What’s in a number?

August 2nd, 2022

Today, a friend asked me a great, big question: why?

And how?

Why am I a writer? How did I know I was a writer? Why and how am I the person that I am?

And being put on the spot is wonderful, because you don’t know what you’re going to say, and I ended up telling a story that I don’t know if I’ve shared in this space.

When I was in high school, there was a standardized writing test. “They” gave you a prompt, and you wrote an essay, and “they” (I don’t know who these people are) read it and gave it a score from 0 to 4.

I understood this as 4 being the best piece of writing they could expect from a high school student, and 0 being a piece of paper with not even a name spelled correctly.

We took the test and I forgot all about it.

One day, a phone call interrupted one of my classes and it was about me; I was told to report to the principal’s office immediately.

I sincerely did not know what I had done this time, and it could have been anything. I had once been called to the principal’s office because I wore a diaper to school to promote our Variety Show; the vice principal had to point out to me that my “tallywacker was sticking out” and that indelible phrase will forever be ingrained in my brain.

This visit was terrifically different. I was sat down and notified that my essay, on a scale from 0 to 4, had received a score of 6.

I did not understand. For I am a writer, and not a mathematician, and those numbers did not seem to add up.

It turns out that once a paper received a 4, it was sent to another group of people, of college professors, and they gave it a further grade between 4 and 6. I had received the highest grade.

What did this mean? I don’t know what it meant to anyone else.

To me, it meant that my words could carry themselves.

These people didn’t know me. They didn’t like or dislike me as a person; in fact, they knew nothing of my life at all.

But my words alone were capable of doing great things, and there was something very empowering and comforting about that.

Since I was a kid, I wanted to be Walt Disney. I wanted to be an animator, and comic book artist, and theme park owner, and musician, and as I looked at the list, I realized what they all had in common.

I wanted to be a storyteller. I was a writer.

And even though I still suffer from Imposter Syndrome, like many other artists do, there was something concrete, heavy about that 6 that lives in me to this day.

Which doesn’t mean I don’t worry from time to time, wondering if they mixed up someone else’s essay with mine and made a huge mistake.


Published by dennisvogen

I'm me, of course. Or am I?

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