My friend, “Abby,” is our school’s art teacher, and never, but never leaves work with any less then three bags–and I’m not talking about little “fits three pieces of paper bags.” Oh no. I’m talking about those giant, metal reinforced Thirty-One bags with monograms and stuff on the side. Even her purse weighs about a ton because it’s made out of seat belts.
But Abby is not alone. My mother, also a teacher, has a bag with those suitcase wheels because it’s so big, and half the time, I think my dad has to get it out of the trunk for her because it’s too heavy. I have secret theory that one of our sixth grade teachers converts each of her children’s old diaper bags into an additional “for work” bag–needless to say, I think she’s got four kids. My male colleagues (not enamored of the Thirty-One fad of their female counterparts) still walk out of work with a bulging messenger bag or backpack. Not even I, myself, am immune. In my defense, I only have one teacher bag…and that bag of music for my voice lessons…and the bag with all the scores for choir rehearsal…and the reusable grocery store bags in my trunk…Okay, okay! So I have a problem!
Conclusion? Teachers are bag junkies.
I don’t know why, really, since the common thread I glean from most teachers is that we never do any of what we bring home in those bags. We choose to do other things, feel mildly, naggingly guilty about it, but we don’t actually do it. You think we’d get wise–leave it at school for when we head back into work where we will actually do this stuff. But no. We keep lugging the same seventy-five pounds of student work and professional textbooks and school laptops back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. Maybe it’s just that we’re eternal optimists, who truly believe that this time, this time, we’ll decide we’d rather dive into those forty essays on Of Mice and Men than go out to coffee with our girlfriends. Or go to the grocery store. Or sit in a semi-catatonic state on the sofa and binge watch Parks and Rec for the fifteenth time. Seriously. What is wrong with us?
Mostly, I just think we’re nuts.
I’ve been reading a lot about minimalism and the minimalist movement lately. And while I think some of it is kind of extreme (skip having a bed frame and just have mattress on the floor…don’t have anything hanging on your walls anywhere…) there are some things I really think resonate. The theory behind minimalism is that the more stuff you have in your life (the more stuff on your counters, in your closet, in your head, in your heart) the more stressed and the less happy you actually are.
There’s a really valid point here, I think. So many people I know live in these crowded worlds. Dresser drawers crammed with clothes they can’t find and don’t like, rooms cluttered with the dross of a “them” that vanished years ago, minds crowded with regrets about pasts they can’t change and worries about futures they can’t control. I find myself doing it, too. I take home work I “should do” sometimes. I let myself get talked into doing things that absorb the few precious hours of free time I had earmarked for “me” in the week. I pray that I will be less stressed out about X-Y-Z, and be able to just allow God to do His thing and be in charge of it. But then, rather than trusting the God I purport to believe implicitly, I find myself lugging all my little worries around with me–just like my bags.
It’s really exhausting being a bag lady–the physical or the emotional kind. So lately I have been trying to not be one. Throwing out that stack of old papers on my desk. Actually folding the blanket I’ve just used (even though I know I will use it again tomorrow.) Sticking to my guns and not letting myself stress out about things I can’t control, and I know that God’s in charge of, anyway. Not feeling guilty for saying no to things I am too busy (or don’t want) to do. Looking at the things in my teacher bag and think, “Am I actually going to do any of this?” And when the answer is, “No,” just leaving it at school. Because it will keep. The sun will still rise.
So take the challenge. Stop freaking out about the stuff that you have no control over for just the time it takes you to drink your morning coffee. Clear out one dresser drawer of all the clothes you keep “just in case” you need them, but secretly hate. Just for one night, leave the teacher bags at school.
Try it out. You might just like not being a bag lady.