Excuse my tumor

Kristine Gill

A growth has been taking over my back since preschool. It started out small and pink and grew slightly larger in kindergarten. It was small enough then that no one noticed, but its growth troubled me. By junior high, people stared and by high school, strangers ridiculed me. Now in my second year of college, people just feel pity.

I feel ridiculous walking around campus with 50 pounds of books on my back. I can feel my trusty JanSport sighing with the pain of having to stretch around all that junk. I feel big and in the way when I try to maneuver past desks and chairs to get to my seat in a classroom. I can tell people are staring too.

When I feel beady little eyes dart to my backpack I want to stop in my dash to class to explain my predicament. I want to scream, “Don’t judge me because I carry all these books!” “I’m not some Poindexter who makes up for friends with novels!” But I wouldn’t have enough breath or energy to yell all that.

Safe from stares and judgment once inside the classroom, more potentially embarrassing scenarios take place. The only thing worse than realizing your fly is open is whipping off your backpack, tossing it on the desk in front of you and realizing that the zipper has been opening slowly at the seam during your entire walk to class. I really can’t pinpoint what about this is so embarrassing, but if it’s happened to you I’m sure you understand. It’s like letting the whole world know you can’t get your act together. It’s like looking in the mirror after class and finding you’ve had pen ink on your face all day. It’s like not realizing you accidentally put your flood jeans on that morning, and are now forced to wear them the rest of the day. It’s like slipping on an icy sidewalk and not feeling embarrassed about it until you realize someone saw you whipping your head around afterward to check for anyone who might have seen, and now they know just how insecure you are.

The thing is I don’t want to carry these books around. I’m not some paranoid kid who thinks that maybe, just maybe, the professor is going to ask to see a copy of every math textbook I’ve used since junior high. I don’t carry around things I don’t need. Everything I put in my backpack is something that I will need to have at some point during the day. If I had time to stop back at my dorm and drop things off I would. But since I so wisely scheduled back-to-back classes, I don’t even have time to eat. Instead I eat PowerBars, peanuts, fruit snacks and crackers on the run.

And how do you walk gracefully in a backpack? I feel like a lumberjack or climber on Everest with the way the weather looks. The only thing I can do with my hands is dig them into my coat pockets, swing them Sasquatch-like by my sides or slide my thumbs under the straps that are digging into my shoulders. It relieves pressure, but makes me look manly. I like to hold onto the slack at the end of the straps. There are loops that fit my thumbs perfectly and I think one day I’ll unlock the secret to using them as jetpack fuel igniters. Then my backpack and I will launch into the air and power myself to my desired destination hassle-free.

I could upgrade. Something like a messenger bag might be more chic, but it wouldn’t be good for my spine. At least I’m not going to carry around some lame brand. I have a JanSport. Everyone and their mother knows what a JanSport is. They were all the rage during my years of public education. I remember when Mom decided to splurge and get me and my sister each one in junior high. It was vindicating. After years of totting hand-me-down bags and clearance packs, we had arrived.

Sadly, I’ve committed to my schedule this semester. I’m not dropping any classes so it looks like I’ll be lugging my backpack around the rest of the school year. So I’m simply asking for some sympathy. Don’t gawk when you see me trekking to class and stumbling under the weight of my books. Don’t smirk as you smugly readjust your own light-weight bag. Do, however, feel free to comment on my JanSport. And watch out for my jetpack fumes.

Kristine Gill is a sophomore newspaper journalism major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].