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In Search of the Perfect Bag

I am in a seemingly never ending search for the perfect bag. At the farmer’s market, the renaissance faire, REI, I gravitate to those vendors or to those sections of the store that sell bags.

But I have since realized that there is no perfect bag. It isn’t that perfect bags don’t exist. Rather, it is that my idea of perfection is a moving target. What is perfect today may not be perfect tomorrow.

What I need in my “perfect” bag has changed over the years.

Back in my college and graduate school days, I had few needs. I needed to carry some cash and my school ID card. I only had two keys, the key to my apartment building and the key to my apartment. To carry these items, all I needed was a very small bag.

This tiny leather bag was perfect. My keys and change went into the front zippered compartment. My cards slid into the pocket. My (very small) wallet went into the main zippered compartment. The strap was long enough that I could wear it as a cross body bag. Everything was secure and everything fit.

But then my needs changed. In addition to apartment keys, I now had a car key. My wallet got thicker. In it, I had a driver’s license, a couple of credit cards, a library card, a bank card, a grocery store card. It was no longer that easy to cram the thicker wallet into my tiny bag. At another renaissance faire, I found the “perfect” replacement for my little bag.

My new waist bag had the added advantage of being hands-free. When I got my first cell phone, a tiny little thing that was about the size of a lighter, it fit nicely in the smaller outside pocket. My second cell phone, a slightly larger flip phone, also fit in that same pocket. Things were perfect.

But then I got more technology: a smart phone, a iPad. My perfect bag no longer worked so well. I needed to find something else.

Enter the Ristretto by Tom Bihn (my newest favorite bag maker). It had so many organizer pockets: a padded pocket for the iPad, two pockets that were perfect sizes for my little to-do notebook and my iPhone, a couple of pen pockets, a zippered pocket where I put my wallet, a main compartment which could hold a book or notebook, and a back pocket perfect for loose papers or a magazine. It also had several o-rings onto which I could tether my keys.

This new bag held much promise to become my Every Day Carry Bag. However, I soon discovered the main problem with this bag. Because it fit so many things, I tried to make it my one and only bag. But with everything that I wanted to carry at times, the bag became much too heavy. Even with its padded cross body strap, one shoulder was carrying more weight than was comfortable.

Maybe one bag will never be my perfect “Every Day Carry Bag”. My solution now is to have two bags.

  • a backpack for my MacBook and/or iPad, books, and binders; all those heavy things that were weighing down my Ristratto.
  • a smaller bag for all the other sundry items that I carry: wallet, keys, a pen and a pencil and my little to-do notebook, the iPhone, my earbuds,

I pulled out my absolute favorite backpack, my 40+ year old Jansport. They do NOT make backpacks like this any more. A piece of leather secures the straps in back. The buckles are metal – they will never break like plastic ones do. And Jansport, true to its lifetime guarantee, replaced my broken zipper for free about twelve years ago.

And I purchased a smaller bag, the Sidekick, from Tom Bihn.

My Jansport is a relatively small backpack. It will hold my laptop, a textbook, and a thin binder. So it never gets too terribly heavy. Carrying a backpack is easier on my shoulders than carrying a cross-body shoulder bag.

The Sidekick is a perfect small bag. It has lots of organization. An outer zipped pocket has my keys, tethered nicely by the o-rings and key-straps. Inside are more o-rings and multiple pockets. The interior o-rings tether my Tom Bihn wallet and other organizational pouches. This means I will never accidentally leave my wallet somewhere ever again. There are pockets for my phone, to-do notebook, a pen, a pencil, sunglasses, and more. I can nicely fit a paperback in the main compartment.

So for now, I don’t have a perfect bag, but I do have a perfect bag combination. The operative word is “for now”. Things might change. Who knows what I will need in a year or two?

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Holding a Dream … Lightly

Bucket List

noun

a list of things that one has not done before but wants to do before dying

Merriam–Webster

 

It doesn’t seem as if it were that long ago that I started hearing about bucket lists. People would ask me what was on my bucket list. I could not answer. There are always lots of things that I want to do. Did I have to choose? If I tried to enumerate every idea that came to my mind, I would have a list that no one could accomplish in a lifetime.

The notion of keeping a bucket list seems too inflexible to me. My hopes and aspirations are fluid. Circumstances change and I want to be able to change my dreams accordingly. So I think it is good to have dreams, but to hold them lightly.

Sometimes interests change. Back when I was in my early thirties, I bicycled with three friends as far as I could go in a week. Two of them were bicycling across the country. I had only a week’s worth of vacation time, so I went with them from Seattle, WA to Libby, MT. For a long time after that, I had the dream of one day bicycling across the country. That dream got modified – taking an entire summer off did not seem feasible – maybe I would bicycle across the country in stages, a week at a time. Pete even offered to be my sag support. When we moved to the midwest, the thought of driving out west to spend a week bicycling seemed like too much effort – too much driving, too much time away with both the driving and the bicycling. So I didn’t pursue the dream. For a while, a long while, I felt badly about abandoning that dream. Was I was just giving up? Was I not persistent enough? But, in fact, my interests had changed. Holding tightly to that dream brought about feelings of guilt and shame. I’m glad I realized that I’m in a different place now and I don’t have to be tied down to that dream.  I’m happy to just go bicycling along the roads and bicycle paths in Albuquerque.

I don’t want to hold on to a dream so tightly that I would be devastated if, for some reason, I could no longer pursue it. I have hobbies that give me a great deal of pleasure and that I’ve always thought I would continue doing for the rest of my life. I love to spin and knit and play the recorder. But my thumb joints are giving me problems. They ache when I overuse them in any kind of gripping motion.  Right now, I’m trying to figure out if there are modifications that I can do (hand position, equipment, materials) to alleviate the problems. I know that my thumbs are likely to continue to get worse. So I am also thinking of other activities that I can do that won’t put strain on my poor thumbs. I want to be able to transition (and plan that transition) from one dream to another.

Sometimes, holding on to a dream too tightly blinds us to other possibilities. For many, many, years, I’ve held the dream of, one day, having a little residential–sized pipe organ. Such things do exist. I’ve played on little pipe organs in practice rooms at music schools and dreamed of having one of my own someday. Being a bit of an organ snob, I didn’t even consider anything other than a pipe organ. Then, a year ago, when I actually had the opportunity to buy a small pipe organ (albeit a bit bigger than I had envisioned), I started re-evaluating that dream. Though I now have tall enough ceilings that a small pipe organ would fit the space, I live in an apartment building now. I have neighbors who share walls, ceilings, floors. I realized that I wasn’t playing the piano very much because I did not want to disturb my neighbors, especially at odd times of the day or night. Only then did I start to think that a digital organ, with headphones, would be much more practical. Technology has improved a lot and I found a digital organ that I really liked. I had to let go of that dream of a pipe organ to fulfill my dream of just getting an organ of my very own. Holding on tightly to that dream of a pipe organ had not allowed me to think of any other possibilities that would have given me joy and fulfillment.

Do I still have dreams? Oh, yes. Pete and I think about going to France for a year. But that may morph into something else. Perhaps exploring all  the Amtrak routes, stopping off at places we’ve never been to and then hopping on the train again to go to the next place. Perhaps it will be buying a little camper van (an old VW would be perfect!) and traveling around the country for a year. France is still a dream – but one that I am holding on to lightly. And, in the meantime, we can go to Paris for a few days on a vacation.

I’m fortunate to have many interests. I’m fortunate that I get excited about the prospect of doing many different things. If accomplishing one of my dreams does not work out, there are a number of other dreams that can take its place.

So hold on to those dreams … but lightly.

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