My backpack is holding me back


From a very young age, I was taught to stand tall.

A chin turned up means confidence. Shoulders pulled back means determination. A straight back means that not even the weight of the world can hold you down. 

For years, my natural stature was carefully cultivated into one of pure, unadulterated confidence. I spent hours working to hold my body in a way that exuded a comfortable confidence I had yet to truly grow into.

And the day my shoulders stayed back and my chin stayed up without a single thought, I learned something even more important about the power of perspective. 

If I held my shoulders up in the moments when I felt my body begin to crumble into dust in the wind, if I tore my eyes away from what was shattering me and forced my chin up in retaliation, I would begin to feel the confidence that I had always been told came with those actions. 

Looking confident not only made others think you are — it makes you think you are.

But then, the exact opposite must be true as well. When your body is pushed downbeyond its limitsyour soul, too, will feel the smothering of low self-esteem. It is why those in power so often exert control over the physical relit of those they hold captive. If you can control a person’s physical image, you can contort their internal reality. 

And I recently realized, it’s being done to me every day. It is being done to hundreds of thousands of teenagers every day.

By forcing the physical interpretation of our workload onto our backs, you are bending us beneath the weight of unnecessary pressure. When you force my back to bend, my soul bends too. When you force my chin to tuck, my soul folds into itself. 

During the class period, before or after school, any time I can walk the halls without the weight of my backpack, I walk with confidence. I stride forward quickly and with determination. My shoulders are back, my head is raised, and I do not feel confinedtrapped like an animal in a cage. However, walking down the hall with weight pushing me down, I cannot hold myself with confidence, and therefore, I feel less than.

Sometimes, to control our internal turmoil, we must control our external realities. Backpacks seem useful, logical even. However, in the end, they are nothing more than a physical representation of the oppression of younger generations.