On a recent The Root After Dark Twitter chat, I asked people to tell me how quickly they fall for people and how soon after that they reveal their feelings. The responses were wide and varied, but there was a recurring theme: A lot of people said that even if they felt something right away, they were slow to speak on it because of past experiences.

Many of them began their statements with “Experience has taught me … ” or “I’ve learned from experience … ,” and it made me wonder if people were mistakenly holding their new person accountable for something an old person did.

During the chat on sexuality, sex and gender labels and definitions, someone asked the question, “What is the difference between baggage and experience?”

That really got me to thinking, and it made me want to explore that topic in this column.

The great prophet Erykah Badu told us in a song:

Bag lady, you gon’ hurt your back
Dragging all them bags like that
I guess nobody ever told you
All you must hold on to is you, is you, is you
One day all them bags gon’ get in your way
One day all them bags gon’ get in your way
I said one day all them bags gon’ get in your way
One day all them bags gon’ get in your way, so pack light


There was a message in that musical magic.

When we establish new romantic-relationship norms based on things that have happened to us in the past, how much of that is experience and how much of it is just baggage we keep carrying with us from person to person?

Being able to tell the difference between the two is the key to being able to build new and healthy relationships with other people.


When a partner cheats on you, the pain and betrayal can sometimes feel unbearable and never-ending. There is the wrestling with the question of “Why?” and there is the self-analysis that comes with trying to figure out whether or not you were the problem.

When you are finally ready to move on, you may still be a little gun-shy because of the last experience. This is understandable. Being cautious is OK, but where do you draw the line?

If you enter your next experience with a suspicious mindset that tells you “If x cheated, then this person will probably cheat, too,” then you have now entered the realm of baggage.


That baggage could very well prevent you from creating and discovering something beautiful for yourself. You are unable to see what is in front of you because you are too busy looking back at the shit you are dragging along with you.

As Sister Badu said, pack light.

There is an old saying that goes, “Take the meat and leave the bones.” Translated for this lesson, it simply means that it’s OK to remember what happened. It’s OK to catalog it so that you can draw from it if you need to later, but be sure you are only cataloging the things that are important for your lesson, and not all the things that made you bitter about said lesson.


Were there signs? Did you know before you officially knew that your partner was cheating?

Part of it might be you kicking your own ass for not listening to your intuition. Leave that part there. Take away the part that helps you remember those signs in case you ever see them again.

Now, that doesn’t mean go out into the world looking for the signs before they even present themselves.


Sister Erykah has a verse about that, too:

Bag lady, you gon’ miss your bus
You can’t hurry up, ’cause you got too much stuff
When they see you coming, niggas take off running
From you it’s true, oh yes they do
One day he gon’ say “you crowding my space”
One day he gon’ say “you crowding my space”
I said one day he gon’ say “you crowding my space”
One day he gon’ say “you crowding my space,” so pack light

There are some experiences that may repeat themselves in your life with different people. It happens. This doesn’t mean that you carry each of those with you forever and ever, always on the lookout for it to happen again. It means you make yourself mindful, and you move on with more wisdom than you had before.


There are lessons for you to learn in every experience, and that is what you carry with you. The details become inconsequential. The memories may still sting, but even that pain dulls the more you learn to let it go.

You don’t want to go out into the world pre-emptively pushing people away or, worse yet, having them push you away because the baggage of your past is weighing you down.

Experience leads to growth. Baggage leads to being stuck in a place, often not moving forward because of the weight of it all.


That is the difference.

Take the lessons with you. Leave the bullshit attached to the lessons behind.

Pack light.

It makes for easier traveling.

We will be discussing baggage vs. experience on our next The Root After Dark Twitter chat, Tuesday at 11 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT. I will take over The Root’s official Twitter account as always, and we will chop it up. Be sure to follow The Root on Twitter and be a part of the discussion using the hashtag #TheRootAfterDark.