A Pencil

What work of art, music, science, mathematics, or literature has surprised, unsettled, or challenged you, and in what way?

Two years ago when I was stuck in the bustling streets of India with my mother in the scalding heat, I sought refuge in an air-conditioned sari shop. I sat down to read the short story which would forever be reverberating in my head: “The Story of the Pencil,” by Paulo Coelho. Pencils, Coelho claims, “have five qualities which, if you manage to hang on to…will make you a person who is always at peace with the world.” How is that possible? After all, it’s just a pencil.

A pencil is capable of great things but one must never forget that there is a hand guiding it. I am grateful for having such a caring family. My parents have been my mentors, guiding me and supporting me throughout every aspect of my life.

A pencil needs to be sharpened from time to time; in this period it will suffer. However, after being sharpened, its nib will be a lot sharper. Similarly, in my life I have had bad experiences. I have learned that being able to bounce back from some of my mistakes or misfortunes -- for example, the loss of my grand-father -- has made me the strong and optimistic person I am today.

A pencil comes with an eraser that allows us to rub out our mistakes. When I play the piano and make a mistake, I start over and try to correct my...

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