My Patchwork Pencil Case

Its malevolent presence devastatingly shifted the atmosphere. As it menacingly slithered into sight, I remember shivering as my blood boiled frantically. Frantically in fury, but also with fear. Feelings of distaste spread through me like a wildfire. The hairs on my body jolted up instantly like uneasy soldiers preparing for war. As its piercing, unforgiving eyes glared upon me mercilessly, my demeanour horrifically shifted into a state of pure disgust. Right before my eyes, stood an embodiment of pure evil. Pure hatred. A nefarious creature that compared closely to some of my deepest fears and nightmares. I froze as it began to speak.

“Travis, focus”.

There it stood. Mrs King. My arch nemesis. My old textiles teacher.

When I think back to my time at school, I tend to have mixed emotions. There were parts that I really loved about school. Parts that I will never forget. Oppositely, there were also aspects of school that I disliked. In fact, that I detested. I tried my best to enjoy every subject and always tried to stay optimistic. However, for sewing classes, you could hold an AK47 Rifle to my skull, hold my family captive, and hang me above a tank of raging sharks. I promise, you still couldn’t have convinced me to even lie about liking that absolute abomination of a class.

Sewing class. A complete waste of time. Sure, sewing is a great skill to have. However, when your school provides you with sewing machines that Jesus Christ himself would have encountered if he lived for just a few more years, sewing becomes a chore. In fact, an impossible task. With such ancient machines that borderline electrocuted you each time they were turned on, you would think, how can it get any worse? Well, the master, or dictator, of the machines (who was likely as old as them), truly was the cherry on top. An expired cherry going by the name of Mrs King.

Mrs King made my life a living hell. I would describe Mrs King more in-depth, but then I would perhaps go way off topic and definitely end up rocking back and forth, crying in a foetal position as the PTSD kicks in. Instead, I will relive just one of the traumas that she inflicted on me. A trauma that actually taught me a valuable lesson. The Pencil Case assignment.

At the time, I was likely 13. The beginning of my teenage years. A time we all should look back upon fondly. For many of us, 13 marks the start of a new chapter. Our first glimpse of freedom. For many, it’s our first taste of the big outside world. Courtesy of Mrs King, my first taste tasted like shit. The day of my 13th Birthday, I received a Sewing assignment to make a pencil case. Great birthday present, right? The experience of crafting that pencil case is most definitely in my top 3 most dreaded tasks of all time. Comfortably, it is not number 3 or 2. Looking back upon it, those ancient sewing devices likely radiated my brain cells to the same degree that I would experience from directly microwaving my head. To make it even worse, we had to share 5 of those death traps between 40 students. Still, Mrs King being Mrs King, demanded the completion of our pencil cases within unrealistic time constraints.

The factors were not in my favour. With zero motivation, the pencil case I produced could best be described as ‘concerning’. Another word that beautifully captures the essence of my creation would be ‘questionable’. Essentially, it was a piece of shit. As a pencil case, it was absolutely useless. The craftsmanship behind my pencil case, admittedly, made BooHoo Man clothing seem like timeless masterpieces that needed to be protected at all costs. Forget holding even one pencil. The stitching would’ve likely come undone if someone breathed too heavily in the same room. Upon testing, I soon realised this was a reality. Within about 5 minutes, the once pencil case, with the slightest touch, became a discombobulated, flat piece of fabric. Unfortunately, after one classroom appearance, my pencil case was forced into a very premature retirement. Overall, a failure.

Like most mistakes and failures, I quickly tried to discard the pencil case from my mind. It wasn’t my proudest creation, so why would I bother keeping it around? As soon as I got home that day from school, that pencil case, or piece of fabric, was tossed away so it could never be recovered (under the couch). RIP.

After that day, I never really thought about that pencil case. Truthfully, I didn’t expect to ever see it again. However, years on from my absolutely wonderful days with Mrs King, I re-encountered the pencil case. Of course, it wasn’t a pencil case anymore, just a flat piece of various fabrics poorly stitched together. Shape-wise, it sort of resembled some sort of miniature blanket. To my surprise, that’s exactly what I found it as. In the possession of my little sister, the once unsuccessful pencil case was now being used as a blanket for her dolls. A picnic blanket too. Even as a rooftop shelter for her smaller toys. The list goes on. To my surprise, the once awful pencil case that couldn’t hold a pencil to save my life had now become very useful. Through my sister’s creativity and imaginative, playful thoughts, she found its new purposes. That initially rubbish creation, through a cheeky little career change, finally found its niche. 

To this day, that very blanket, or whatever it is, is still used frequently as my sisters play their way through their imaginary world. Furthermore, it has actually become quite special to my sisters, as they bring it around to most places they go. Whilst the process of crafting it was certainly not fun, seeing how my pencil case developed reinforces an idea that I feel really strongly about; not all mistakes are actually bad.

Growing up, I feel like I, and a lot of my close friends, were conditioned to fear mistakes. Lapses in judgement and poor execution of simple tasks were almost frowned upon. Often, whilst positive behaviours led to rewards, mistakes were met with punishments. The idea of making mistakes was frustrating, and the subsequent consequences of making mistakes often make us resent them. In fact, there’s even a clinical condition, referred to as atychiphobia, which simply put, is a fear of making mistakes and failing. 

We should all embrace, rather than fear our mistakes. For me personally, the true value of a ‘mistake’ can be altered by adjusting or altering your perspective. At SCA, we talk a lot about ‘killing babies’. In an ideal world, every idea, and ‘baby’ that we create, would come out just as we pictured. Just as we envisioned with every detail executed ever so perfectly. In reality, the majority of ‘babies’ are utterly hideous at first. Oftentimes, they come with unexpected defects that make us shiver and cringe when we look at the horrible little creatures. These defects, in many cases, arise as unintended errors or mistakes. Sure, it might be a really ugly ‘baby’. It might even embarrass you. The pure shame of even being responsible for such a creation might make you gag. However, one ugly ‘baby’ to you may be a miracle to someone else. Furthermore, when viewing that ‘baby’ from a different angle and perspective, perhaps where the light hits slightly differently, it might not appear as horrendous as it initially seemed. Everyone sees things differently.

Conversely, if comparing ‘babies’ to mistakes doesn’t make sense, or triggers personal insecurities, mistakes can also be viewed as detours rather than dead ends. Especially for perfectionists, mistakes can seem dreadful. In the journey of creation, mistakes can often seem like complete roadblocks. Dramatically, I used to view any mistake, regardless of its size, in this way. Fortunately, I now always try to observe mistakes as detours into new avenues rather than the end of the line. Sure, you wanted to turn right. If it was me, I probably thought that turning right was the only way to the destination. However, maybe that accidental left turn actually leads to a shortcut. Better yet, perhaps it reveals new opportunities and an even greater destination than you could have ever imagined at the beginning of your journey. 

When I created, or tried to create, that pencil case, I saw it as a failure. The mistakes made during the crafting period meant that the pencil case wasn’t even good enough to remain a pencil case. As I viewed the shameful fabric substance I created, I saw nothing more than a disgusting ‘baby’. An idea and execution riddled with mistakes. As soon as I realised that the pencil case wasn’t ‘pencil casing’, I had reached what I considered a dead end. However, in that cold, desolate dead end, where the ugly unwanted ‘baby’ resided, a saviour arose. The saviour, who could see the light in my mistakes, and thought the ‘baby’ was at least a 6/10, was my sister. I hated it then, but she loves it today. Where I saw a mistake, she saw a new avenue and opportunity. 

Thanks Mrs King, you rat.


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