I had not planned to go home this spring break. After weeks of careful planning, it had been decided I would spend the first week with my boyfriend, exploring Chicago and meeting his family, and the second week would be devoted to being a participant-observer at a public school in Cleveland with fellow members of my “Theory and Practice of Urban Education” class in American studies.
Everything changed when, during that second week, while enjoying a class dinner at the home of one of my classmates who hails from Cleveland, our phone-free dinner was interrupted by the news we had more or less been anticipating that day: Kenyon was going to be closed for two more weeks, and we would have a week of classes remotely. Suddenly everyone started discussing flights home, and our week in Cleveland was abruptly cut short.
The next day, I was on a flight to Atlanta, carrying only a suitcase with two weeks’ worth of clothes and the laptop which I had luckily assumed I would need for the trip. But, like so many other Kenyon students, the extended break and the subsequent decision to close campus until the fall meant that most of my school-related gear was, well, still at school.
When I got a phone call about shipping my essential items and was asked if there was “anything else” they should pack, I scrambled to think what else in my room was indispensable to my Kenyon student career. Then I remembered: my pencil case.
I’m kind of a pen aficionado, and if you ask anyone who sat near me during my first-semester psychology lecture, you’ll know that I dropped one of my multiple highlighters in the middle of a note-taking session many a time. I bought my pencil case at the Kenyon Bookstore at the beginning of the year, in hopes that it would quell some of my disorganized habits.
In the midst of all the uncertainty about school and online classes, getting my pencil case in the mail was a sign of comfort. It was like having a little piece of my Kenyon experience with me again, a small constant in an ever-changing time. This large gray pouch with watercolor spaceships all over it held all the pens I had so carefully selected and whose use I so eagerly anticipated in the weeks before I came to the Hill for the very first time.
My beloved Pilot G-2 07 pens, with which I faithfully wrote notes about psychological disorders and Spanish poetry, were there. The metallic Sharpie markers I used to decorate the wholesome notes I wrote for my Friendsgiving celebration in November were there. The tiny little lavender pen I used to underline classmates’ poems for my very first creative writing workshop was there. My single mechanical pencil, which I rarely used unless I was drawing a picture or doing some kind of math problem, was there. And the dozen or so multicolored felt tip pens I always used to make my notes worth reading back were there too, all reassuring me that even as things get crazier each day, they would still be there to provide some kind of organization and structure to my life.
It might seem silly to put so much value on objects that are ultimately replaceable, but together they all form an irreplaceable part of my Kenyon experience. Having an obscene amount of stationery always made me a reliable go-to if someone forgot their pen in a seminar, started a conversation or two over the frog I was doodling in a lecture, and made me feel happy and intentional about what I was doing in class.
I can’t wait to get back on the Hill and use my pens in their natural habitat again. But until then, they sit here on my desk at home, reminding me that I have a new home I love, which is anxious for me to return.