I can still feel the texture of the cover, made from a swatch torn from a wallpaper sample collection. The teacher’s assistant in my kindergarten class was busy captioning pictures dictated by five-year-olds for our very own book we were making. She allowed me to write mine with my own tiny hand.
An artist, I was not. Not then and not now. I rushed the pictures. But I thought the words through carefully and penciled them onto the page as neatly as my pudgy young fingers could manage. The story was about Humpty Dumpty. A new take on an old classic. My teacher told me how much she loved it, and what a great job I had done; I beamed at the praise.
Flash forward to me in grade four: awkward, shy, painfully and obviously out of place.
I didn’t have many friends, but I had a lot of pens.
I filled my free time with rudimentary acrostic poems and short stories. I wrote a tale based on one of the pages of Chris Van Allsburg’s The Mysteries of Harris Burdick and my teacher let me go to the office and show the principal. That same teacher would later tell me she looked forward to reading one of my published books one day, words I would latch onto and keep like a locket around my neck well into adulthood.
In grade six, I wrote a story inspired by Judy Blume’s Fudge series. Grade seven brought about a love of poetry. In grade eight, I wrote a screenplay. In grade nine, I turned the screenplay into a novel.
For most of my tween and teen years, I was rarely spotted without paper and pen. Once when asked what I would bring if I were stranded on a desert island, I answered a binder of paper and pens. I didn’t need food or sunscreen; as long as I could write, I’d survive.
I’ve gone through many phases: silly stories; brooding angst-ridden poetry; biting social commentary; anything that sparked inspiration. But throughout my life, the one thing that has stayed consistent and true is my passion for writing.
As my children grow, I find myself watching them closely for signs of their passions peeking through. Do they have one? Will they?
My son is a gifted guitar player. While I was never able to do more than clumsily strum strings and awkwardly switch between a few chords, my ten-year-old plays seamlessly and effortlessly. He speaks through the instrument. He is a true natural, and listening to the music flow from him is an honest pleasure.
Like me, he has a teacher who encourages his gift. Like me, he rarely goes a day without picking up his expression of choice. Is this his passion?
But he also loves to draw. Unlike guitar, he isn’t particularly skilled at it, but he certainly enjoys doing it. Is that his passion? Do passion and talent have to overlap?
Or maybe his passion is kick-boxing. Maybe basketball. Or video games. Or any of the many activities he engages in regularly.
When it comes right down to it, I don’t care what my children are passionate about, as long as they are passionate about something.
I want them to feel the flutters of a creative breakthrough. To wake up in the night with an idea they can’t shake, and to be unable to get back to sleep until they get it out—to find their heart start to race whenever they think about it.
I want them to feel antsy when they have to put it aside for a while in favor of more pressing responsibilities and to feel the mix of pleasure and relief when they sneak a chance to pick it back up.
When the weight of the world is pressing down on their tense shoulders, I want them to have an outlet so they can release their worries into their passion, and feel them quiet if only for a moment.
I hope they get to know the pride that comes with pouring their heart and soul into something and the joy of seeing themselves reflected back.
I don’t care if they’re good at it, as long as it makes their eyes light up when they talk about it.
If they love it, I don’t need to understand why. If it is a part of them, I will love it too.
I hope my children find their passion. I hope they share it widely and keep some of it just for themselves.
And I hope their passion makes them feel as full as mine does for me.