Jo Club 9/n, “What was your favorite creative outlet as a child? And today?”

I was once a teeny tiny preteen baby weeb. I was particularly obsessed with Hello! Project – an extremely bubblegum pop J-pop label – to the point where I could name almost every girl (and their groups, and the very particular order that they are introduced) in this music video:

also, this song still slaps, and I still know all the words too

I cringed at myself as I moved on to high school and got slightly older, but now I treat it as a little “fun fact” about myself, revealed only to my closest friends on a need-to-know basis.

I was listening to a lot of Japanese music as a 9-10 year old. I later learned that this was a great time for my brain to start picking up a new language, and I was eating Japanese up. I spent hours writing out and singing along to song lyrics, and tried my darndest to consume promotional materials in the original Japanese so that I wouldn’t have to wait for translators.

Though I still haven’t gotten to the point of fluency, I credit this time in my life for giving me a pretty solid foundation in the Japanese language. Sure, it’s based in cutesy love songs, but it’s better than nothing!

This is not the answer to the prompt, but it is useful context for my childhood creative outlet: making up languages!

When I got too frustrated with learning Japanese, I simply made up characters and wrote them in my notebooks. Those characters turned into a dictionary of fake symbols and their meanings, and that dictionary spawned a simple grammar structure. These reference materials gave way to pages and pages of fake magazine spreads, album covers, lyric booklets, and more. I poured over these notebooks for hours, often secretly in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep. (I later learned that all of those frappuccinos I was drinking around the same time were heavily caffeinated – I didn’t know what caffeine was back then! Maybe that’s why I’m so short!)

The writing system was very heavily influenced by the look of Japanese, Chinese, and even Korean styles, but the grammar was very close to English’s subject-verb-object order. I made up specific characters for common words and phrases – “I”, “you”, “it”, etc. – but had a separate, letter-based alphabet for other words, and made up symbols completely from scratch for people’s names (with furigana-style symbols above them so I wouldn’t forget). It was elaborate! I was an artist!

Unfortunately, because of the amount of time that has passed, I don’t remember much about the actual writing system. Though a real language like Japanese has been relatively easy to keep up with and continue to practice, my made-up language left my brain as soon as I moved on. I likely even threw away many of those old notebooks out of embarrassment. However, much like my former J-pop obsession, my fondness for my old hobby has come back as I’ve gotten older, and I look back at my former middle-of-the-night writing sessions with awe and pride. Who else can say that they made up an entire language?

These days, I’ve been struggling to find my own hobbies and stick to them (as evidenced by this blog, which hasn’t been updated in nearly 7 months!) I feel like I tried so many, especially during the pandemic, from fiber arts to baking to reading books, and none of them have stuck around indefinitely. Even the creative outlets that I’ve poured extra time, money, and effort into, like comedy, have fallen to the wayside.

This answer feels like a cop-out – it definitely is – but it often feels like the most creative thing I do every day is choose my outfit. This has been happening more often, for sure, as I have recently returned to going into an office to work. However, even when I wasn’t leaving the house as often, I still took care to choose my lounging-around-the-house outfits in a way that made me look and feel good.

Maybe it’s a coping mechanism for my lifelong insomnia (see: frappucinos), or maybe it’s the years of wearing a uniform to school, but I simply cannot work in casual clothes – my body is physically recoiling at the thought of working in (gasp) pajamas! I was actually pretty excited to enter the working world after college, and was very happy to build up a modest wardrobe of clothes that were both office-appropriate and reasonably fashionable. Even while working from home, I made the effort to change into another pair of sweatpants (ha ha) before starting work for the day to put my brain into “work” mode.

I’m not going to sit here and pretend like I have the style or wardrobe of an influencer. I don’t even have any example OOTD pictures because – surprise! – I don’t take them. However, I would be lying if I said my heart doesn’t flutter when a friend or coworker randomly comments on my outfit or a particular piece I’m wearing. I put a lot of thought and time into curating a wardrobe of pieces that I’m excited about (and can reasonably afford), and it feels nice to get acknowledged for that effort! Call me shallow!

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