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Collected Item: “The Pandemic and Pens”

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The Pandemic and Pens

What sort of object is this: text story, photograph, video, audio interview, screenshot, drawing, meme, etc.?

Text story and photograph

Tell us a story; share your experience. Describe what the object or story you've uploaded says about the pandemic, and/or why what you've submitted is important to you.

I’d like to start by expressing that when I started this paper I’d come to the early conclusion that I didn’t have an object that “helped my ride the covid crisis”. I had adopted the similar sleeping patterns of a hibernated bear and didn’t have a shiny, new hobby to show off. My thoughts mirrored the resemblance of a pinball game, half-baked ideas ricocheted back and forth in what, at the time, felt like a seemingly small head. My problem was that I didn’t truly realize the significance of this object until I was forced to introspect. With consideration, an object I’d choose to represent the duality of my life pre and post COVID would be a pen, not the type rich ladies would drape their fingers around and daintily dip into a rich, black ink in order to create the most beautiful calligraphy strokes. Just an ordinary, utilitarian pen.
I guess before Corona this is exactly how I pictured it. There was nothing remotely special about a pen at the time, just a necessity for in-person schooling. The motion of grabbing my pen in the morning became just as routine as brushing my teeth; it had been a part of my routine since elementary school. In March, the static sound of the intercom interrupted derivative practice and emerged from the speakers telling students to grab their belongings from their lockers. At the time it seemed COVID would be the cause of an extended Spring Break. Thinking little of it, I tossed my pen to the bottom of my bag and blended in with the crowd of students rushing to the parking lot as if it’d just been announced everyone would be competing in a Nascar race and had to depart immediately.
The thing about time is it continues regardless of circumstances. Eventually classes continued on Zoom and technology was incorporated in nearly every part of my day. Admittedly my new routine proceeded as follows:
1) Wake up and check my phone
2) Online classes
3) Homework completed online
4) Use my phone or computer on and off until bed
5) Repeat
This was the most disengaged I had felt from both school and friends in years. I felt like I’d been placed on a conveyor belt and was just moving along without actually doing anything. My eyes transferred lazily between the Zoom computer screen and my phone. If my screen time was represented by a bar graph it probably would’ve looked like it pranced into a New York City elevator and rode it to the top without stops. Initially I was glad homework was switched to being strictly online. My keyboard acted as a catalyst as I completed my assignments much quicker than I would have with a pen and paper.
After a couple weeks of this, the honeymoon phase had passed and reality loomed in like storm clouds. I became more aware of the growing disconnect between what used to be seemingly normal activities. Desperately trying to clutch onto life pre-Corona I picked a pen back up. Quarantine, so kindly, gave me mass amounts of time to spend alone. At first this juxtaposition was overwhelming as it seemed all the institutions I had once known collapsed around me. It was noticeably easier to fall victim to this pessimistic mindset, but instead I nervously started trying to process my thoughts on paper and journaling. The stay at home order had quite literally put up a barrier between the outside world and my friends. Journaling was the healthiest pastime I took up. It allowed me to work through internal barricades on my own time. I’d compare journaling to knitting - at first it’s just ideas (or yarn) trying to organize themselves in order to create the final product. Originally with either hobby it is both frustrating and confusing to begin, but with practice it becomes relaxing and the motions proceed with little need for thought. For the first time since pre-quarantine I felt clarity with my thoughts; the storm clouds were clearing out. If anything this was the most comfortable I had been with myself because there was no one else to compare myself to- just my pen, paper, and myself. I grew up with a negative connotation around therapy, so this was incredibly healthy for myself and allowed for tremendous personal growth. It also helped me break the technological constraints and dependency I was feeling.
With this same pen, I also started drawing. Looking back, drawing has helped me tremendously become less critical of myself. I use to try to mimic other people’s art styles and would feel deflated when they encompass the same artistry. I finally learned how to doodle as a meditative purpose instead of it needing to be something I’m great at. Instead of allotting all my free time to technology, I used pens. The colors danced around each other on the page while my wrist controlled the motion. Even before the pandemic, I was aware of the social media crisis in our society, but lockdown reemphasized this concern of mine. This was a way for me to unplug.
When I contrast pens and computers, I think of the theme of originality. Nearly everyone’s work on the computer follows the same monotonous MLA, Times New Roman font, double spaced papers, whereas everyone writes differently or has a different pen preference. There is more room for creativity and uniqueness to shine through.
Overall, pens paved the way for me to take a step back and reprioritized. I came out of quarantine feeling more comfortable with myself and carried my writing hobby along with me from California to Washington. I’ve been staying in touch with loved ones through handwritten letters, something I certainly would not have done prior to quarantine and would have opted for a text instead. There’s something special about using a pen. Writing is so universal yet individual at the same time. Everyone writes uniquely and handwriting reveals personality traits. It’s something I’ve realized is special.

The picture on the left is my mom and brother with their pens of choice, and the picture on the left is my holiday card my mom sent me in college; in a way pens unite our family.

Use one-word hashtags (separated by commas) to describe your story. For example: Where did it originate? How does this object make you feel? How does this object relate to the pandemic?

#UW, #ENG131, #Writing_in_Times_of_Crisis, #Thing_ing_Covid

Who originally created this object? (If you created this object, such as photo, then your name goes here.)

Emily Long

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