With Her Poem Entry for Torrance’s Visions of Unity Contest, a Young Writer Makes Her Declaration Known

I know the answer.

  • Category
  • Written by
    Audrey Kim
  • Illustrated by
    Nikki Smith

My teacher carefully inspects her inventory of students as if eye contact will unlock the hidden archives of our futures. I chose the seat in the front row, scored a 100 on the first test. I have asserted myself as someone better, someone with Ivy League ambition, someone she can hang on her wall of picture-perfect students of old. The portraits say “Harvard” and “Stanford” and “MIT.” “What do you want to be when you grow up?” “A dermatologist,” I say. My teacher smiles. It’s the right answer. 

I told my mother I did not want to take AP calculus, but I’m taking it anyway. 

My mother said that AP calculus is a common denominator in Princeton acceptances. 

I laughed, but she wasn’t joking. I once read a short story called “Variable Planes of Motion​,” but these variables are devoid of feeling. I want my mother and teacher to be proud of me. I think it is human nature to crave love, support and acceptance. 

I was born to create worlds, to write witty banter between strangers. 

If I am presented with a starry night sky, I will not describe it as x = stars, x > infinity. I will not waste my time numbering them, for numbers tell no story. 

I will speak of them as pearl pinpricks against an inky sea, a dazzling white outpour rendering the intangible tangible, the night I looked up at an endless expanse of galaxy and called it forever, called it my future. 

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” My teacher asks five months later. My gaze flits towards the wall of pictures— to those picture-perfect students of old. They grin at me and exclaim ​HARVARD! STANFORD! MIT! But I decide that those names mean nothing to me. I look past my teacher. I look past her, toward the future, toward the fantasy trilogy I’ve spent years dreaming about writing. And it’s so beautiful, how the words flow as easily as rhyme scheme: “I want to be a writer.” I mean it with every word I have ever written, and every star in the sky. She says nothing, but I know it’s the right answer.