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?