After 26 years of using backpacks, mostly due to wheelchair design, practicality and also lack of knowledge, I found myself in a situation that launched me out of my comfort zone and onto a whole new personal chapter. When I decided to go travelling around Europe for 9 months last year, I thought about the safety implications of having a backpack hanging on the back of my chair whilst travelling alone. Many friends had alerted me to it too…

I decided to purchase a new custom-made wheelchair from Mogo Wheelchairs for the trip (I was due for an upgrade and a new colour too!).  This new design allowed for a netted basket underneath the chair (this feature was ok for folding chairs, previously I had assumed it wasn’t). It also came with a discreet zipped pocket under the seat upholstery.  So now, I could carry jackets, cardigans, shopping etc under my chair and also personal items in the discreet pocket – a big backpack was no longer needed…

So off I went to shop for a handbag which would do me well during my trip. I picked up a great bargain during the New Year sales and I had it sitting there for quite a few weeks before I even tried it out.  I can be such a procrastinator sometimes! Making changes has been a constant struggle for me, it is often necessity that will force me to change. Always with a level of discomfort to face my fears… unrealistic fears most of the time because the outcome always ends up being better than before.


What I didn’t expect was the feeling that washed over me when I placed the strap over my shoulder. I looked up into the mirror and the person I saw suddenly sat up straighter with tears in her eyes. I felt like a woman… feminine… something that I had not felt in such a long time. I became quite emotional in realising just how much of my womanhood I had lost in the last 26 years. My transformation started back in 2013 when an angel came into my life but it reached a peak when I put that handbag on.

The emotions I felt were almost like mourning the death of a best friend, and then discovering that they are still alive. Had my injury and situation created such practicality in my every day actions that I had buried my femininity so much? Was this partly the reason I still had not met a significant other?… Had I hardened up so much to be practical that I lost sight of my softer side?

Suddenly I understood why women buy handbags.  Until that moment I had never understood women’s fetish and desires to spend hundreds and even thousands of dollars on a handbag. I still don’t think I could ever spend ridiculous amounts on handbags but I definitely notice the stores that sell them now. I don’t just propel past them without a glance anymore.  My perspective has completely changed.

Now I do think about whether my boots match my handbag because it will be sitting on my lap and not hanging off the back of the chair in a discreet and minimising black colour! My options have broadened, my mind has opened even further.

When I think of this story I see the parallels across my life where so many times it has been a necessity that has pushed me into new territory.  Which in turn allows me to discover a new part of me that I didn’t know I had or, as in this case, a part I had buried for so long.

So I went to Europe with one handbag and came home with about 6! Even my cousins realised that this was now an item that could be gifted to me just like it could their best friends. One of the things I realised was how the feeling of belonging to that exclusive club called ‘womanhood’ transformed my perceptions and my self-worth.  Much like the feeling new mothers get when they have achieved society’s expectation of having a family… all of a sudden there is common ground amongst these women.

I had gained back another little part of the authentic me… another topic of conversation that I could contribute to and not be excluded from in the future.

lizzy hodgins