To most people an Adidas bag isn’t something too special. It’s what you put your sweaty gym clothes in or what you carry around when traveling. This bag did all of that with me, but it’s more than that. This bag has a story.
When my mother’s mental illness began to “peak” around high school, when it was undeniable and in “full force”, staying at home became an impossibility. You didn’t know from minute to minute if she would be nice mom or angry abusive mom; it was probably akin to living with an alcoholic. My sister and I were at the mercy of her manic episodes. Knowing this, I pursued my driver’s license right away and passed on my first try; I knew what would happen if I didn’t, so I was highly motivated. I would take this adidas bag with me and pack my belongings and overnight items in it as well as my backpack for school. Some nights, I’d stay with my friend Katie, sometimes my friend Sara. Other nights, I’d stay with Jim & Sally and their therapy dogs. I became somewhat of a gypsy, a product of what I’d grown up trying to escape.
The experience that lasted from about age 17 to 21, created an adulthood and an independence in me at a very tender age. From age 12 and on, I always had at least one job. When I started to live with extended family and friends, I usually had at least two jobs. I’d go to school during the day, and then work as a waitress from about 4 to 12 PM, and on weekends, I worked filing at a dental office. I learned the value of work, and work took my mind off what I knew I couldn’t change. I grew up in those years, more than I wish I had. I sometimes regret not being able to go to sporting events with friends, and to not have my mind wonder. I regret not being able to know what it means to “just have fun”, “just be a teenager”. It was hard to relate to my peers, hard to become friends because I felt the need to be so serious, so stoic, so invincible. Truth is, I wasn’t. The truth is, there were days I had such a hard time and I wanted to give up. But I kept putting one foot in front of the other, day by day. Eventually, years later…life started to become a little easier, my past a little less painful, and my future, a little more bright.
When I look back on this bag, it shows me the importance of stability in someone’s life. It’s hard to save money, to do well in school, to stay on the straight and narrow, and to have meaningful relationships, when you feel you have so much to fear, so much to constantly worry about. I was in a constant state of “looking over my shoulder”, listening to the garage door for my mother to come home, and just dreading what would happen next. What a gift it is now, to sit on my couch, to just “be” and to not worry about walking on eggshells. To have the freedom, the luxury, to let your guard down, to simply relax in your cup of coffee, or sit down and read with a good book, it’s such a gift to me now – I’ll never take it for granted. Eating family meals, going to get-togethers, I remember a time when that was so hard for me to do, but now, I fully savor it. But I never forget those days of struggle, they’re a part of me. Now, I have such an appreciation for those constants in life, the stability of friends and family. Slowly, those earlier years, are fading and being replaced with newer and kinder memories, all a part of a greater tapestry that is my life.