The first few pages of Tim O’Brien’s classic war novel The Things They Carried are focused on the titular idea, as it randomly peruses through the objects the soldiers are carrying with them throughout the war. About 15 whole pages pass by as we learn about what was carried, when, at what time; how Jimmy Cross carried letters from Martha, a girl which he had developed a rather tragic one-sided infatuation for years. How Mitchell Sanders carried a 26 pound PRC-25 radio. How Henry Dobbins carried and ate chocolate bars as he marched through the rough terrain of Vietnam. How Ted Lavender(before he was shot) carried “6 to 7 ounces of dope”.
Some of these random objects come into play later in the novel. O’Brien decides to elaborate on Jimmy Cross’ relationship with Martha, as well as the bible always carried by the soldier Kiowa, as his character’s unyielding faith plays a somewhat key narrative role later on, via truly elaborating the desperation felt by O’Brien(represented by the author, as the narrator) as Kiowa dies one rainy night in a veritable “shit-field”. However, more often than not, no real reason is provided to the trinkets carried by the members of Alpha Company, the squad O’Brien is part of during the novel. We never learn the reason why some of the soldiers carry pencils and pens. Why Lee Strunk carried tanning lotion, or why Henry Dobbins carried 15 to 20 pounds of spare ammunition around with him wherever he went.
I find that many similar odds and ends appear throughout my life, reactions or objects that I cannot find any justification for. I have learned that, for whatever reason, I have to keep my phone in my right jean pocket, and my other trinkets(my ID, my pocket change, my transpass for the train) in my left pocket. If I try to change this order up, for instance, dare I say, put my phone in my right jean pocket, I start fidgeting like someone put an ice-cube down my shirt until I put all of my carry-ons in their correct place. Things like this might indicate to the casual observer that I’m some sort of OCD psycho-path, but then there are things that no matter how much I try, I can’t seem to find a reason for my behavior. I brush my hair out of my eyes about 50 times a day, despite my hair currently being so short that even if I brush my hair downward it probably wouldn’t block my view anyway. When I go to sleep every night, if all of my trinkets aren’t in my line-of-sight on my dresser, I might just freak out because apparently if they aren’t on that dresser, they’ve probably disappeared from planet earth all together. Also, if I’m on an airplane, I always want the aisle-set for no adequately explored reason.
I don’t expect to know my I do these things, neither do I ever expect to learn why Henry Dobbins carried chocolate or why Ted Lavender carried 6 to 7 pounds of dope. Hey, I’m 16, I don’t expect myself to explain myself, and for that matter, I don’t expect myself to be able to when I’m 60. Sometimes, the reasons people do things, or change the way they do are unexplainable. That’s not very satisfying from a storytelling perspective, but that, much to my personal dismay, is the reality of the life we live in. Things happen. People change. I change. I’m a different person than I was yesterday. Sometimes there’s a reasons for that, and sometimes there isn’t. My likes and dislikes change. Sometimes there’s a reason for that, and sometimes there isn’t. And sometimes it’s for a whole other reason I’m not even considering. And though I’ve never personally been another person in my life, but I feel like that is true for everyone, at least on some level. Like how Rat Kiley’s mental state complete deteriorated once he transferred to Japan. For no real reason. Even though he had been more stressing things during the war. The straw that broke the camel’s back was a transfer to Japan. Why? Hell if I know.
I’m 16. Right now I’m a moody, somewhat sarcastic, somewhat condescending person, who is always trying to figure out the reasons for the things I do and the things I think. Which is frustrating, frankly, since I’m always thinking things, so I’m always trying to process those things, which means I miss sometimes the words when others talk to me, which means I start to think about why I missed their query, and you get the point. Why? Hell if I know. Right now, as I write this very essay, I’m copying Tim O’Brien’s writing quirk of constantly remind the reader how old he is, since I’m constantly repeating that I’m currently 16. Why? Hell if I know.
I’m 16, and I spent a long time trying to figure out the question how are we, as individuals, are affected by the world around them. The answer I eventually came to, is that it’s the opposite. Perhaps it’s that the world changes us as we see more of it, but those changes are arbitrary, complete. I’m 16 now, and I hate tomatoes, but perhaps I’ll love those red slices in time. Because… we all change, if you think about. We’re different people, throughout our entire lives. And that’s okay. Because everyone changes, in ways often unexplainable, in ways often explainable. I don’t ever expect to know, for certain, how we change, why we change. But I know that we all change. Because we need to. The person we are now isn’t always up to the challenge of the person you are tomorrow. Just one thing… I think you should remember all the people that you used to be. Perhaps what I’m writing right now will not settle well with the person I am tomorrow. But as long as I remember that person I was, I can perhaps change in ways that aren’t arbitrary, in ways that I actually want to change. So… I’ll try to remember this. This person, I am, right now, the moody sarcastic condescending teenager who doesn’t know what the hell he is typing right now or why. I’ll always try to remember when Quinn Grzywinski was me. Because maybe as I change, inevitably, I’ll learn why I was the way I was. Then perhaps I’ll figure out who I am right now. Who I’ll be tomorrow. Who I’ll be for the rest of my life.