I love musicals, and one line that I used to love was from RENT: “I’m looking for baggage that goes with mine.” I always found this tender admission to be somewhat romantic, a clever metaphor for compatibility in a relationship, but now I think it’s nonsense.
I mean, have you ever gone travelling and you’re standing at the baggage claim and you see someone grab a suitcase, struggle to pull it off the carousel, look at the nametag, and then realize it’s not theirs? And then they get flustered and embarrassed and quickly and awkwardly put the suitcase back on the carousel and hope nobody noticed?
That’s what happens in relationships when you have baggage that matches your partner’s. You mistake it for your own. Maybe you even carry it around for a while. Maybe you never even notice it’s not your bag, or that nobody asked you to carry it.
Kyle Cease has this great analogy about fire. Two people on fire can intimately and closely connect by talking about how bad the burning feels, but what they really need is to talk to someone about water. In other words, they need baggage that doesn’t match their own in order to grow, to heal.
Some people tie pretty bows or pieces of fabric to their luggage, and it helps remind them of what’s theirs. It also lets other people know that baggage isn’t theirs. I like these people. They’re practical, responsible, and creative.
About ten years ago, my stepdad gave me his giant neon pink and yellow duffel bag from the 1980s. It was exactly as you imagine – SO bright and RIDICULOUSLY colorful, with ZERO percent chance anyone could ever mistake it for their own bag. In fact, I used to give my bag a victory lap before I took it off the carousel at the baggage claim. I wanted everyone to see it. I enjoyed the smiles it created and the way people would point and laugh while I watched and waited. I loved my baggage. Still do.
Have you ever seen those people who pack WAY too much for a trip, and their partner is carrying their purse or their spare backpack or dragging that extra suitcase or Duty Free purchase and they’re slowly and stressfully shuffling through the airport? The extra baggage from one of them slows them both down.
Now, I don’t want someone whose baggage goes with mine. I just want someone who can identify and carry their own.