The Catalyst for Moving to Spain: A Pink Pen

I’m not sure if the second semester of my sophomore year of university was five months of extreme responsibility… or of extreme irresponsibility.

I realized I needed to get some real-world experience and, like anytime I decide something, I dove completely in. I started a 20-hour/week internship with a hedge fund (i.e. funding hedges), a 12-hour/week photography internship for College Towns’s major league hockey team, 10 hour/week section editor for my school newspaper’s variety/editorial section while taking 18 credits and being the president of two clubs. It was… a lot. 

I also wasn’t telling my friends about all of the internships, or at least not in their extremity, because I was afraid of being like one of those people playing the Pain Olympics with how busy they were. I was busy, but I was also doing work I enjoyed, it was my choice to bring everything on, and I still made time to workout and see friends by staying productive. On the rare chance my anxiety would get so bad that I need to talk to someone (usually, I like to keep The Animal to myself), my parents would get a phone call around 1 a.m… sorry mom.

I didn’t have quite as many of these complete breakdowns as you might think, strictly because I had learned extraordinary time management skills from playing multiple club sports since the age of eight. To make sure everything got done, I would plan out my next week after my last class Fridays. I used the weekends to get ahead so I could sleep enough during the week to perform at my best. However, things don’t always go as planned, especially when multiple things change in a single week.

On a Saturday in March, I woke to my phone ringing. The call was from the professional soccer team in College Town. Their photographer tested positive for COVID, but they had been watching my photography for a while and wanted me to come out and photograph for them. I had planned on spending the whole day getting ahead, but of course I had to say yes. I reallocated my schedule and headed out to the soccer pitch.

The next day was a rare Sunday in which we had a hockey game in the evening. This meant I was gone from 11am-7pm, having to go straight from newspaper to the game. Another day I could not give to my work. I woke up early to get to the library before newspaper and headed back there as soon as I got back from hockey.

On Tuesday I had my weekly meeting with my supervisor at the hedge fund. He had a project that would take 10 hours to complete, needed to be done by Friday, and asked if I thought I had the time. For the past three months he would regularly tell me, “this is your second priority, school is your first, don’t be afraid to tell me no”, and I knew I did not have the time. However declining work in an internship is not really the way I operate, whether that be a good or bad thing. So I told him I could do the Excel margins work.

So that’s how I ended up sitting on the floor of the bathroom my suitemates and I shared at 1:00 a.m. Friday morning, seven hours before a Spanish test and the deadline to submit my seven essays, two of which I had not started. I started to freak out once the clock struck one since I’m not someone who can function well without enough sleep. It was starting to look like one of those times a groggy parent would have to talk me off a cliff. My hands were shaking so much that my black Pilot pen, true to its name, flew out of my hand and rolled under the bathroom counter. When I swiped my foot under the counter to bring it out, all that came was a skinny, pink, ballpoint pen. I couldn’t find my original pen, so I just picked this one up and continued working.

Not only was the packaging pink, but also the ink. It was so bright, wrote so well, and was overall just different. I started understanding my conjugations, my essays were structured better, and my heart rate started slowing down.

I’m not trying to say the pen was ‘magical’ or had some kind of special powers. The pen was different, and it was bright. Change is something that is really important to me, and although I like a routine I don’t like stagnation. Just the mere act of switching colors gave me a new boost to get through my work. Time blocking was efficient, but I had been far too busy with work to realize it had become too meticulous. It’s as if I was going through my days unconsciously, following a schedule and not thinking about the work I was doing. If I would have become conscious at some point, I would have realized earlier that I needed a change in my life, even if something simple.

I think about that a lot now that I’m about to leave for Spain. People ask me why I decided to study abroad, how I got the confidence to do it alone, why it’s important for me to live in other cities… and it makes me think back to that night on the bathroom floor with my pink pen. 

All I needed was the little change in pen color to go from ‘midnight diaster’ to an ‘A’, so what could a big change, like moving countries, do for me?

Yours truly,



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