My seven-year-old self had difficulty spelling the word "pumpkin," often forgetting the "p" coming after "m." When I was younger I found myself eager to learn and wanting to go through everything as fast as possible. I always struggled with spelling, but accomplished other tasks with ease- tasks which didn't call for correctness, just learning. At fifteen, molar calculations in chemistry were my demise. Somewhere along the way, I would convert wrong and the result would bring me back to the start. I find my forefinger and thumb maneuvering my pencil, flipping it upside down and moving the pink cylinder left to right, leaving faint marks of graphite on the paper which my pencil begins to correct over. A mistake.
My childhood was characterized by the ease by which I could fix something. Something careless. A lack of precision. The simplicity of redoing something- having a second chance. I had been with a pencil throughout primary and secondary school, having a hard time giving it up in high school (I've never been the type to carry whiteout, either). There was a part of me that didn't feel confident enough in myself to trust that I could do something right the first time, and my lack of certainty was often met by my older sister's confidence. A codependence developed: I looked for guidance, I needed approval. I couldn't "get it" the first time around. As I fumbled through fundamental math and science courses, my papers bore sloppy grey patches, graphite indentations, red x's, and were thrown into the trashcan. On the first day of sophomore year, my chemistry teacher advised the class to write only in pencil- lightly- and to expect mistakes.
My first essay for AP Lang had to be written in pen. I looked down at my paper and watched the black ink permanently mark the pages- my choice of words finite. These were ideas I couldn't shy away from. Dr.Hull called time and Justin turned around with his hand outstretched. I begrudgingly handed in my paper feeling sick, ashamed, and completely defeated. I didn't want my teacher reading my essay in fear that it would start the year off wrong- that this paper wasn't me- that I was capable of doing better work. It was the first time something had been taken away from me to be evaluated without my complete review.
Chaos of junior year ensued and I began to do more that I was unsure about. Yet, I found myself learning. I strayed from the stringent track I had set myself on: a track of looking for perfection. Yet, I discovered I was going to make mistakes. I couldn't help them. Mistakes were helping me learn and making me grow. The work I had so much anxiety over turned out to be fine, good, even, as did the rest of junior year. I loosened up. While aware of my mistakes, I decided being self conscious is normal. I stopped trying to be prepared for everything and to just be.
In growing up, there are rites of passage like driving a car, working, or turning eighteen. I don't feel completely grown up, but I've gotten out of childhood by deconstructing the self-doubt that I've amassed throughout the years. I'm not all the way there yet, but going to college is essential for me to keep growing. To bring me more in touch with myself—move me further into adulthood. As my actions become finalized, I'm losing a little bit of the control I have of the present. I feel vulnerable.
Pencils will always be there for me. They're light, smooth, and forgiving. I'll be able to gloss over some of life's mistakes, but my future will undoubtedly be permanently marked by minute failures and mess-ups. A permanent impermanence.