“My life is like a 5 paragraph essay”
I said this to my mother one day after school. I might’ve been in 8th grade, maybe 9th. It was an epiphany I had come to based on years of consideration of my interactions with the rest of the world, especially my peers. I had been writing 5 paragraph essays in my curriculum for years – the canned essays that supposedly teach us how to communicate properly. They always have the same form:
- Paragraph 1: Introduction – State your topic/argument (1 sentence) and then 3 supporting reasons
- Paragraph 2: Discussion of reason #1, back up with at least 3 facts.
- Paragraph 3: Discussion of reason #2, back up with at least 3 different facts.
- Paragraph 4: Discussion of reason #3, back up with another 3 (at least) related (but distinct) facts
- Paragraph 5: Conclusion, repeat your main points from paragraphs 2, 3, and 4, followed by “therefore” or “in conclusion” <main point from paragraph 1>
They’re designed to help us learn to make a solid argument, and become better communicators.
So why, you ask, is my life like a 5 paragraph essay? Because when I was growing up (and to an extent now as well), I learned that most people didn’t understand why I said what I did, and quite often, they didn’t understand what I said either. And usually they just ignored it, because if they don’t understand, why bother trying? So I got into the habit of justifying everything I said and did. I would compose a proverbial “5-paragraph essay” every time I had something to say. Then when I said or did whatever it was, I wouldn’t just say my topic sentence, but I’d give the whole 5 paragraphs. I thought that if I could just explain myself properly, people would listen to me. Everything I say or do has logic behind it, and I thought that if I made that logic clear, they would stop bullying me, and start listening, because what I had to say was important (or at least, it was important to me). The 5 paragraph essay was the “right” way to communicate, and I thought that if I mastered and used it, then people would hear me.
It’s funny – I’ve never been much good at writing 5 paragraph essays.
But if you really listen, you’ll find that I’m pretty good at getting my point across.