crayon /ˈkrāˌän/, n.

I’m turning 24 this week, and for the past 22 days, I’ve been using crayon to keep track of my life in my planner.

I saw on Buzzfeed, I believe, sometime last year, that someone used the grid pages in their planner to keep track of their emotional status and mental health each day. It was already well into the year by the time I saw it, so I told myself that I’d start to track my emotions come 2018.

On January 1, when time came for me to mark how my day went, I realized I didn’t have enough colored pens nor pencils to indicate my mood. The only things I had to color with were crayons.

I’d bought them sometime late last year, when Candle Boy and I went on an excursion to Target and one of us decided that we wanted to write a children’s book with crayon, so we left the store with two boxes of crayons (a 24-color set and a child-sized 8-color set) and a pad of Crayola drawing paper. The children’s book didn’t happen, but we did put up childish signs in his apartment to denote whose room was whose (complete with backwards E’s and misspelled names) and drew stick portraits of ourselves on the envelopes of one of the holiday cards we delivered this year.

a giraffe | Photo and Illustration by Courtney Cheng

When I was a little kid, I loved crayons. I loved the smell that lifted out of the box we had of them, every time I opened the lid to draw. I liked how they felt when you dragged them across paper. I learned one time in elementary school that if you colored crayons thick enough, the wax would be dense enough to be waterproof, like the wax found on the feathers of a duck.

The activity was complete with a duck we were told to color in, cut out, and then run under the faucet to test. I very diligently colored my duck with cerulean blue (my favorite shade of blue in the Crayola set), and then watched anxiously as my mom ran it under water for me. Behold, my blue duck remained dry.

A shared love for crayons also helped me connect with the guy I dated in 9th grade for just over four months. We had this phase during our relationship when we thought it would be fun to share 500 facts about ourselves. (Please note, this was back in the day when he and I had to count each one of our ingoing and outgoing text messages so neither of us exceeded our 1,000 monthly text limit.)

One of my 500 facts was that I loved crayons and that I wished I still had reason to use them. He replied by saying that he also loved crayons, and if he had a choice, he’d always write with crayon.

Photo by Courtney Cheng

On my birthday that year, he wrote another 100 facts on a piece of blank paper for me, in crayon. The sentences wove around each other, wrapped around the corners, and were in all different colors. Some were apologetically written in pencil, because he couldn’t fit words that small with crayon, and at the center of it all, written in a reddish pink was “I love you.” (I still have this.)

Keeping track of my emotions with crayon has been an enlightening, sweet, and challenging exercise for this child-at-heart pessimist. I’ve always been the sort of person who allowed herself to wallow, so forcing myself to actually evaluate my day at the end of it has made me realize that my negative emotions are often not as large a part of my day as I sometimes think they are.

There are days when I forget to do my self-evaluation, so I have to think a little harder to assess how the previous day was, to catch up and keep on track. In those moments, I’m tempted to be a little more harsh and just use the yellow-green color I’ve chosen to denote “meh,” but time it takes me to actually pull the crayon out of the box gives me enough pause to remind myself to be honest. The day was sometimes just “meh,” but other days were actually good, better than I often let myself believe them to be.

Photo by Courtney Cheng

And being able to fish out the violet-red crayon (a shade very close to the color in which my 9th grade boyfriend used to write those three words) to color in my day is somehow, a really wonderful feeling.

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