I don’t know if it’s still on TV, but a few years ago, I discovered a wonderful (awful) show called Baggage, by Jerry Springer. It was a dating show, and on this show, three women or men would have three different sized bags. Each one of them would reveal one secret at a time to their prospective date by opening the bags, from smallest to largest secret. I shamefully enjoyed this show.
One of the things I liked about the show (other than the pure train wreck value), is the same reason I like PostSecret. We all have baggage. We all have things we don’t want others to know, things that weigh us down. But the thing about baggage is that it makes us who we are. The interesting quirks, the skeletons in the closet are part of what shape us.
In books, baggage can be some of the most interesting parts of the story. What would have Jane Eyre been without Rochester’s secret wife? In On Little Wings by Regina Sirois, young Jennifer finds out that her mother is not an only child, which spurs her on a search for the “truth.” In Beautiful Disaster, by Jamie McGuire, Abby has a huge secret she never wants anyone to know. Even though she tries to hide it, the secret eventually finds her. In each of these examples, the secret is eventually revealed, and everything turns out okay. I like the concept of secrets in fiction, and I like them even better when the truth is revealed. It adds depth and interest to characters. It adds a touch of humanness and gives me something to relate to. No, I’m not hiding an insane wife in my attic, but when Rochester eventually tells his story, I felt sorry for his being duped by everyone around him, and I could relate to that moment when he realized that he was forever stuck with the consequences of a bad decision.
“The things you want are always possible; it is just that the way to get them is not always apparent. The only real obstacle in your path to a fulfilling life is you, and that can be a considerable obstacle because you carry the baggage of insecurities and past experience.”