What’s In Your Backpack?

Many people think of January 1st as launching the “new year.” Why people choose a dreary midwinter date as the reset button and line it with resolutions, I’ll never understand.

For me, the “New Year” arrives in September with back-to-school days and the beginning of the fall season, where life speeds up after the lazy days of summer. When darkness holds sway a bit longer in the morning. When the days grow crisper and the sky is painted that silvery blue color.

I’ve always enjoyed the back-to-school prep. With it came shopping for new clothes, new shoes, that carefully selected first day ensemble as well as … school supplies!

In Elementary School, I recall going to Hooks Drug Store to buy the required yellow cardboard supply box — you know, the one with the school bus on the top where we put our watercolor paint set, crayons, and all important #2 yellow pencils.

In Junior High and High School, we ditched the yellow box in favor of a backpack and a decorative 3-ring Mead binder — the cool location to store notes from your many classes. It was expertly organized with the flick of a folder and even held lined paper.  And who could resist the 4-color Bic pen where you could select your writing color with a flick of the Bic! Yet still, the teachers required those yellow #2 Ticonderoga pencils.

In College, I chose college ruled spiral notebooks. Albion had a terrific selection with the gold school crest on the cover and matching pocket folders. No longer did I receive a “supply list,” so I selected my own writing tools: Uniball .5 micro rollerball pens in blue, black, green and red … and #2 Ticonderoga yellow pencils.

Those #2 pencils have served me since grade school. My kids have them on their supply lists and generously allow me to sharpen them at the beginning of every school year. There’s a therapeutic feeling from transforming dull pencils to a super sharp state, spinning the crank on the handle (no electric sharpener for me!) and feeling the resistance as I take the lead to a poke your eye out state.

Even though my school days are behind me, I buy myself a new set of pencils at the beginning of every school year. Mine aren’t necessarily Ticonderoga #2 yellow though. My style varies. This year, I picked up a set of navy pencils with silver stars from Barnes & Noble. I use them, along with my blue .5 uniball pens, to write lists, log thoughts and ideas in my journal and even track knitting rows and additions to my calendar and Franklin Planner. I’m particular about my writing instruments.

A few years ago, I gifted a teacher friend a set of super-sharpened pencils and a notebook to begin his school year. He too found delight in these staple items we traveled with since childhood. So, I’m not alone. The #2 pencil brings joy to a writer’s hand.

See, we tell our stories with such tools. And, no matter the hype January receives, we truly begin our stories anew each fall, reinventing ourselves with an empty notebook or on blank sheets of lined notepaper that wait for a #2 pencil to document our discoveries and adventures, our thoughts and ideas, our reports, experiments and observations.

Okay, my son may opt to take notes on his Mac, but he won’t leave home without a set of .7 PaperMate Clear Point Pencils and Pilot G2 .7 black gel pens. (.5 is to fine. .7 is just right!) My daughter requires a new set of colored pencils each September along with color coordinated, matching pocket folders and notebooks. To tell their stories, they need the right tools.

So to heck with January 1 and making resolutions on a gloomy mid-winter day when I’m recovering from holiday extravagance or a late night NYE party. The weather has turned here. Change is upon us. Whether you have kids or not, a new Chapter begins with the crisp air and shorter days. Can’t you feel it? Why not take the time now to reflect … to set intentions. To plan. To write down your hopes for the days ahead.

What will you craft on that blank sheet of paper? What do you dream? What do you long for? What do you want to change? What are you trying to let go of so you can move forward? What no longer serves you and can be left out of the next chapter? What is priceless and must travel with you to complete the next phase of your journey?

Will you use colored pencils or colored pens — or perhaps even watercolor paints  — to craft your story? Will you write it with a pen — Blue or Black? Or a #2 pencil? You decide how you express your creativity and your truth for this “new year.”

The school bell tolls. And it tolls for thee. So determine what is important to you, decide what you want to say, select the tools to help you create your story … and begin!

What will your new year bring?

                                                                                                                       — Jenni





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