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Electric Colored This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

In my electric blue and black backpack that hangs low on my back, I carry a variety of seven folders: green, red, blue, and yellow. I carry notebooks, full of notes, papers, projects, quizzes and unfinished homework. I haul novels with scribbles on every page. I cart crumbs and wrappers from my lunch. I hold onto my black and white dirty soccer uniform covered in mud and sweat from the previous game. I lug my old, smelly cleats with dirt in between the spikes. I carry two multi-colored bouncy balls and various pink crinkled hall passes. In the mesh pockets of my bag, I store little handwritten notes covered in smiley faces and doodles from my friends across the room. I hump the stress of sophomore year, which includes all nighters to finish papers, hours of text marking, and memorizing word after word of vocabulary. They all somehow manage to follow me everywhere I go no matter how hard I try to get rid of them. I bring the happiness of new relationships, activities, and dreams. I carry the past accomplishment of completing the 9th grade, the joys of my friendships, and the stress of family separation. I carry the fear of unknown workloads, college applications, and peer pressure in my future. Every day I hump my zany personality up the road to the castle on the hill. But what I’ve carried all along inside of my bag, smashed between folders, books, and my own complicated world is my torn, patched pencil case held together with electrifying orange and green duck tape.
On the first day of school, I walked into my small 5th grade class carrying what a normal ten year old would: a binder, notebooks, a turtle lunchbox, optimism, anxiety, and a brand new, clean pencil case which held my various pens and sharpened pencils, calculator and glue sticks. Each following year, I came to the first day of school bringing along new binders, new folders, new pens and pencils, new hopes and new fears and the same familiar pencil case. Over the years, it started to look aged and broken down with what looked like new tears and sharpie scribbles every day. Some of my friends asked, “How long have you had that thing anyway? You need to get a new pencil case.” My mother tried to persuade me to buy another one. But I didn’t listen.
Now I enter the tenth grade, still walking into the first day of school carrying newness in almost everything except my pencil case, which as of right now, is in the worst shape it has ever been. The clear, shiny plastic that once covered the opening is now completely torn and taped together with bright orange and green tape. My friends have written their name everywhere across it. The back of the case has no closing which allows all my supplies to fall out and scatter on the floor. The zipper is half broken. The inside bottom of the case is covered in pencil shavings and lead, along with crumpled up notes from my friends making it impossible to see that once upon a time, the color was green. Yet I still insist on carrying it to school.
Old friends have left and new ones have come. Schools are different. Families have transformed. Even little details like the posters on my walls or my shoe size are different. But having this one item that has been with me through everything -- even if it’s only a small buried object in my huge backpack and life -- symbolizes who I have become. Like my pencil case, sometimes I too start out new and sparkling. I too grow into an improved person. I too carry memories of previous years. I too am held together by something stronger. I too can become worn out and torn. I too am fixed by the people surrounding me.
I carry this old, worn out and overused object year after year, because it represents the path I have taken to get to where I am now. Without this little case, I wouldn’t be able to reflect on the new identity I carry today. Physical objects don’t always last forever, but while they linger with us, they can reflect a part of where we’ve been, what we care about, and who we are.



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