The up days and the down days

Today I flushed and packed my Graf Pen of the Year, Aurora Pacifico and Aurora Black Mamba into their fancy boxes ready to go to new homes.

It’s always a sad little ritual to say goodbye to a pen, but doing three such major pens on one day really hit me.

On the surface, the reasons for my sadness are pretty obvious.

All three are beautiful pens that I’ve enjoyed owning and writing with. I remember really wanting these pens and being so excited when they arrived. And as I tucked them away for the last time, I naturally couldn’t help thinking it’s not too late to change your mind!

Which is of course silly, because I made the decision to sell them after much deliberation and analysis of the things that really matter: do I actually use this pen, at work, for journalling? Is it comfortable? Does the nib suit the way I write? Does anything about it annoy me? Would I rather have the cash and the space?

I wrote lists. I scanned back over old meeting notes and journal entries to see when I last used the pen. I wrote sample pages, paying attention to the feel of the pen in my hand. I swapped inks to see if that made a difference to my experience. In the end, I made the decision.

For me, it’s not enough for a pen to be beautiful, or well engineered, or rare, or something I spent years hunting, or even that it’s objectively great or popularly well regarded. For me, those are not good enough reasons to tie up money in a pen, even though sometimes it takes me months to figure out and get past my emotions and self-delusions to realise Ant, you say this is one of your favourite pens, but you haven’t written with it in six months.

So I steel my reserve and proceed with the sale. I know from long practice that I rarely miss a pen once I’ve sold it, and I tend to see the sale as opening up an opportunity to explore and reinvest.

What’s more, the truth is that few decisions are irreversible. A pen I decide to keep this month I can always change my mind about next month. A pen I regret selling I can usually re-purchase, if it bothers me that much.

Despite this, saying goodbye is sad and terrifying all at once. I regret that my hopes didn’t work out. I kick myself for wasting money. I worry if I’m making a mistake. After the hope and the excitement of the unboxing (it’s so beautiful! My grail at last!), the first and last days are such a contrast.

Once the parcel has gone from my hallway, I know I’ll be looking for the next purchase, and in my head I’ll be thinking 100% about the unboxing day — not the goodbye day.

Especially in lockdown, when in the pressure cooker of the house all day, there are so few opportunities to step away from the obsessions and get perspective, and so much temptation to use shopping as a release and as a way to exert control over your life.

Two things help me retain a bit of perspective:

First, I look at my pen tray, to take in at a glance the pens that have made the grade. I often play a little game: would you rather have that pen, or the pen you’re thinking about selling / thinking about buying? Almost invariably, the pen that’s sat in my pen tray is more desirable to me than the pen on eBay or Instagram, or the pen that is boxed and labelled by the door — if I really sit and think about it.

Second, I look at my sold pens spreadsheet. I remember all the pens I’ve owned and think about what eventually made me sell them. I measure them against a pen I’m considering buying, to see if the same flaws will recur: if that pen didn’t end up lasting because it was too big/small/dry/heavy, why would this one be any different?

I also use it when selling: if you sold a pen this good and don’t miss it, why are you hesitating about selling this one?

Funnily enough, when I do miss a pen I’ve sold, the experience of having owned it and used it for a while is often enough for me to remember. I’ve scratched the itch. Funnily enough, life really is about experiences instead of possessions!

3 thoughts on “The up days and the down days

  1. As usual, you hit all the nails on the head. Goodbyes are painful. But you keep looking forward and all the while, enjoy the journey and gain some wisdom.
    It appears from your pen tray that you still have your Scribo 3…I thought it might have gone, according to your Gone but not forgotten list.


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