Not A Five-Paragraph Essay

They told me I needed to write a five-paragraph essay.

We took our first standardized tests in third grade.

They taught us what a good sentence was, and what a bad sentence was.

 They told us to use words we hadn’t learned yet.

They told us to conform ourselves into tiny boxes on a rubric.

And we listened.

I was a junior in high school when they asked me what I wanted to do in the future.

I said I wanted to be an author or a journalist.

They told me it was a dying field.

That I could never be successful.

That all of the good books had already been written.

And I didn’t say anything back.

They tried to tell me what to write about, and then they tried to tell me not to write at all. 

They tried to tell me I was wrong when there’s no such thing as being right.

But they can’t change the words that I press into the keys of a laptop or scribble on a Post-It note with a dull pencil.

Our words are indelible, and they have power.

They’ve harnessed the future and propelled us towards it.

My words can change the world, but no one can change my words. 

They told us to write a five-paragraph essay.

I didn’t. 


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