"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
April 17, 2013
Irreplaceable - by Michela Hunter
by College Voices
Michela Hunter
Freshman, Brigham Young University

I sat hunched at my desk, my scriptures open on my lap, hurriedly looking up answers to my open-scripture Doctrine & Covenants test while keeping an eye on the time clock in the upper right-hand corner of my laptop screen. My professor had given us a good chunk of four hours to take this test on Learning Suite, but I just wanted to be done with it. I had so many other things I needed to get done tonight.

If the test had been all multiple-choice questions, it would have been easy; but since it was a mixture of multiple-choice, matching, short-answer, and a number of other things, I was all over the place. I couldn’t help it; that’s just how tests go for me. I had my scriptures propped open on one knee and my Blue Book spread out on the other. I was pretty darn prepared, I thought.

While I was writing an answer down into my Blue Book, I heard all of a sudden a soft sliding sound from above me. Realizing that the books and picture frames resting on the hutch of my desk were probably about to cascade down upon me, as they are so apt to do without warning, I put a hand up to catch them, trying to steady them before they fell, instead of shutting my laptop the way I should have. It only took a second; there was a swishing noise, a bang, and a loud metallic thud, and I bit my lip to keep from crying out in anguish. No, I hadn’t been hit—but once I had taken stock of myself, the fallen objects, and my surroundings, I would much rather that it had been I who had taken the blow.

I reached out a hand and feverishly rubbed the mark that was now blemishing the hinge of my MacBook, moaning in dismay when I realized that it was more than a mark—it was a little dent, right where the decorative tile bearing the legend “Be the Light” had fallen onto my laptop. The tile had been a gift from the stake camp director to all of the Youth Camp Leaders at Girl’s Camp a few years before, and I had held onto it for years as a reminder of the wonderful summer I’d had that year, the girls I’d gotten to look after during the week of camp, and as a daily nudge to remind me of a certain potential I knew I (probably) had and should allow to grow. Plus, it just looked so cool and sophisticated. I never expected it to turn traitor and start damaging my personal property.

I put the tile aside, hating it and its existence and hating myself for being stupid enough to put it on the hutch where I could see it instead of burying it somewhere in the depths of my desk. I looked at the dent for a second and then started rubbing more insistently at the mark on the hinge, not believing what had just happened. I had a dent in my laptop. A dent! It no longer had the lovely, new look I’d been working so hard to preserve since I’d gotten it several months before; it now had a visible defect, an imperfection, an irregularity in its beautiful sleekness. I couldn’t stand it.

The worst, however, soon became apparent to me as I examined the rest of the area around the dent and noticed, barely visible to the eye, a teensy tiny scratch on the screen a few inches above the area where the dent was. I stared at it. Rubbed it with a finger. Rubbed some more. Closed my laptop and opened it again, sure I was imagining things. Rubbed the area again—surely it was just a smudge, wasn’t it? But nope. It was a scratch on the screen, and it was here to stay.

No, no, no—I rubbed the spot even more fervently, got my micro-fiber cloth, tried to clean it again—why, of all days, did this have to happen today? Why had I decided to take the test at my desk instead of on my bed, where I tend to do all my other homework? Why did I bring that stupid tile to college with me? It may as well have been the end of the world.

Within five seconds I’d texted my dad, the family guru of all things Apple (“How do I fix a scratch in my MacBook screen?!?”) and, without waiting for a reply, sped to my Chrome browser, opened a new tab, and popped open a how-to search on Google, my test all but forgotten now. I could live with a little dent in the hinge, no one cared about the hinge, but I couldn’t live with a scratch in the screen. There was no way. It would always be there, a constant reminder to me of the Day My MacBook Got Scratched. A constant reminder that my computer was imperfect, had been damaged. It would be ever-present, a mark on my school assignments, Nauvoo Times columns, creative writings, web-browsings, Facebook-ings and Pinterest-ings, a blip in the movies I watched—I’d never be able to watch anything on my laptop again, ever. That scratch was too eye-catching, now that I knew it was there; I’d never be able to concentrate on the movie and not that awful scratch.

I scrolled through the Google results. I knew I should really get back to my test and worry about fixing my MacBook screen later, but, as always, when an idea gripped me I could focus on nothing else. This was no different. I was in the zone, on-task; nothing occupied me but getting rid of that horrendous scratch.

