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Like everyone else, I used to carry a bag to work. Day in, day out. But as you’ve already learned from the title, I don’t do that anymore. It all started with a question and a mirror reflection.
But let me first bring you through the context, which I am pretty certain a lot of you in a typical corporate job can resonate with.
The things inside one's purse can generally be classified into three types: the 'essentials/constants' – phone, lipsticks, keys, water bottle, planner, specs & cardigan; the 'occasionals' – laptop, laptop charger, change of shoes/clothes, headphones, books, work files and power banks; and the ‘forgottens' – coins, name cards, hair ties, & receipts. Out of the three, the ‘occasionals’ tend to occupy the most space and contribute to the bulk of the weight, while the ‘forgottens’ just love sprinkling themselves throughout your bag, making your phone/pen/headphones-digging an even more tedious process.
As much as I was annoyed by my bag situation, it just never really occurred to me to ask myself the question ‘do I really need to carry a bag?’ I mean take a look around you, ALMOST EVERY SINGLE PERSON CARRIES A BAG. As a general insight, I now see in hindsight that if everyone around you is doing something, it really takes a very conscious effort to even start realizing the need to question and challenge that at all.
Then it happened.
It was a particular exhausting work day, when I finally stepped out from my desk, my mind was as good as an overnight stale pot of deep-fried oil. And the severe lack of sleep from the previous night certainly did not make things feel any better. I packed up my stuff (see paragraph 3) and grudgingly chucked my laptop and the charger into the bag, thinking of the things yet to be done.
I headed for the elevator zombie-like, fully depending on the muscle memory of my legs to carry me there. Before I knew it, I was in the elevator alone. The elevator was the kind with full-length mirrors on all four of its sides and lit by very warm incandescent lighting. It was the very first time I looked at my reflection the entire day, a fact made twice as overwhelming in that particular elevator; imagine looking up and seeing an infinite number of yourselves looking back at you suddenly. I saw my lifeless eyes smeared with fatigue. I saw my shoulders slanting asymmetrically from the years of carrying shoulder bags. I saw myself, a young woman, but with no sparkle and simply just unfresh.
Almost like a switch, something in me flipped and I decided at that point, no more. So I went straight back to the office and put down all my stuff, took out my phone and a lanyard containing my security card and credit card, and headed back home just like that.
And you know what? I had never felt so naked and insecure in public all the way home!
I suddenly became extremely aware of my arms, and where/how to put them turned into a conscious decision every other moment. At the same time, I found myself paying significantly more attention to the people around me. I noticed their dressing details, their demeanor, their grocery bags, their expressions while talking on their phones…That was also when I realized having less things on me meant having less distractions, giving me much more time and concentration to the things actually happening around me.
I took bigger strides, my arms were able to swing freely by my sides, my head was up and my eyes were ready to make eye contact with the incoming crowd. I felt genuinely confident, which was an emotion that I had not felt for quite some time, which I had not even realized up until that moment. I am not sure how to put it across to you, but it almost felt like I was liberated from something that night.
From then on, I hardly carried another bag to work again. I switched to using more cards instead of cash, as well as gotten myself a few more lipsticks, another water bottle and some change of clothes/shoes to put at work so I don’t have to bring them with me all the time. Unless I have no choice but to work, I simply refuse to bring home my laptop or any work documents. Once you sit down and go through the so-called ‘essentials’ and think of the alternative ways you can replace or re-position them, you will likely find that there is really nothing much left to bring.
On a side note, not carrying a bag also seems to be a great conversation starter for people to come and talk to you, and I can personally attest to that. If doing this one small thing means less weight to lug around, becoming more confident and aware of yourself, paying more attention to your surroundings, and starting more conversations with people, then you should at least try it once.
Go home without your bag today, you’ll see what I mean.