We observe, every day, scraps of paper blowing along a highway – litter, trash left behind by someone who didn't need it anymore. It is recognized as a nuisance, something to be dealt with and cleaned up.
We notice paper, too, as the medium on which brilliance is expressed. Pigment and water drawn across its surface create beautiful watercolors like those by Monet and Dürer. Small symbols in ink form words, sentences, paragraphs, and chapters, which in turn add up to the great literature of Hemingway, Shakespeare, Fitzgerald, and of course the more modern "greats" like King and Rowling. Dots and lines handwritten or copied onto paper form the alphabet of Beethoven's symphonies and sonatas. Printed, ordered numbers and signs form the mathematical formulae that describe gravity or the area of a sphere or any of the other things that explain our world.
In many cases, the paper is merely a means to an end. People rarely notice the paper itself, but rather focus on the purpose it can serve, the information printed on it, or on the nuisance it presents as trash. It is seen for the influence exerted on it by (or the effect it has on) other people.
I see myself, in many ways, like the paper. Although I have substance in and of myself, it would seem that I am noticed mostly because of who I am in relation to other people. To my mother I am the obedient, well-mannered daughter who gets good grades (because she tells me to.) To my peers, I am "Teacher Lauren," who can give them a condensed explanation of any lesson, or a photocopy of my class notes if they happened to be sleeping. To my boyfriend I am the girl who is always there with kisses to make him smile (rather than the girl who worries about him leaving her for college in a year and who gets bored by his movie synopses, because she's really more of a book person.)
Most people don't realize they do this, which is why I'm not hurt by their assumption that their wishes are more important than mine. Indeed, it is often easier to accept the influence exerted upon me than to reject it. However, the challenge for me, the paper, is the decision of how to select which influences to allow. I have to realize the difference between the watercolor, which will improve my state and make me a better person, and the unidentifiable sticky substance on the cafeteria table, which could ruin me forever. Sometimes it's hard to tell.
However, it is, perhaps, the worst thing in the world to die with one's paper blank. A blank sheet, while pure in its cleanliness and freedom from errors, is boring. It's unnoticeable. A blank sheet of paper is a life unlived. Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither was Macbeth written without a single crossed-out word. The errors are what make it interesting.
On the "sheet" of my life, there are already a few marks: a lipstick kiss from my mom, a "BFFs Forever!" in sparkly blue ink from my best friend, a doodled heart with my and my boyfriend's initials. But it's still largely blank. There's still a lot of me left to discover, a lot of lessons left to learn, a lot of errors yet to make. I look forward to the journey.

I just hope not to find myself crumpled in the wastebasket anytime soon.