A Strange Thing | Teen Ink

A Strange Thing

March 14, 2019
By katherinekathjohnson BRONZE, Groton, Massachusetts
katherinekathjohnson BRONZE, Groton, Massachusetts
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

Language is a strange thing. When I was still in primary school, my family moved from Hong Kong to Beijing. Suddenly, I was in a Mandarin-speaking world, and my English vocabulary, which carried so much weight a short time ago, transformed into hollow bubbles that would float out of my mouth and quickly burst into thin air. Soon, my mind adjusted and the private thoughts in my head followed my spoken words. The English started to wane.

Perhaps my English would have completely fallen by the wayside if it were not for my one true love: writing. Writing has always been my very own virtual transporter, allowing me to leave my problems behind and occupy a new world of my own making. Ever since I was a little kid, I have enjoyed inventing stories in surreal and fantastic settings. And I’ve always wrote these stories in English.

I imagine this is the case because I do all of my recreational reading in English. My favorite book when I was a little was a children’s version of the Bible. I read it seven times by myself, not for the religious lessons, per se, but for the incredible stories. I loved learning about these ancient characters and seeing how stories from one generation led to new stories in the next. As I got older, I was drawn to fantasy and mystery series like Harry Potter, Nancy Drew, and Goosebumps. They opened up my imagination even more. Then I discovered historical fiction, like Homegoing by Yaa Gyazi and Beloved by Toni Morrison. As I read these books, I naturally began to think what it would be like to write my own.

I have always had a wild imagination. When I was living in Hong Kong, I spent a lot of my time making up a whole alternate reality called “Ghoste World.” (I added the “e” on the end to make it sound fancy.) A mad scientist trying to create an immortality potion accidentally opens the way into this new universe. At first glance, Ghoste World seems beautiful and perfect, but there are mysterious deaths, grand conspiracies, and Dark Beings trying to tear it down. On a whim,I used to extemporaneously tell stories about Ghoste World to my little brother, vividly acting out every character. He became convinced Ghoste World existed and would search our house for an entrance to Ghoste World (like the wardrobe in the Narnia books). Realizing what an impact my stories had on him and a lot of our carpool friends, I decided to start writing them down. Once I put pen to paper, I couldn’t stop. I would get immense enjoyment from seeing the pages of my ideas pile up. I loved flipping through my notebooks and watching the ink zip by.

Words surround us at all times. Whether we are speaking to others or simply thinking to ourselves, our minds are constantly rearranging words to communicate what we want to say or how we feel. Sometimes figuring out the right words to convey what I mean are beyond me in a conversation. To just speak plainly is not always as easy as it sounds no matter what language you are using. For these reasons, I have found the enjoyment of expressing myself on the written page. Through this process, I am able to take a thought and carefully mold it like a piece of clay.  

In Beijing, I continued to write, typing away on my dad’s computer. Since there was no real English class offered at the all-Chinese middle school I attended, I improved my English skills through reading books and writing stories.

Now, living in the United States and attending a boarding school, I continue to count on writing as my mental refuge. Sometimes when I feel like I am struggling at boarding school, trying to finish my work on time or even just get through the day, I can escape by diving into a different world of my own creation. I can explore the lives of people that I invent by drawing on the feelings and lives of myself and the people around me. I spend many hours on my computer planning out complex storylines for one of my many unfinished novels. One is about a group of teenagers that accidentally get tangled up in a huge crime.

But my current favorite open-ended novel is about a secret society of immortal beings that is discovered by an unlikely heroine – a witty, feisty girl who attends a boarding school.

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