In the third grade, my Language Arts instructor gave the class an assignment: write a two to three paragraph personal essay explaining what you would do if you had one wish. My eyes lit up. This was the kind of brain exercise I had been waiting for. Constantly reprimanded for reading too much fiction, I finally had the chance to flex my imagination.
I penned what I still consider to be one of my best essays ever, entitled, "If I Was 100 Feet Tall." In those three paragraphs, I chronicled my journey through jungles where I'd converse eye-to-eye with giraffes while parrots flew round my head, and explained how I'd walk across the Atlantic ocean. It was a hoot. Truly, it was the most fun I had ever had with schoolwork up to that point. Yep, that's right. It even beat out finger-painting in kindergarten.
The next day, we all arrived in class eager for feedback on our magna opera. However, the teacher entered the room with a solemn look that instantly drained the class of its energy. She began a presentation on gigantism; it was a cautionary tale about a man known as the Alton Giant. "Sonuvabitch, she's calling me out," I thought. At first, I was mortified, but that quickly gave way to anger. She explained that this gentle giant died at the age of 22 due to his medical condition. The moral of her story: be careful what you wish for.
I had been set up.
Two things happened as a result. One, it spawned a lifelong mistrust for institutionalized authority. Two, I decided to ignore her practicality and promise myself to never stop imagining what might be, because who wants to live in a world where third-graders have to worry about the consequences of being 100-feet tall?
I also really like the Wu-Tang Clan.
[To the dozen+ people who have sent me a message telling me how sad this anecdote made them, you're reading it wrong. To the girl who wrote me and said, "Damn, I literally just burst into laughter at work when I got to I also really like the Wu-Tang Clan," you totally get it.]