Hard Times and Pencils: Back to Basics

Some thirty-four years ago I picked up a number two pencil in a fourth grade classroom in Minnesota after being beaten sensless by a series of bullies outside in a snowcovered courtyard. I remember my bloody lip and the blood on the snow next to my gloves I’d taken off to fight back, that my belly hurt in a way I’d never felt before caused by the fists of others for the first time, and that the students had seen me ruined -especially the golden-haired girl that I’d have a crush on for a decade and never did do anything but turn that prom queen away on the dance floor when she asked to dance.

From the very start of that first day of school in 1984, the pencil was a tool that helped me disappear, and no teacher, friend or parent would ever know that the reason I was getting C grades in school was because I was finishing my schoolwork in a tenth the time of other students. I finished my work quickly just so I could turn my test paper over, get another piece of clean paper and start drawing cartoon characters and write about heroes in better worlds. It was better that way than to mentally remain focused on the cold and cruel real world I had entered into. The pencil was my best friend. It was proof that I could disappear and go somewhere and invent something better without anyone’s help.

Everyone has a moment in their childhood where they become something broken, or their character twists in a way that changes them for the worse. Some of the things we picked as children were about self-preservation. Other parts were based on finding an evolving meaning that would grow with us.

It seems that in this year, I have, within similarly painful and tragic circumstances, been completely surrounded by the most brutal of bullies and dark forces. And in that, I found that little boy with the hurts again. And, for what it is, and the pencil in my hand, I am truly and hurtingly grateful for the way out. But in this way out I have rediscovered, I don’t find this cathartic. It is instead a use of my time and a hope for the creation of something valuable for others to draw from.

I no longer seek making anything that cannot leave behind hope. The stuff of hope that is so hard is that hope requires the understanding that within the freewill of others and the non-random thing people call “chance”, I have zero control over success. Faith requires that I take my hope and apply it to the unseen. My hope lay in that through my faith I am able to reach to love through the process I have of the pencil to the paper to a better world I am trying to make. Go ahead, make me bleed on the snow. I won’t hit back.

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