It was grade two when I found my calling as a writer. No joke.
Over the years, I vacillated a lot. I was on a path towards becoming an accountant in university when I remembered my grade school epiphany – and the fact that I stink at math. Oh, go ahead and laugh if you wish; I was many things in my head and my daydreams over the years. I was a professional dancer, a lawyer, a doctor, an artist, a veterinarian. But every time push came to shove, the pen hit the paper or the old commodore 64 was in front of me, I returned to my grade school roots.
In grade two I was identified as a kid with some brains, I guess, and back in the day when it was still possible to skip a grade the topic came up. It was a year I was in a 2/3 split. (an arrangement I as a child always loved) My mom, a teacher at our school, was dead-set against anyone skipping grades. She felt it impeded social skills and so forth. I was an apprehensive and shy kid for whom that might not have been the best course of action scholastically anyways. There was adult discussion and then the teachers and my Mom put it to me. What do you want to do, Paula? I was in fact always consulted growing up about a lot of things. It was my Mom’s style to treat me as a little adult, not to be babied or condescended to. I chose to hover between grades, it was me – my choice – not to jump to grade three. Not sure why, but I wanted to work with the grade threes in writing and reading and maybe math, and I saw my Mom’s point too, so I didn’t really wish to abandon grade two yet. So, in the end it was my choice to create my own path. For the remainder of grade two I recall being allowed to set my own program. I could read at my own pace as much as I wanted and whatever I wanted. And read I did. The reading centre with its ever changing library of books was my magical nook inside the grade two classroom. Reading has always been my passion. And then beyond that I would tutor the grade 2s and 3s and, in the reading and writing centre I would create books. I built them with rainbow colored construction papers and stapled the pages inside and filled them endlessly. (Self-published at first I guess) Then I signed each and everyone like this – by Paula Berberich, the star. Or, when required to share the glory with a classmate, by Paula and Matt the stars.
Many times, over the years before I left school, I stressed over what others told me – You can’t make a living as a writer. You can’t make a living in the arts in Canada. That’s not a real job. So I wavered a bit and attempted to bend and be something else. But I never stopped writing and I never stopped reading and I always come back to that grade school epiphany. Writing is the thing that fills my heart, gives me reason to get out of bed and feel like singing. Those were my first bylines in grade two. Over the years I have had many and each one is almost as sweet. But I found my calling in grade two.
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