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  • Jennifer You


Updated: Dec 11, 2021

By Jennifer You

Bleary-eyed from the school paperwork laid out in front of her, Candice sighed. For all she knew, it was going to be the same mundanity she’d experienced for the last decade of her life.

Absent-minded and hopeless, she clasped her chewed pencil in her fist—her dog had aggressively bitten it more times than she could count—trembling as the anxiety manifested in her once again for no apparent reason. She watched her hand twitch; although she didn’t mind it herself, it did bother her whenever she felt the teacher shoot a glare in her direction. The teacher had addressed it as being “a disturbance to the whole class” on more than one occasion.

With her left hand clasped tightly over her right, Candice tried her hardest to control the tremor. But she couldn’t. The hand continued to tremble as though it had a mind of its own.

As the lecture droned on, she started to scribble down her notes without much thought, her hand still shaking.

Her handwriting was a jumble of words clattered and mashed together to form a chaotic mess. But Candice could read her handwriting, even with the muddled nonsense, unscrambling the letters and combining them to make up the words.

Unfortunately, the children were not so forgiving. They wanted to see her suppressed and dejected. Immature as they were, one by one, the kids gathered in front of her desk, loudly snickering and pointing hands at her obnoxious penmanship.

“What’s wrong with your handwriting?” one scoffed.

“Do you even know the proper way to hold a pencil?” someone asked.

“Oh, wait, you were falling asleep, right?” another sarcastically joked.

They continued to scrutinize the papers upon her desks, which to them, looked like the mere scribbles of a kindergartener. There was no rationality behind those words, so they hit Candice hard like a billion arrows piercing through her chest. The ongoing condemnation worsened day by day, year after year.

One day, the accumulation of criticism became unbearable. Now, even her teacher complained about her handwriting.

“This is the last time I will repeat these lines,” the teacher declared. “Bad handwriting equals a failing grade— plain and simple. I have wasted too much time squinting at handwriting that is not legible at all!”

Her booming voice was followed by laughter. Abruptly, Candice stood up. With her face lit up a violent shade of cherry red, she frantically collected all her papers, scrunched them into a ball, and threw them into the trash. Tears streamed down the side of her face; she quickly hastened to cover her head and proceeded to compose herself to prepare for the next class.

Everyone in the class thought that they had ostracized Candice once and for all, positive that she would never return to campus. But the next day, Candice returned. She did not trudge along in the hallway with hunched shoulders, but instead with pride, shocking her classmates with her transformation.

In actuality, Candice had been inspired by the school janitor, who had seen the heartbreaking incident from afar. He had gathered up all of the paperwork Candice had managed to throw away, smoothed out the wrinkles with his worn hands, and gently put his hand over Candice’s cowering shoulders. He attentively gazed into her lifeless eyes and exchanged them with his own two dazzling ones filled with wisdom and vigor. Then, he gave an awkward lopsided smile and handed the papers back to Candice just in time before her next class started.

Even though she didn’t have a chance to thank him, the warm support he gave her in that sliver of time was enough to keep her going. She recovered— she held her ground and grew from the wounds. She was a tree, once frailly swayed by the wind, but now deepening roots instead. She adhered herself strongly to the ground—firmly cementing herself—and became true to herself.

She began to ignore the comments from her classmates. She knew in her heart that her handwriting was a part of her: the twisted complexion of warped text, the shaky letters of the alphabet, they were all hers. She deviated from the norm, but did it really matter? She couldn’t care less about such minuscule things. What others said no longer mattered to her. Her handwriting was just another part of her identity; one she just had to embrace with confidence.


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