Well, “saved my life” is a hyperbole.
After living in Canada for 10+ years, my dad got a teaching job at a university in South Korea, so we (the family) followed him abroad. I knew a bit of Korean so my parents thought I could handle attending a Korean public highschool. YES, I was able to handle the all-Korean speaking environment. In fact, a great deal of my happiest memories are from the time I spent with my Korean highschool friends.
BUT, I wasn’t able to handle the workload. I’d study for hours and fail tests with grades ranging an average of 10%-30%. I once even got a ZERO on a multiple choice test. I soon gave up trying to study for every subject but my English class (this class made me feel super smart) and my Chinese-characters hanja class (only because that teacher would hit us for every character we got wrong. I probably had the most swollen hands at the end of each examination. Yup, those were the good old days…)
Naturally, my parents grew concerned about how much time I was wasting. School would start at 8AM and end officially at around 4PM, but without a legitimate excuse, all students had to remain at school self-studying until 11PM. Teachers would monitor the halls to make sure none of us escaped (though, when my friends and I did escape, we’d venture through the dark halls pretending to be secret agents, sneak out to buy snacks and then sneak back into the classroom before we were discovered).
So my parents worried: What was I doing with all the hours spent in classes if I’d given up learning from teachers? What was I doing with all the hours meant for self-studying if I wasn’t studying at all?
What was I doing?
I was writing most of the time.
I was writing plot outlines. And if I wasn’t plotting, I was writing chapters of a novel.
In other words, I was living the dream. I got to write for 10+ hours, during school, five days a week.
I’m pretty sure that if it wasn’t for novel-writing I’d have been psychologically worn-out. Writing added thrill and purpose to each day.
Writing gave me a much-needed confidence boost. Because of the language barrier, I ended up being overwhelmed by the thought of studying, giving up even before I tried. At one point, I began to think that I must actually be ‘stupid’. I filled pages of my journal with self-deprecation, ink smeared with angry and helpless tears.
Writing, however, gave me something to hold onto during these moments. I’d tell myself: my mind IS valuable. Why? Because my mind IS capable of creativity.
So THIS is the story I’d share if someone were to ask: How has writing been a therapeutic experience?
9 thoughts on “How Writing Saved My Life”
I actually started writing fiction when I came back to Italy from abroad… so I know exactly how you felt! 🙂 I hated Italy and Italians and just went home to write fantastic (and totally unrealistic) stories for my own pleasure – which means most of them are awful, but eventually I developped some storytelling skills, LOL!
Keep writing, June, you won’t fail as a human being if you don’t put your work out there – I’m putting it out there and sometimes I feel worthless anyway, so… Be confident! You can do it! 🙂
It’s pretty fascinating to learn that cultural barriers (well, initial barriers) really pushed yourself and I into creating our own world! Sometimes I wonder where I would have been if not for this experience abroad…Like you mentioned, hard as this experience was, it really did develop our storytelling skills…
I totally agree with you – putting out works won’t make us any ‘worthier’. If I’d clung onto this idea, that publication would make me ‘worthy’, I’d only end up super disappointed. So I’m glad I’ve let go of this high expectation.
And Barb! You too, keep writing, and I’ll be cheering you on via blog comments! 😀
So impressive, June! I admire your strength of character and dedication to your work. And I’m sure you will get published in the end!
Thank you for your kind words : ) And I do, do, do hope that I’ll get published in the end. But until then, I’ll enjoy the journey!
June, I love that you shared this! For one thing–it doesn’t surprise me that writing in many ways defined who you were/are, because, well–you’re a writer, June! That doesn’t mean that success or failure at writing defines your value as a person. But I think when you found writing, you found a big part of who you are 🙂
Also–WOW! I would have failed at South Korean schooling. Seriously. And I was a straight-A studyhound.
That’s a great way of putting it, Rowenna! Success/failure in writing doesn’t determine my value, but you make a good point – writing IS still a big part of who I am, skill-wise, time-wise, dream-wise. I’ve probably invested more time in writing than anything else in my life.
Haha. You never know! If you’re the determined kinda student, you might have done well in a S. Korean high school! As for me, even from the start of schooling, teachers and my parents would tell me I didn’t need to stress over doing too well in my studies. That totally made me an underachiever there! And I was mainly stressed for *accepting* my underachieving habit
I think I would have gone stir-crazy “studying” from 4-11pm every night – imagine doing math for 10 hours straight, never mind that I was actually good at high school math (although Korean math is probably harder than Canadian high school math).
I’m glad you had writing to console you – plus, I totally agree you were “living the dream!”
And keep writing! Someday, when you’re uber-famous and on Ellen (cause I know you will be), I’m going to turn to the person beside me and say, “I knew her before she was famous.” 😀
P.S: I’m asking this because I value sleep above most things in life – HOW did you not sleep till 11pm and still get ready for school by 8am. (That’s like only 8 hours of sleep if you wake up at 7am). I need at least 12 hours of sleep to function – though I prefer more if I can get it. (My mom says I sleep longer than my neighbour’s cat.)
Hahaha oh geez, appear on Ellen?! That would be mind-blowing.
Currently, in order to function, I need AT LEAST 9-10 hours of sleep. I’ll sleep 12hours EASILY if I can indulge. So, thinking back on those days, I don’t know how I did it. But I do know that every morning was a killer. And for the first few hours of school many of us students would be dozing off. Some of us would take naps during our ten minute breaks. Yah, sleep isn’t something students in Korean indulge in too often. I could NEVER go back to that routine……..!!!!!!!!