(Nathaniel Grann/The Washington Post)

Dustin Renwick

26, Washington, government contractor and freelance writer

Ilearned to think in eighth grade.

Education was a game, and my excellent ability to recall trivia made that game fun. Classes rarely challenged me because I could memorize the answers.

I collected dots, but I didn’t connect them. The assembly line of facts and homework and tests worked fine for the monotonous hoops of the system, but my pogo sticks of creativity lay dusty on my mind’s factory floor.

My school participated in a nationwide program called Destination ImagiNation, and because I loved major time commitments, I signed on. Teams had several months to imagine solutions to questions with no correct answers. Our task: create a comedy skit based in a foreign country.

I spent Saturdays in the stained-glass illumination of a local church, where my teammates and I subsisted on Cosmic Brownies and bowls full of candy. Pizza owns the cliche for breakthroughs, but sugar fuels.

Refrigerator boxes became multi-sided set pieces that rotated on paper plates. Multiple characters meant quick costume changes. We danced. We sang. We won regionals, and at state, we just missed qualifying for Global Finals.

My Destination ImagiNation pin shows a spring-loaded brain with wings. When I need a bounce, it reminds me of the year my world evolved. Although I didn’t realize it then, the team had helped me discover that life’s truly creative answers call for intellectual exploration, not chapter reviews and multiple-choice handouts.

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