The Washington Post

(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.

For stories, features such as Date Lab, Gene Weingarten and more, visit WP Magazine.

Follow the Magazine on Twitter.

Like us on Facebook.

E-mail us at



Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Videos curated for you.
Play Videos
Sleep advice you won't find in baby books
In defense of dads
Scenes from Brazil's Carajás Railway
Play Videos
For good coffee, sniff, slurp and spit
How to keep your child safe in the water
How your online data can get hijacked
Play Videos
How to avoid harmful chemicals in school supplies
Full disclosure: 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 1 ghoul
How much can one woman eat?
Play Videos
What you need to know about Legionnaires' disease
How to get organized for back to school
Pandas, from birth to milk to mom

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.