Checked Baggage

The 20s are all about knowing what you bring to the spaces you enter. Each and everyone of us comes with all our memories, experiences, and identities. Our bags are constantly packed and we take them with us wherever we go. There are times when they're visible and others when it's almost as if they're not there. We leave them behind here and there as well as add things as we go. What do people see when they scan your checked baggage?

There's this notion that people are supposed to "check their baggage" at the door. That idea is absolute nonsense. It denies our humanity and asks us to lie about who we are. It asks us to do something completely impossible, to leave part of ourselves out. It's like asking President Obama to come meet with you but telling him to leave the secret service behind. Even more so it's like asking any of the Hollywood Chris' (Evans, Hemsworth, Pratt) to leave their masculinity, maleness, or whiteness outside. Sure, people's identity may not be the at the forefront of the conversation you may be having but they're always underlying. You can pick and choose what people bring with them ... they just do. Regardless of whether it's being discussed or not, all the parts of who people are permanently attached to them. It's also disrespectful to treat the reality of who someone is as extra, unnecessary, or frivolous. How is one part of anyone any more or less important a portion of someone else? You can't and shouldn't compare. You never know what someone has been through. You don't know if they have a child, have a diagnosis, or have had a traumatic experience. We can never fully know other people (we can't even completely know ourselves). Instead we should ask people to bring their most authentic selves everywhere. We don't have baggage. We come as a package deal. We can't be separated. We are whole. We are people. Check that baggage.
This week I came to see just how much of me there is. For some of the best times to an incident that let me remember what I used to be like and what I'm still capable of, it's been one of those weeks. I guess I'll start with Monday, fast forward through a morning of meetings and class to an evening with my orientation leader reunion, a discussion about how to support survivors of sexual assault through my men's education group, and attending a speaker on hazing prevention. Within three hours the range of emotions I felt from nostalgia to concern and utter shock was a lot to process. Tuesday came and after classes I went to play wiffle ball with the majority of my fraternity brothers. It was such a welcome break from my day and to have nearly all of us there just being absolutely ridiculous, messing around, and getting competitive was a riot.

From there I went to dinner with some of my brothers, Aidan, Willy, and Dom talking about everything and nothing before speeding off to my TV station meeting (starting a new TV show - get excited). I finished my night off at the UVMaraTHON kick-off event which didn't go as planned. You know my empathy overloaded when I saw a visibly flustered Willy just not having it at his own event, but there's only so much you can do. What got me was having the General there (the fact there who I use codenames for > everything) and him acting as if I didn't exist (accurate since that's what it had always been like and is now) but within the context of the people in my life being around. It's a powerful thing to see someone you used to know and not recognize them at all. That relationship had way too much baggage in all senses of the phrase that needed to be let go. I did my best to check myself and moved on, that's all you can do, right?

Every week somehow there's these profound moments that give me some much needed clarity about the world and my role in it. Wednesday I made it through my earlier two classes to my person of color counter-storytelling class where we had a local artist come show some of her work. It was truly awe-inspiring. The metaphor of her using luggage as makeshift pots for plants and their roots to come out was brilliant (hence the title of this post). It resonated me with so strongly and touched me right in the heart. After class, my friend Isora and I hit Party City and Trader Joe's to gather care package supplies for some of the people we knew were having that kind of week. Home I went to get down to doing craft work (secretly one of my favorite things #perfectionistprobz) and homework before calling it a night. I was able to check my baggage and realize that there were those in my life who needed to know that I was there to support them.

It is no longer enough to think or feel you care about someone, you need to put action to it, prove it and show them.
Thursday couldn't have come soon enough because it was another one of those crazy busy but thoroughly fulfilling days. After a morning of catching up on class work, I met up with a first year to talk about fraternity life stuff, had lunch and delivered Willy a care package before attending a job shadowing info session (tell me that journalism school is right for me), and my "Writing Journalism" and "Seeing the Sacred" classes. I took a few minutes to check in with undoubtedly my favorite first year, Cam who got a care package as I went to catch up with my friend, Bretton from my first year. We discussed our futures and what it meant to have baggage for each of us along with our personality types. It was good to just sit and talk and be ... a person, you know? One more driveby as I hit the library to drop off a care package for another one of those loveable first years, Henry who was pre-chemistry exam hardcore study mode. I don't think I could have come at a better moment to office some advice and calming.

It was nonstop go for me as I went to a Hazing Roundtable where David, Willy, myself and one of the wonderful women on our Panhellenic Council, Ari, spoke candidly about what we'd experience in other campus organizations or heard about. It was both empowering and scary to realize how much we knew but never did anything about and to contemplate why we had never acted. Off I went once more to the ALANA student center for a discussion with the dean of my college (yeah, it was thing big of a deal) where students of color were voicing their concerns and experiences in their D1 (diversity focused on race/racism in the U.S.) classes. It got super real so damn fast and all of us laid out our baggage right on the table for everyone to see. For me, it was like I had kept a secret about one of my horrible classes for so long and finally was able to let it out. It was amazing to see how much the faculty and community members that attended really cared about us and our stories. They wanted all of us. 

I had one more stop for the day and that was video game night with my fraternity brothers. You all know how I get when I play video games, it's me at my most relaxed being goofy and getting way too into Halo: Reach. I was berating people and dominating my matches until our newest brother, Kyle, put me in my place by finally dethroning me. Already like the guy  too much (probably it's my inherently possessive nature). It was record long day but a great one at there where I got to be the entirety of me. Baggage checked and always ready to go.

My blog post question for the day is ... what is something you bring that most people wouldn't know just by looking at you? I guess I would say my experiences from high school can never be reflected  just by taking a glance at me


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