It’s been more than a year since I was dragged kicking and screaming into the idea that, since my spine has a rather incorrect definition of the word straight, I should probably not carry a backpack loaded down with textbooks and school supplies anymore.
So, I switched over to wheeled bags.
If I had been in high school when I realized this, I probably would have had to deal with some interesting paperwork and shenanigans to get a key to the school’s only elevator, which you had to have an officially sanctioned reason to use, but they probably wouldn’t have made me carry my bag up the stairs every time I had to go to the science hallway. Probably. Since I was in college by then, and colleges tend to trust their students not to use elevators for frivolous reasons, I didn’t need to do that. Yay me.
While I don’t miss wondering if the various muscles, bones, and tendons in my back were going to murder me in my sleep every time I picked up my bag, I do miss lots of other things about not being attached to something with wheels. Like still thinking I could join the military if I wanted.
Like being able to take the stairs.
The stairs at the university library are really fascinating. All the steps are made of stone, which lasts nearly forever supposedly, but the generations of students using those stairs have left little indents in the steps where their feet were. Walking on those is so cool. I get to physically connect to the past, stepping where people decades before me also stepped, working on school and other struggles similar to mine.
Aaaand I usually have to take the elevator, which is rickety (well, it probably isn’t, but anxiety makes it seem that way) and sometimes smells weird.
Or questioning whether I’m allowed to push the access button to get in and out of buildings, since one hand is always occupied with pulling my bag and sometimes the other is holding something, and so getting though doors gets a little harder.
I’m pretty good at using my feet to get the door open, but getting it to stay open long enough to get my bag through too doesn’t always work. Sometimes the people behind or ahead of me will take pity and hold the door open, which is very nice of them, but I don’t particularly want pity. Do I use the button, so the doors open themselves and I don’t have to mutter thanks at a complete stranger? Or am I not disabled enough to need that?
I’m never entirely sure. Sometimes I use it. Sometimes I don’t. If the universe gave me an etiquette book on such matters the day my spine went out of shape, I was too young to care. I think I was eight when my ballet teacher said my back had problems and they should be looked at.
I also sort of miss not having to maintain the wheels. An entire yard of fishing line got tangled around one axle last month. I don’t think I managed to get all of it out. The wheel broke later. I had to get a new bag.
Well, I was going to just deal with it without getting a new bag, but my parents found out and insisted. Parents can be nice like that.
But there are plenty of things I don’t miss about carrying a regular school bag. I don’t miss my back hurting as much as it used to. I don’t miss having no excuse when I accidentally tripped someone.
In fact, I could probably figure out how to trip people on purpose with my bag and make it look like an accident, if I was a budding super villain. I’m not, and I won’t, but I could if I wanted to.
I don’t miss trying to decide if the extra weight from another book was worth having just one book on hand that wasn’t focused on school.
I don’t miss having to drop my bag at the end of the day, because it’s already dropped.
I don’t miss trying to decide which kinds of straps were more comfortable to carry, or the way my favorite school shirts got all rough from where the backpack rubbed on them all day.
So when I say there are things I miss, I’m not saying that the universe ought to alter itself to make those things I miss come back. I’m not trying to complain. I’m simply sharing a part of my story. It might not be one everyone can empathize with, but I think it’s when we see the ways our stories are different that we start to understand one another better.
So: my spine isn’t straight. It alters my life in these ways. I don’t need you to fix it all for me, but I would like you to listen if you have the time.