I turned 41 in October. My wife, Emily, who celebrated her birthday today (11/17) is right behind me. While we were at dinner this afternoon, it occurred to us that we’ve celebrated more birthdays together than we celebrated apart. We’ve finally tipped the scale and have spent more than half our lives together. Our relationship is a gift to me in so many ways, but one is the ways in which we continue to allow each other enough space to grow and change, shifting with the times and needs of each stage of life. When you love someone, it is amazing to watch that person evolve and age with time. To share life so closely with another is envigorating as it is challenging, but to do it in the context of love is the best place of all. I am who I am in no small part to this person who I have spent 20 years side-by-side with.
After birthday dinner, we talked about how many of our friends have told us that their forties were their most favorite decade, I’m prepared to have that kind of positive experience myself, but honestly, each decade has been good, even when it was hard. Today, as I write this (11/19) I am reminded that 16 years ago my step-father killed himself. I’m reminded of many other loved ones we’ve lost, and countless failures and mistakes I’ve made over the years. But I also have so much to be grateful for from the past 20 years of being together.
Here’s just a short list of a few things that have happened in the midst of Emily and I creating a life together:
We have three wonderful children together
Lived in four states
Had 6 different full-time jobs and many more part-time gigs
Visited Paris, England, Ireland, and Scotland
Visited many states and had two cross-country road trips
Lived in 8 different homes
We’ve lost a parent and all of the rest of our grandparents
We have suffered the loss of many dear friends
The evolution and maintenance of faith, political views, and expectations for everyday life.
Experienced plenty of broken relationships, and sometimes saw them restored.
And so much more, how do you sum up almost 20 years in a list?
But the thing that stands out to me the most is the friendship. The friendship on one person over a long storyline of ups and downs, multiple climaxes and resolutions, laughter, joy, tears, and heartache. Each turn of the page more revealing, more dynamic that the last.
Emily, I wouldn’t change a thing. And I’d do it all over again. Repeatedly. I look forward to the next 20 years and how we improve upon the storyline.
If you know me well, you know I like bags. Backpacks, briefcases, canvas bags, “hip sacks,” you name it. I’ve been known to hunt for a good sale, or clearance item to fill a bag need. For instance, I’ve had more than one Timbuktu bag in the last 15 years that I bought from Sierra Trading Post at a steep discount. More recently, I had a slight obsession with finding the perfect “Everyday Carry” bag for work. I spent a decent amount of time researching all the latest bags on the market, Goruck, Evergoods, Aer, Incase, eBags, PRVKE, Nomatic, and more. Through this research it became very obvious to me that following blogs like Carryology, and learning about bag materials, makers, eco-friendly alternatives, techie components is a serious guilty pleasure for me; that I’m here admitting it to the internet is another thing! But, I did a lot of research into some of the most recent and really cool everyday carry bags and I wanted to share it here in case there are any other bag nerds lurking nearby.
Here’s what I did and what I learned.
Using Evernote, my preferred notetaking app, I surfed the internet using the search engine DuckDuckGo and captured all the bags I found interesting into Evernote (using the Webclipper) and then created a table of contents of all those “notes” into one master note titled “Backpack Table of Contents.”
After that, I created a list with everything I wanted/needed in a bag. I took some time prior to take notes of things I was looking for in a bag over the course of a few weeks, but then I summarized the key components into a list. I turned that list into a table in Evernote at the botton of that same note (see picture below). Evernote makes it really easy to make nice-looking, quick tables.
Next, I began reading and searching for all the bags I could find on the market that were being recommended by reviewers. There’s a whole Everyday Carry community online where I found many of these reviews . If you’re interested, two great places to get started are Carryology and Everday Carry. Then, as I found a bag of interest, I added it with the webclipper to my “backpack” folder in Everynote. At this point, I wasn’t necessarily doing deep research, I’m just skimming, trying to see what is the basic landscape, what is the language that people use to talk about different compartments and features, what are the materials, etc.
From there, I created a Table of Contents out of all of those different notes that went at the top of this one research note. Looking at the image above all those numbered items are the result of that Table of Contents. Those are each separate notes you can select and go into. The reason I did it this way rather than directly linking to each website from this note is largely because this is more expedient, capturing something with webclipper, then selecting 10 notes and hitting “create table of contents” and its done. No typing, no back and forth between various sites to get links, copying and pasting, etc.
The fourth step in this process was to narrow down my results and begin populating my table. I started with the the top bags that I thought would come closest to what I was looking for and began adding them to my chart. I’d add an image of the bag, the name, the cost, a link to it’s note or webpage, and then I would work my way down the checklist (to the left) of features I wanted/needed. This took a little time but it was fun andreally helped me to sort out what I was looking for, and disaggregate the important from the preferred. Here is how the note began to take shape.
What did I learn from this process? It’s hard to find a bag with everything you want in it. This is probably why many people have more than one! There are so many options out there and so many differences between them. As you can see from my research there are some that come very close to having what I want, but then they’re missing one or two key features, or the material they use isn’t great. But really my main takeaway is that there is no one perfect bag for everyone’s needs.
Second, a bag with a lot of opinions about how you use it is not for me. While I had all kinds of things I thought I wanted in a bag, it turns out that what I really want is one that is easy to pack and unpack, and can be used with different packing cubes, and other organization things.
A third is material really really matters. Scuffing, cleaning, zippers, etc. I bought one bag that I thought I’d really like, the Aer, and it looked really nice but the material had me contantly concerned that I was going to scuff it up. Add that to the fact that it had tons of pockets but not of them really fit with what I needed and I decided to return in.
After all of this, I ended up staying with the bag I already had, a Goruck backpack and adding some more organizational features like the Field Pocket, which offers plenty of extra pockets, uses the upper space on the inside of the bag nicely, and ties into the MOLLE straps inside the bag to (see the top photo). Add that extra little organizational feature gave it everything I needed, and I can take the Field Pocket out when I want to use my Goruck for overnight travel which I often do. In the end, I enjoyed learning more about all these different bags, how they’re manufactured, etc. and using Evernote to help distill down all that information into something useful.