I quite fondly remember the days when I didn’t carry anything but a house key (on occasion). As a child, I didn’t have savings, cash to carry, pens, credit cards, IDs, etc. The world was no more dangerous than today, and my pockets were empty. I remember childhood adventures in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, finding trails and paths less wandered. Friends would tag along and we’d discover and explore, all without a single thing in our pockets. As I age, I can’t help but wonder why my pockets have grown heavier with stuff.
Nowadays, I feel like I’m unfurling and unloading a mass of “necessities.” My brain tells me that all of these things I carry will come in handy throughout the day. Like a good boy scout, always “be prepared.” I regularly carry headphones, a cell phone, multiple cards and ID’s, chapstick, keys, pens, and notes. My pockets are frequently burgeoning with stuff — strange shapes created.
I know I’m not the only one. My grandmother always said, “You should carry a little cash, just in case something happens.” Even in elementary school, she imparted this standard of living. She’d suggest, “What if you need a taxi because you got lost? Or, what if you needed food and hadn’t eaten?” Cash was an out — just in case an emergency occurred.
My professors will reach into their pockets to grab larger key chains, wallets, and cash sums. The jingle is louder and they seem to have amassed more. My peers carry their clutches, purses, wallets, and bags, too. Men and women of the working world carry their packs, bags, and briefcases for a long day’s work. I’m struck by how little we had to carry as children. We could instantly step out of the house; being “prepared” was a mental state, not physical.
Frequently, I fancy the minimalist life, and try to carry less, but I can’t help but notice a discrepancy. Here I am trying to become more frugal and minimalist, but I’m carrying more than ever before. Where does need become want? What do I really need with me every day? Should I follow my grandmother’s words and carry money everywhere I go, as if I’m waiting to be attacked?! Why could I get away with nothing more than a house key as a child?
It’s easy to justify the mass grab: I have more responsibilities as an adult. The decider and chief within me argues for the stuff. It says, “You’ll need your credit card in case you get hungry, need to pay for something randomly, or anything strange happens.” Even if I take the free bus into school, I’m invariably carrying my driver’s licence, school ID, and more. Will I need to hand over my ID? Probably not. What is it about becoming an adult that becomes the justification for my outsize growth in pocket dimensions?
There’s only one conclusion in my mind: We grasp for these crutches as adults, as the fear of death seems to grow. The world is no less safe, and yet I hold onto these safety measures (especially my phone). If I leave the house without this stuff, I feel more than naked — heck, I’d rather be naked!
But every now and then, there’s an intense pleasure, joy in leaving the house with nothing but a house key (sometimes without that, even). All the “adult” responsibilities that I carry seem to be left behind — just me and the world. It’s then that I realize how splendidly simple life can be, and that those childhood adventures are always waiting. After all, feeling prepared is an internal state, not a physical one.