I had a childhood obsession with pencil erasers.
I don't use the word "obsession" lightly. Every time I saw an eraser my eyes filled with love, longing, and OMG I HAVE TO HAVE THAT OR I’M NOT GONNA MAKE IT.
I loved the standard pink brick erasers. Erasers shaped like strawberries and soccer balls. Lisa Frank erasers. Pencil cap erasers. Erasers encased in a plastic sheath and it had the side push-up thingy that clicked. (Go with it.) I was stunned when I first saw soft sketching erasers that you could mold into the perfect size for your erasing needs. My most prized eraser was given to me by a friend. It was a plastic tube that had five miniature erasers inside, but only one eraser was exposed for use at a time. You would take off the top eraser, push it through the bottom of the tube, and then the next eraser in the tube would emerge. Sometime after my friend gave me this awesome eraser tube I bought another one just like it...and then refused to use it. I would only hold it, smell the plastic and rubber, and inhale true happiness.
Me? Obsessed? I told you.
My erasers were sacred. To give another person one of my erasers was like awarding a Medal of Honor. It was a recognition proving the depth of my respect and love for the recipient of said eraser.
The day came when I felt the need to give away one of my beloved erasers. Her name was Esta, and she was my first kindergarten friend. Read: She earned the privileged title of "Best Friend." I loved my Esta like a sister and she deserved an eraser.
I had the eraser picked out. I wanted her to have it and know what it meant for me to give it to her. I wanted her to love the eraser the way I loved it.
The moment came. I fished the eraser out of my pocket. It was blue and glittery. It was time.
I said, "Esta, here, you can have this if you want it..."
Her response? Esta said, "Oh, I don't need that. I don't make a lot of mistakes."
To say I was stunned is to say J.K. Rowling has an “ok” imagination.
But...but...my erasers. I loved them. And...she doesn’t make mistakes?! Does this mean I make a lot of mistakes?!
Is my obsession with erasers a metaphor for my life?
Upon reflection, I think the off-comment my 5 year old best friend made has more truth than she or I could have ever realized. Like my boxful of pencil erasers would suggest – I am constantly worried I’m making mistakes.
I am guilty of worrying that I’m doing things “wrong.” Was I a complete fool to move across the country? Am I an idiot for turning my back on my chemistry degree to pursue a writing career? Am I making mistake after mistake? If I am making all these mistakes – is there an eraser big enough to pretend like they never happened?
Then I go through my line of questioning: What’s the worst that can happen? I fall on my face? I move somewhere else? I find a different career? I run out of money? I have to redirect my life?
Then comes the doubt part. Maybe I should live in the Midwest forever? Maybe I should pour things into test tubes all day? Maybe I should ignore the hundreds of stories and characters in my head?
Then comes the “But what about me?” part. Should I really live safely instead of happily? Should I live wondering about what could have been?
Then comes the part where I realize all of my “worst case scenarios” are not death sentences. They don’t mark “the end of the world.” It’s just life. Some things work out, some things don’t.
Then comes the part when I convince myself: mistakes are a necessary risk associated with being human.
We all make mistakes. Some even have regret and remorse. Mistakes help us discover the most about ourselves. Mistakes test our perseverance. Mistakes gauge our ability to assess, regroup, and move-on.
It’s not about taking an eraser and pretending like nothing happened. Life should be about taking chances in pursuit of the life you want, stumbling, and then getting back up.
You can’t learn from the mistakes you never make.