When I was single and dating—a divorced adult with a child and more than one serially monogamous relationship in my backpack—the word baggage was often used.
Baggage: past experiences or long-held ideas regarded as burdens and impediments.
Burdens and impediments.
Not exactly a super-hero word in the world of adult dating. The sentence used to illustrate the word—the emotional baggage I’m hauling around—conjures up Pig-Pen from the Peanuts comic strip; the dirt and dust trailing behind him his emotional baggage.
When people talked about baggage—whether their own or someone else’s—it always referred to some past thing potentially getting in the way of present relationships.
It was never intended as a positive. The only comeback to the baggage label was, “well, everyone has baggage so let’s just get on with it.”
I didn’t like it: this single word liberally tossed about, suggesting our life experiences were only burdens and impediments.
Not that I didn’t have experiences that got in the way of relationships. I absolutely did. And do.
But my time on the planet has also produced experiences and ideas that counterbalance my baggage: things that bring benefits and blessings. I’m more mindful, more forgiving, and a better listener now than when I was younger.
We all have experiences that counterbalance our baggage; those things that enrich our lives and our way of being in the world; those things that actually make us better partners and friends.
Baggage ignores that part of our history. It focuses only on the negative.
What we need is a word that reflects our full range of experience. The bad and the good.
The word carryall holds promise, with its description as a large piece of luggage with soft sides. The fact that it’s soft and includes the word all in it gives me hope.
I suspect there may be a bigger, brighter and better word out there. Maybe an existing word, creatively repurposed. Or maybe some brilliant blogger makes up an entirely new word.
Let’s get creative. Let’s find a replacement for baggage that reflects that the luggage of our lives holds not just impediments, but also beautiful stories.