To Write Out Loud

Natalie - Los Altos, California
Entered on September 29, 2008
Age Group: Under 18

Natalie Kwong

To Write Out Loud

I never knew there was more to a pen than to learn how to hold it – never thought that a pen could teach me a life lesson. I was assisting an art class a few years ago, helping manage fifteen second graders. When the teacher got out the supplies for the day’s lesson, I was surprised to see that it was not a box of the usual Ticonderogas with their neat erasers, but instead a container of fine tip sharpies. As I looked puzzily on, he showed the box to the class:

“Today, we’re going to be starting our drawings. You guys might be used to drawing with pencil, but today, as you can see, we’re going to go with these permanent markers. Does anyone know why? It’s because I don’t want you guys to be able to erase – because when you draw, you don’t make mistakes! I don’t want you to keep erasing over and over again – what you put on paper is perfect! Alright? Okay, we have until lunch to finish.”

In elementary school, I, too, had gone through the same lesson. Embrace the drawing, without critiquing it. What you draw is what is perfect. Until now, I had simply accepted the concept and drawn without inhibition, knowing that whatever I produced would be embraced by my teacher. But when I heard the same statement from an outside perspective, I started to slowly reflect in my head. Why not? Why not believe that, similar to drawing with Sharpie, a path could be etched, one that couldn’t be erased – one without regrets or doubts? As I slowly digested the idea, I began to see the possibility of living a more confident and self-assured life.

In the past, I had faltered countless times in which I doubted the direction of my future. During the beginning of high school, I constantly struggled with a lack of general confidence about my social group of friends and, more importantly, where I belonged. I tried to join as many clubs as I could, trying to find a place and a group to fit into. Wandering from meeting to meeting, I would debate the pros and cons of each. I deliberated, debated, and thought some more. Eventually I found a passion in community service – but still wondered what it would have been like if I had gone for Model UN, Mock Trial, or even Green Team.

I wanted to be someone who was confident. I strove to be able to pick up the Sharpie, instead of the easy pencil, and walk with purpose. Someone who, without obsessing, could make decisions without immediate regrets.

A few weeks ago, I walked into Economics and was greeted by the sign, “In your life you must do only two things: make choices and live with the consequences”. I stared at the sign while the first ten minutes of introductions went by, absorbing the phrase, and bringing myself back to the art class. I could see, after a few minutes, the way the black ink bled through their papers, creating thick lines at the tip dragged across the surface. There was no way to start over, or to erase and instead draw something else. I realized, soon afterwards, that making decisions is the same process. Once the line is drawn, either to the left or the right, there is no point in brooding in the past. Whatever the consequences, I am confident that I will be able to handle them. Whatever decisions I make, I trust myself enough to know that they are what’s best.

I believe that there is no turning back. No regrets, no wondering about what if I had turned in the other direction, or chosen the other choice. My goal is to keep looking forward as I go along. I see the future as a blank canvas, to be filled however I decide to fill it. I choose the drawing utensils, I choose the design. It’s my choice.

A few days ago, I found a pack of Sharpies – unopened and ready to use. Turning it over, I discovered their slogan: Write Out Loud! The perfect start to my blank canvas.