There were lots of recommendations: polishing the scratch away, buffing it off with a soft pencil eraser. One site recommended toothpaste—toothpaste? I was more than a little skeptical. There was no way I was going to put toothpaste on my laptop screen. A couple of other ideas looked okay, but the more I read, the more the nagging suspicion that anything I tried would only worsen the damage grew. In any case, I wasn’t exactly brave enough to try. I did try erasing the scratch, which wasn’t very deep, with a pencil, but with no results. When he texted me back, my dad was, for the first time in my life, an equal dead end: he wasn’t sure what might work, and toothpaste to him did not sound like a good idea.

It was clear that unless I was willing to pay a good amount of money to have Apple fit me with a new screen (and the scratch was small enough that I didn’t think it would be worth it), there was no getting rid of that scratch. For better or worse, I was stuck with it, and from now on I was going to have to live with it. I went back to my test (I still had three hours left), trying to concentrate on the questions and look anywhere but at the slight imperfection in the screen.

It wasn’t like it actually was the end of the world. And I knew it wasn’t that big a deal; I was pretty lucky, actually, that my computer hadn’t been damaged any worse than having a tiny dent in the hinge and a little scratch on the screen. But I was still bothered by it—not, as it probably seems, because of the mere disfigurement of my laptop, but because of what it meant. It was a graduation gift from my parents, the MacBook, and the first computer I’ve ever had to myself. I wanted to take care of it—show them I was grateful for it, keep it safe, clean, and make the best use of it possible. I felt pretty rotten, looking at that dent and that scratch, thinking about how I hadn’t even made it a whole year without messing it up—here I’d been, thinking I was doing so well! But what was done was done. Now I was going to have to live with my mistake.

I’m looking at that scratch right now as I type this. It’s best visible when the screen is white, and even then it’s hard to find unless you know exactly where it is. But it’s there. It transforms the sleek beauty of the display into a soft rainbow of purple, blue, and green when you do see it. It is small, so small, and barely visible on the screen most of the time, and yet it is still so irritating. I’ve had it for about a week now, and I’ve almost gotten used to it. Almost.

I once read somewhere a story that has stayed with me throughout the years. It was a little story about a man who, while watering a rose he had planted, noticed that the flower was about to bloom amidst many thorns. He wondered how any beautiful flower could bloom from a plant when it was covered by so many thorns, and subsequently neglected to water the rose, which died shortly afterwards.

People are like this. At least, a lot of the people I know are like this. We’re put here on this earth, given bodies and the gift of life from our Heavenly Father. We’re grateful for these gifts, and we want to be the best we can in order to show our gratitude. But we aren’t perfect. We have defects. We make mistakes. Sometimes these mistakes are barely noticeable, though we might feel as though the world has noticed our small blunders. Sometimes these mistakes have repercussions and leave blemishes that can take years to overcome and erase.

A lot of the time, we focus so much on our defects, the thorns and bumps and scratches and little imperfections that we see within ourselves, that we forget to focus on the good things, the roses which, when neglected for long enough, die with time. We blow the imperfections and blunders out of proportion and believe that because they exist that it is, in one way or another, the end of the world. We cripple ourselves this way, thinking that we can never improve, that we have let our Father down, and we let our mistakes define us. It is only when we learn to live with who we are and still appreciate the value within ourselves, even amidst the faults, that we can progress.

In the grand scheme of things, I know a tiny scratch on my laptop screen doesn’t matter. After all, it’s still functional. It’s still valuable. I’m willing to bet someone would still be willing to steal it from me if I were dumb enough to let them. Although my laptop will from now on have that “used” look, it doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s a MacBook, and a pretty darn good one at that. I’m lucky to have it.

In the same way, we should look at ourselves and realize how lucky we are to be—well, us. I know I’m far from perfect. I make mistakes, and I have many thorns that need tending to. But, like with my MacBook, I know a tiny scratch or dent in my character doesn’t define who I am—it simply means that I am human, and, like everybody else, just trying to do the best I can. I am still valuable, am still perfectly capable of doing good in this world. I know that, unlike my MacBook, who I am is something irreplaceable. I don’t have time to let the little scratches and thorns keep me down; like the legend says on that tile that caused me so much trouble in the first place, I must be the light, whatever “being the light” means for me. We all must, if we are to truly achieve happiness in this life.

And we are in some ways luckier than we think. After all, we aren’t MacBooks. We might have more visible defects. But we, when we do mess up, have the ability to, through the Atonement, erase our scratches when we need to. No scratch is ever too deep for that.

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