I want an empty backpack. Contrary to the message most books, movies, TV shows, plays, religion and society tell us, I want to lead an unencumbered life. If you have no idea what I am talking about then you have not seen “Up in the Air.” The movie itself is not important, but what is noteworthy to me is the message it conveys as the substandard model for living. The empty backpack is a metaphor for a life not weighed down by the burdens of material possessions and people. An unfettered life is lighter, easier and better says the empty backpack philosophy, and I like it.
The moral to the story is so often that yes, you want a love relationship, you want a family, you want a big house filled with furniture and possessions and 100 pairs of shoes (okay that last one I kinda do want) and you want people that you are beholden to and things you are responsible for because those are the symptoms of a happy life. Well, I sat in the theater watching a movie about a character that is the opposite of this philosophy and realized that I wanted to be him. I want to travel 300 days a year for work and live out of hotels and have meaningless or accidentally meaningful interactions with strangers in snippets of time without any responsibility of following up with more contact. Why can’t we just have a nice conversation with someone without it leading to phone numbers or emails or Facebook friending?
I look at these moments as bubbles. You have a nice talk with someone who is in a similar boat, living out of a hotel for the moment, sans family or friends and you connect on that level. The conversation is driven not by a deep need to connect, but by momentarily similar circumstances. The moment is encapsulated in that unique circumstance, but come morning when you’re both leaving the hotel on the shuttle back to the airport and you see one another you simply nod, no further conversation is necessary because that moment was before and only before, you are not friends outside of that one bubble.
I want a lifetime of bubbles. I love my friends and family, but they are huge responsibilities and I am not up for the challenge. I’m a great long distance or Facebook friend. I love knowing that if I called Jenni up right now and said I needed someone to talk to, she would listen, but she doesn’t expect a holiday card or birthday gift or weekly calls to see how the kids are doing. I have too many things that I have filled my house with because I believed that is what responsible adults do. My reality, however, is that I love living in an urban locale because I don’t need a car or an excuse to have a small apartment without much stuff in it. In the burbs it is easy to feel second rate because you do not own a home and the requisite houseful of furniture to go with it. You also need a nice car, a spouse and a couple of kids to complete that picture. Without all that stuff, you just appear to be lacking.
Well, thanks to a semi-formulaic movie I realize I am not lacking and that I am the type of person for whom an empty backpack/nomad lifestyle might just work. I have too many things cluttering my mind and my living space. Maybe if I start by ditching the material goods, my mental and emotional clutter will begin to recede as well. I’m not a person who doesn’t care about others, but I hate the burden of constantly having to consider the feelings of so many other people as well as their opinions. Yes, I have a small apartment instead of a house, I’d prefer a subway to a car, I hate to clean and no, I don’t ever want children. That leaves a lot of room in my backpack for passports (old and current) and memories which are really the only trinkets worth saving.