My dear reader,
Today is National Pencil Day. And I insist that we celebrate this humble, hardworking item and honor its steadfast service. Especially because it may soon become an endangered instrument. Think about it. Since we spend a good part of each day texting messages and tapping keyboards and signing keypads with our index fingers, I fear that the lowly Ticonderoga #2 may become a thing of the past. And I simply cannot bear the thought.
Once upon a time, when I was still single digits and sporting Garanimals and bouncing from school to school (Mill Street School to Mattie B. Luhr to Prestonia to Maplebrook Elementary, all in four years), my pencil box was kind of like a security blanket. And its contents were familiar and, in my mind, friendly. Bright and yellow and sunshine-y. When you’re the New Girl every year, it’s a good idea to focus on what you have – pencils and pocket folders and paste (in the primeval, pre-purple-glue-stick era) – rather than what you don’t have. Friends.
All I needed was a decent wall-mounted pencil sharpener and some wide-lined newsprint paper, and I was all set – no matter what classroom or grade or school district. Me and my pencils, we were ready for action. I approached my elementary education with ample school supplies and all the bravado that my 4-foot-3-inch frame could muster:
“All right, Miss Stone… Bring it!”
In my seventeen years of full-time studies, I don’t recall ever saying that I hated school. Well, except perhaps during the second semester of Mrs. Witte’s math class at Lincoln Junior High. I distinctly remember spending a dazzlingly sunny afternoon stuck in a kitchen chair at my friend Kimberly’s, laboring over algebraic equations. The fresh air and blue skies beckoned, but alas, we were doomed to spend every last daylight hour wrangling pesky polynomials. At some point in our quadratic delirium, I recall a fit of calculation-frustration wherein Kim and I were snapping pencils over our knees. (We wanted to rip/tear/shred pages from our math workbooks, but we wisely concluded that would be counterproductive.)
Honest and truly, though, that is the only time I remember “hating” school. Or wrongfully destroying any type of writing implement.
(Give peace a chance. That’s my motto.)
Pencils are ordinary, inexpensive, everyday objects that almost entirely escape our notice. Likely, at this very moment, you have a surplus of pencils in your desk, junk drawer, briefcase/backpack/handbag. You may also find stray pencils under beds, behind dressers, between couch cushions, inside your car console or carry-on bag or toolbox, and amongst hardware supplies and garden tools and sports equipment in the garage. Or perhaps, like me, you may one day find a pencil in your undergarment drawer. Wait… what?! Never mind. Let’s move on, shall we?
Pencils can be found nearly anywhere, anytime. Except five minutes before your high school junior is leaving to take his college entrance exam. Then there is nary a Number 2 to be found. (This can cause mild to moderate irritation for parents of said junior. Or so I’m told.)
In my book, pencils are vastly undervalued.
Pencils can be used to write, doodle, draw, scribble, sketch, shade, trace. They can be used to convey ideas and capture images and crunch numbers. And they’re also pretty handy as window props and plant stakes and finger splints and back-scratchers and bookmarks and muddy-shoe-cleaners and hair-sticks-for-messy-buns.
So in recognition of National Pencil Day, I’d like to make a point. Several, actually. Here’s the first:
Take a cue from your #2.
Be humble, hardworking, helpful.
Make a point. With your words. With your life. What defines you? What or whom do you live for? What’s your passion, your perspective, your purpose? Let’s live pointedly, people. Otherwise, we’re just wasting our time on this planet. Draining resources and sucking air and taking up space.
Add some color. Pencils don’t have to be strictly HB2 (that’s hard/black/#2 for you pencil rookies.) In addition to the standard variety graphite pencils, there are charcoal, carbon, underglaze, and grease pencils. And my personal favorite: colored pencils!!! Like crayons, but a little more slender and sophisticated. (Think Grace Kelly or Cate Blanchett, as opposed to, say, Miss Piggy… or Violet Beauregarde.) Life is beautiful, oftentimes simply because it’s so brilliantly colorful. So add your own hue or two (or twelve!) to your little corner of the world… and pretty it up.
Erase and start again. Mistakes happen. That’s why H.L. Lipman invented and patented the pencil-with-an-eraser-attachment in 1858. And that’s why we need to say “sorry” and start over sometimes. If you mess up, don’t rip up your entire paper/project/personal life. Ask forgiveness (God offers an abundant supply) and begin again.
Be creative. Draw freehand. Color outside the lines. Scribble notes. Make plans. Imagine your life as a blank page… The possibilities are endless. Yes, even now.
Tell your story. We all have one. What’s yours? Where did it begin? When did the story turn? Who was there? What chapter is your favorite? Why? How do you hope it’ll turn out? Grab a pencil – mechanical, manual, maroon or mauve – and write it all down someplace. A napkin or a notebook. A diary or journal or fill-in-the-blank autobiography. (Yep, this is a real thing. Currently on sale at Barnes and Noble. You’re welcome.)
Sharpen a pencil. Any kind or color. And…
P.S. My favorite pencils of all time are the Mirado Black Warriors. They’re sharp, sleek, and strong. And they go with everything. (Even Mondays.)