I grew up with words.
Regular trips to the library on the way home from school or swimming class, being greeted by many of the librarians by name, while I struggled with my haul of books.
Did you know there’s a limit to how many books you’re allowed to take out? Little me did.
I grew up wanting to be a librarian, to surround myself with these words and help other people find the right words that they were looking for. A way to assist in acquiring knowledge, relaxation.
I went through all of high school figuring that I would be just like my mother, spending my days organizing people and books, orders and shelves.
University can change a person.
I am not a great student, I write, while being enrolled in a distance master’s program. But I am not. I get distracted, easily stressed out by daily life, I moved a lot during my university times. My first year was miserable, my second year as well for different reasons, but my first year was where I realized that I wasn’t going to be like my mother.
I wasn’t going to become a librarian.
On the car ride home, from my last of three apartment in my first year of university, it became clear that I couldn’t manage a degree in English Literature. I had almost failed my second English Lit course, with a 55%. The only class I had passed with a good mark was German II, with a 78%.
It has been almost twenty years and I still remember my marks.
The change was gradual.
I never took another Literature course, but I took another 11 German courses after German II, finishing with a degree in German Language and Culture. Words suddenly became simpler, conveying basic ideas instead of complex, maybe even original thought.
Where is the train station?
How much is this apple?
It is hard to learn a language as an adult. You lose the ability to really express yourself, to make jokes without people thinking you misspoke, to get to the depths of problems or situations.
In meetings, I spend more time silent, as the words come to me in English and must be übersetzt for my German colleagues. I often misunderstand someone, if they use a different word than what I am used to. My jokes rarely land.
In my current studies, I am taking a break between course work and papers, a break between German writing and reading and English. I am lucky, this way, that English is considered the international language of science, as I will be able to write my papers for a German university in English.
The break allows me to relax, a chance to find that love of words again.
This year, I have accumulated penpals. Some are people I know, and many are people I don’t. I write I am a Canadian map maker living in Germany over and over, my fastest way to introduce myself.
Although I am so much more than that.