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Backpack stigma

When you’re on a college campus, self-expression becomes vitally important because over the course of your four years you are free to be who you truly are and explore who you want to be. If you want to walk around dressed like Naruto then do it! There is no one here that will clip your wings and tell you not to. You can dress and express yourself however you want when you are at college, but for some reason there is one thing that just feels so incredibly awkward. No, I am not talking about the walk of shame or how weird it feels to walk down the hallway to your room after showering only in a towel and see someone from your floor who you do not know. Nay, the real issue on college campuses that must be tackled immediately is the amount of pure awkwardness you feel when walking around campus without a backpack.

Surely I cannot be the only one who feels this way, and if I am then that is just another reason as to why I will be billing the university for my therapy of odd social stigmas. But it is undeniable in my experience that when I am walking around campus without my backpack that I feel exposed. I feel naked and as if everyone has eyes on me for not having a backpack on. Is this fear unfounded? No! It is entirely founded in my brain from how weird I feel and no psychology and neuroscience major could ever convince me otherwise.

Walking around with a backpack is like having a security blanket and clipboard all in one accessory. The backpack says, “I got places to go so that I can do work” but it also has room for snacks and a sweater if it’s a little chilly, providing you a sense of calm like a security blanket. You know that kind of chilly when it is warm in the sun, but when you are in the shade it feels like the Arctic Circle? Well, the backpack is there for all of your needs as it is your best tool against the world! With all this in mind it can be deduced that a backpack provides a sense of security and comfort that some individuals may feel is necessary or helpful in social situations such as the college experience.

Without a backpack some students, or perhaps just me and my weird thoughts, can feel exposed and unprepared for what we may encounter—even if it is just a short walk to Sherman and back. To research my own thoughts on this controversial topic I went to the one resource that never fails to provide solely factual accounts of events and true facts and statistics on research: Reddit. After some truly in-depth research into this I stumbled upon a thread concerning this issue in only the most scientific of manners. It is called “It feels weird af walking anywhere outside without a backpack on” and I can only assume that the author “DarkMonkey98” had to use this alias to protect their own identity from those who gain from this stigma such as Jansport, Herschel and Fjallraven.

Contained in this thread were posts and reports from others like me who cannot understand why walking without a backpack can be so anxiety-inducing. I was surrounded by only the most in-depth analysis of this phenomenon, such as a follow up quote from DarkMonkey98 saying, “and I don’t balance properly.” Now I do not really understand how heavy the backpack of this obviously trained scientist must be such that they do not fall over but it goes to show how important having a backpack can be. For some, it provides a confidence of safety and preparedness and for others it stops them from constantly falling over.

But the thread also humbled my strong-willed opinion on this topic when “UDK450” made a truly astute observation on the benefits of walking around without a backpack when they wrote, “No more back sweat from the backpack!” From this comment I was reminded of how tremendously freeing it can be to feel a cool summer’s breeze on your back, to experience the cold air rush up the back of your shirt without any hindrance from a backpack.

After reading that scientific interjection, I found myself reflecting on my opinion about this matter. Perhaps I have been the one who has been too closed off, too scared to let my back bear itself as free. Perhaps at the end of the day what I am really worried about is not losing balance, being unprepared or needing security. Perhaps I just need to let my back breathe and be free from the weight that holds it down. Perhaps this is my learning curve, my phase of independent college self-expression. Who knew that at the end of the day, all it would take for me to realize this is one Reddit thread.

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