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A Room of My Own competition – 2nd Prize: Jia-Yan Xue

Filed under: Non-fiction

A Room of My Own

Growing up, split between two cultures and identities I always struggled (and still do) with finding the right words to convey my message whether it was speaking to a person or writing in my books at school. The words I wanted to speak never seemed to leave my mouth when I spoke. My first experience with my inner word battle was when I was in preschool; it was a humiliating but hilarious experience, even when I look back today. Imagine this, a young girl with her mother who isn’t fluent in English, trying to explain to the teacher that I had a serious hay fever issue. I couldn’t find my words, stuck and frozen inside, hoping for the words to tumble out from my lips. A second pause turned into a 10 second pause; awkward. In the end I used actions. My hands, I remember, were dancing along with the noises I was making: ‘achoo, achoo, ACHOO!’. I frantically moved my hands hurriedly hoping that the teacher would just understand me. Finally, she looked at me and said,’ Do you mean sneezing?’. The word ‘sneezing’ was like a gift sent from the heavens, it was as if I was savouring and devouring the word: a cocoon of ecstasy. This memory was 9 years ago and even to this day I can recall it as if it was yesterday. I gradually grew older and by the time I was at the start of year 4 my vocabulary was still not broad enough. When I spoke in the rare moments of my youth, my words were shy and full of unknown knowledge. Halfway through the year something struck me, it wasn’t physical but intellectual instead. It was as if a button was flicked on and my whole brain was then flooded with miraculous words. I felt like I was treading on dangerous waters. But it didn’t stop there.

Year after year I am gaining more and more experience, I test my limits, push them to the furthest and learn as much as possible. Honestly, its suffocating. Recently I learnt an ‘inspirational’ saying – ‘Determination today leads to success tomorrow.’ Don’t you think it’s a bit fanciful and utopian like? I’m not going to lie; determination was part of my process but the only time I ever gained success was what was years of brain-achingly steps to failure, agony, pain. In the end, it still felt like I was on the floor, in a boxing match, defeated after being destroyed by an obvious winner standing before me; struggle.

At the end of the day, to me I feel like the only way I can express my sensations, ardour, vehemence is through writing. Writing to me is not judgemental. No one’s there staring at you, no one’s laughing at the mispronunciation of your misshapen manner of speech. What I want is for present and future generations to understand is that, yes, writing may be a dying form of art, but writing is the start of everything.

Jia-Yan Xue
14 years old
The Petersfield School, Hampshire