulthood (though it's debatable whether I can validly call myself an adult) I got stuck on the backpack concept.

A couple years ago my brother and Kim gave me a messenger bag as part of an attempt to wean me off the backpack. I used it for a few months, and agreed that it looked better, but the problem is I lug around so much stuff that even when I can fit it all into a messenger bag, having it on one shoulder is really not good for long term back health. They're meant to look more mature I guess, but they aren't designed to wear long term. There's a reason they're called messenger bags: you put them on when you need to deliver a message, it's ideal because you can stop when you find the person to receive the message, you don't even have to get off your bike, just unzip the pack which is in FRONT of you, give them their package, and turn right back around. Backpacks are obviously not as well designed for such short term missions, but for someone who needs their stuff hauled from here to there to anywhere for use later, it's the best solution. I stuck with the messenger bag right up until we went on a camping trip, at which point of course I switched my stuff back to the backpack. Carrying it around on my back I was reminded how much more comfortable a backpack is, and I never quite got around to switching back.

poppinsPart of the problem is all the stuff I consider a necessity. If I could find a true Mary Poppins purse I'd be fine. Though, I always thought the purse seemed oddly disorganized for the Poppins character, things strewn around inside so that it takes even Mary Poppins several minutes to find what she's looking for. With my backpack I occasionally can't find what I'm looking for, but usually I know right where everything is. I shudder to think about the bent books and broken pens that would result from throwing everything into a Mary Poppins purse.

When I explain to people why a backpack is the best thing for me, they usually roll their eyes and suggest I scale back on the things I carry (no relation to The Things They Carriedbooks, a novel about Vietnam). To defend myself, here is a list of the things I carry and the reason why I absolutely need it:

Main pocket:

Sketchpad- Well I'm supposed to be an artist, aren't I? It's kind of depressing to see how little I've used my sketchpad lately, but I know (because it's happened) that any time I decide to leave it behind that will be the moment I'm completely inspired to draw. At any rate, now that I'm doing this Drawing of the Day thing, it really does make sense to have my sketchbook in case I have a few minutes to scribble something down.

Notebook- For some reason I have a problem writing things down in my sketchbook. I'll do it in a pinch if I've got no better place to do it, but for whatever reason, it bugs me. I think it's the waste of drawing space, although I waste plenty with a single random line that I decide isn't good enough to continue, or a smudge that ruins my canvas, the idea of using my sketchpad as mere scrap paper offends me. So I carry around a notebook to jot down story ideas, composition ideas, random overheard quotes that are too wonderful not to write down, "I wonder" questions to look up the answer to later, and just about anything else that pops into my head that I want to save. At some point I'll get a phone with a decent notepad function, so this will be less necessary, but I'll probably keep carrying a notebook, kind of like a security blanket.

stuffBook- Whatever I happen to be reading at that moment. I probably really shouldn't carry this, because whenever I'm going somewhere to work on something I tend to tell myself: just one chapter won't hurt and end up wasting an hour or so, but I'm going to carry one regardless, for the times when I'm actually justified in relaxing with a story.

Art Kit- This is actually just a glorified pen case. In addition to my microns and pencils (with one end padded to keep the tips from breaking!) it holds erasers, pencil sharpeners, a small eraser stencil template, paint brushes, dip pen ends, charcoal and conte crayons. I'm not even going to argue why I need this, because I assume it's obvious.

Other things I don't exactly need but like to have- Lately I've been taking my digital camera with me, design or craft magazines, a copy of Offbeat Bridebags (what? I'm getting married in a year and I'm allowed to be a little girly sometimes), a handful of Vindicators (the magazine I edit) and whatever handouts I've got from my most recent class.

Front Pocket:

Although it's smaller, my front pocket probably holds more essentials than the main pocket. Part of the problem with the messenger bag was that the side pocket wasn't nearly big enough. My actual necessities include my inhaler, an emergency pad, Dramamine, Rolaids, Benadryl, and Advil.

The rest of the side pocket isn't strictly necessary, but very good to have on hand. I have Chapstick, some Chloraseptic throat strips, Airborn, a granola bar, Kleenex, hair ties, a spare phone battery and a phone charger. I keep my headphones because having them on helps me focus, a pocket constitution because I got sick of hearing people argue "It's my constitutional right" when it's not, and a tape recorder because you never know. Sometimes I carry a pocket knife but I tend not to because I fly often and am always afraid I'll forget to take it out.

For a while I was having a real problem organizing this pocket, it all just turned into a mess of junk at the bottom and I couldn't find anything. It was worse than a Mary Poppins purse. I went out and got some kind of craft kit from Jo-Ann Fabrics that's worked beautifully. It keeps most of the small things separated by netting so I can still see what I'm looking for. For pills I picked up some twist-close bead containers and, since they were in the same aisle, put googley eyes on top. What isn't better with googley eyes?

Finally, in one side pocket I carry my Nalgene bottle and in the other I keep my computer adapter. The only thing I can't carry in my backpack is my laptop, I know they make laptop bags but I haven't seen any I particularly like. I'll get one at some point, but for now I just carry it in a slim computer case, so at least it doesn't take up much room. I actually can shove it in my bag if I have to, but it's a pain in the ass.
Anyway, that's why I use a backpack, and I defy anyone to convince me that this all could fit into a purse.

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