The Connection Between Pencil and Pen

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My blood runs cold when a teacher asks for something in pen. Nothing I write ever seems like it’s solidified enough to condemn to perminance. I’m not one for that level of commitment. There’s no going back with pen–you can try to scribble over it or slather it in clumpy white-out, but your first thought isn’t ever gone. Conceal it all you want, but there’s still proof that you wrote it. Every line you make is forever yours, and you can’t do anything about it.

A simple fix to this commitment issue: I always use pencil when left to my own devices. Add two numbers incorrectly? Erase it. Write down the wrong date of your next test? Erase it. Hate every single word of your DBQ? Erase the whole thing and start from scratch. Pencil is one of the few things in life for which you have a reset button. You can do away with any evidence that you can’t do math, don’t know how to use a calendar, or have minimal knowledge on AP thesis format.

So why does everyone always want everything in pen? Do they want us to be able to see each mistake we’ve made? Are we forced to recognize the immutability of our words and therefore deprived of the chance to go back on them? Is their way of ensuring we write cautiously a microcosm for humanity’s inability to backtrack and reverse some of our greatest tragedies and aberrations?

The answer, of course, is that I have no idea.

To solve this problem, I’m left to no other option but confidence, and I happen to be much better at erasing everything I do than being confident in it. So can this be fixed? How is this erased?

It all lurks in our surroundings.

When you live in a competitive environment, you become conditioned to it. You fight over how little sleep you get; you all talk over each other in discussions to get those coveted participation points; you bring in food to all your class presentations to trick a teacher into half a bonus point. When everything around you is treated like the Olympics and everyone else wants gold just as badly, it’s so easy to lose touch of why you do things. You stopped drawing doodles in your notes to make you smile and started doing them for extra credit. Your labs devolved from a display of your love of science to a desperate attempt at a hundred. The essays you used to weave your soul into collapsed into a misshapen heap of SAT vocab.

Even writing, the thing that keeps me, like tons of other people, grounded. Even that has become something at which people fight to be the best. I, too, am extremely guilty.

And so we write these things in pencil, as lightly as we can in case we need to erase it later to apologetically make it better. There is no certainty in what we turn in. There isn’t even any certainty left in what we keep to ourselves.

But this year–my junior year, the hardest year of my entire life–is when I drop my pencil. I’m just barely starting to find out exactly who I am, but I kind of like her (it’s a bit tentative right now, but that’s subject to change). For the first time ever, I actually care about what I say–and what I write–enough to bestow permanence upon it. Yes, I inadvertently entered myself into the perpetual arms race to be at the top, but guess what? The view is just as stunning from the middle of the mountain than at the top, and it’s so much easier to breath because of the lower elevation. I don’t need to second-guess everything because there’s no point in wasting my time trying to be the best Nardin Girl when I can focus my energy on being the best Nina.

My blood still runs cold when a teacher asks for something in pen. I still am not entirely comfortable with the lack of eraser and long for my pencil’s undependability, but this, like many things, is subject to change.

I wrote all this in pen, after all, so that’s a good start.   

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