Preparation for travel meant engaging in a mental survey of the things I need to take with me beyond the normal toiletry items. In general, the number of outfits and the weather forecast have dominated my thoughts when packing. I have also given considerable thought to the question of which shoes match the outfits. The most pressing question to enter my thought bubble was how will I get all of this stuff in the carry on bag?
I have often wondered why my packing ritual comes with so many questions and self-imposed hurdles. Actually, the word hurdle may not accurately represaent my experiences while packing. I think that this process has felt more like an obstacle course. Packing, for me, has been that thing that should be very simple, but instead created a series of negative emotions. The negative emotions came when one or more of the outfits didn’t fit like I remembered or expected. That realization has led to an impromptu parade of closet fashions in front of a number of mirrors so that I could see every angle possible. Once the outfits were approved for fit, appropriateness, and style, I found myself back at the shoe question again. Almost never has the shoe chosen at the beginning of the packing process made the cut when I zipped the carry on bag. The goal has always been to avoid baggage claim, if possible. My crew, over the years, has operated on the premise that we go to a destination to engage in whatever guided us there so standing at baggage claim watching bag watching wastes time. I have generally been most challenged by the process of elimination required to downsize to one carry on and the personal item airline protocol. I honestly believe that I am scarred from roles in my life as a caretaker of others.
As a caretaker, my bag always held stuff that I knew other folks would need or present as a need that I was expected to meet. For example, when my kids were younger, the contents of my bag had to include changes of clothes for the kids and for me. Inevitably, if I didn’t include back up articles of clothing, one of us would end up in clothing soiled with food, water, Joyce, or worse. If I didn’t include food for the masses, everyone in the travel party would be hungry and desperate to make me the victim of the ridiculously priced products in the airport. These purchased would be made in the name of overhead, taxation, and supply and demand.
Fortunately, my ability to think forward and prepare for things and situations others don’t expect made me an excellent caretaker and villager. This quality has also prepared me well for my work in higher education. However, the thing that made me an awesome villager revealed itself as one of my greatest impediments during the packing process. Unfortunately, my capacity to anticipate challenge and prepare lack that results from challenges became added pressure for me. I needed to be prepared for every possible scenario I imagined – rain, sun exposure, hunger, boredom, an afternoon meeting upon my return, meals on the first day home, and the impact of humidity might have on my hair, hangnails, dry lips, headaches, ashy hands, and my Saturday blog post. I tell the crew they can thank me for taking rain gear, an umbrella in particular, because it doesn’t rain when I have an unbrella. Historically, my crew has started the packing process after me and finish ahead of me.
When I am in the midst of packing, they tend to give me a lot of confused, puzzled facial expressions. I have gotten what appeared to be them considering adding a head shake and eye roll to their facial expressions as an outward expression of their level of confusion with my struggles. They have been smart enough though not to vocalize their thoughts or offer me their commentary that could be interpreted by me as unsupportive or judgmental. Their interactions with me during packing season resembled their demeanor when most folks find the room temperature comfortable and I adjust the thermostat to frigid because the coals inside of me radiated with the intensity of the sun.
My most recent trip left me with an additional dilemma. I pondered how my wardrobe and emergency checklist items would fit Int eh carry on and small bag if I needed to deliver clothering items to the my son, “the man-child.” I began referring to my son as “the man-child” several years ago because he was as large as a man yet still my child. Unlike my daughter’s rolled clothes that slip nicely within spaces created by my clothing in the bag, my son’s clothes, even after rolling them to extra tight status, needed strategic placement like playing Tetris. While I envisioned that his clothes would monopolize space in my bag, the coup-like overtaking of half of my carry on bag left me with thoughts of “wow” and “hmmm.”
Despite my challenges, the over thinker, overly prepared, overwhelmed caretaker in me (who never wants to fail) got everything I needed, all that he requirested, and a few things his mother believed he should possess in my zipped bag. And, I didn’t even have to sit on the bag to get it to close.