“My English professor said to the class, ‘I want you to write about something you did for the first time.’
I was living with my mother in a $5,000 house in Philadelphia. By then we were out of the housing project, but back in the same neighborhood, in a house with no hot water.
I wrote about pulling my own tooth at age 7 because it was loose and wiggly.
I wrote about the pain, the blood, the looseness. I described everything about tying string around it and putting the string on a doorknob, because I’d heard people did that.
On the day the professor returned the papers, he didn’t give me mine.
My original instinct was that it didn’t bother me because my whole life has been about not turning things in, and if you don’t turn a paper in, you don’t get a paper back.
The reason the paper wasn’t returned was because the professor wanted to read it to the class — because it was good.
‘Your papers are boring,’ the professor told the rest of the class. ‘You wrote about your first kiss, your first touchdown.’
It changed my whole life. It lifted my self esteem. It was probably my first reward and because I put time in it, I cared.
I wrote my second composition inspired by the A I got for the first one. I wrote a piece called ‘The Perfect Point of Procrastination.’”