This summer, I pulled out all my old notebooks from my freshman through junior years at Franciscan in hopes of finding information useful for my thesis. I opened up notebook after notebook — written unabashedly in pencil — and I was disappointed.
Not because I couldn’t find information for my thesis, but because the notes I had taken so few years ago were already fading. The pencil markings I had attentively applied to each page were rubbing off onto other pages, blurring all my notes. In short, my notebooks were a mess. They were difficult to read and probably getting even more difficult with every turn of a page.
I like to write in pencil. Good old yellow pencils that require sharpening way too often. Pencils with nice pink erasers that can be covered with eraser caps whenever they are used up. See, I write with my left hand, which means that pens smear a bit when I use them, and pencils are far superior anyway because they are erasable. I don’t have to worry about making mistakes.
Have you even approached life with this “erasable” mentality? I know I have.
Commitment is intimidating. We make choices, and we can make the wrong ones, so sometimes I just tell myself, “It’s okay. You can just go back if you change your mind.”
The thing is, even though I think my pencil-and-eraser mentality is an easier way to approach life, it is not as good because it is not as true.
Especially as Catholics, it is easy to make choices lightly because we are used to our faith which includes the blessing of the sacrament of reconciliation, and we see the world through this lens. “If I mess up, I can just go to confession. No big deal,” we think right before we make choices that lead us down sinful paths.
First off, no, this is presumptuous and false. Actions have consequences. Yes, we can be forgiven through the sacrament of reconciliation; we can begin to heal from the wounds of sin; and we can avoid eternal punishment — but that doesn’t mean we never sinned. We still have wounds from those sins, and the sins of our past may still hurt people we love or will love in the future.
Even on a more minor scale, how often have you half-heartedly accepted an invite to hang out with friends, ready to change plans at a moment’s notice if a better offer comes or if you just decide you don’t feel like going anymore? I know I have been guilty of this.
I make plans I may or may not follow through on, ready to back out if I change my mind, because I am only thinking about myself, not how my actions may affect my friends. I think I can erase my plans without consequences, and I forget that even erasers leave marks.
The pencil-and-eraser mentality doesn’t work because we are already writing our lives in pen, even when we don’t realize it.
Though I tell myself I can erase any decision I make, I can really only scratch it out, so the pen marks are still there, dark and noticeable. This is intimidating, but it also ends up being more fulfilling. Unlike my pencil-written notebooks, my life written in pen will be written boldly and beautifully, complete with the left-hand smudges and parts scratched out, which just add more to my story.
The point is, be intentional. Think through your choices, and then make them. Don’t spend life with one foot in one boat and the other foot in another. Every choice you make bears fruits, and if you divide your energy between the choice you made and the ones you didn’t, you won’t appreciate the good of your choice as much.
Just to give you an example, if you’re going to enter a relationship with someone, do so intentionally. Dating is discerning marriage, and it ought to be approached that way. You can start dating someone thinking that you’ll back out as soon as you meet someone else you’re interested in, or you can start dating someone that you have chosen and can discern with that person only until there’s a real reason to stop. In which scenario will you be happier?
You are writing your life story, and you are writing it in pen, so make every decision like it can’t be erased. That being said, if you do need to cross something out, cross it out, and keep moving forward. It may be a bit messy, but it has such potential to be beautiful, especially if you approach it with intentionality. So, what’s the next line you’re going to write?