I was just thinking about how I’ve never been the kind of writer that teachers loved. I mean, even growing up, I was not the writer that teachers praised. I was the writer that the other kids thought was funny.
Except for one teacher, but he didn’t happen until high school.
But when I was in middle school, we had these Author of the Month contests. Every month, we’d read our stories in front of the class and there would be two Authors of the Month. One would be the teacher’s choice. That was Kathy A. It was Kathy A. pretty much every month. The other author of the month would be the kids’ choice. That would be me.
Even before fifth grade, I wanted to be Kathy. She had a house with two floors. Our house had one. She had two parents. I had one at a time. She had a mom who made Swedish meatballs and worked in a library and did arts and crafts and took me to Pioneer Girls at the Calvary Baptist Church every Friday and this is where I would hope really hard that Jesus had come into my heart finally.
We’d sit around in a circle, close our eyes and silently ask Jesus into our heart. We’d raise our hands if we wanted help. I was really concerned about Jesus coming into my heart and forgetting to close the door behind him and all the blood rushing out of my heart and into my chest, which is probably what a heart attack was maybe.
I didn’t know.
But I would always silently ask, “Dear Jesus. If you are not in my heart already, could you please come in and also could you please shut the door behind you?”
I figured that it was a good idea to be polite to Jesus.
Then I’d ask Jesus to come into my mom’s heart, too, because everyone seemed to think she was headed straight for help because she didn’t go to church because she caught the minister cheating at bowling and when she called him on it, he lied.
“If someone doesn’t have bowling honor, how are they supposed to be my spiritual support system, huh?” She steamed. “A man who cheats at bowling is not my pathway to Heaven.”
She never got over it.
Nobody listened to her.
Everyone said that my mom held a grudge.
Here’s the thing though: My mother (and my Avó and my nana) didn’t hold grudges. They held knowledge. They held knowledge of wrongdoings for a long time. They had to remind themselves of the wrongs that had happened because nobody else would listen to their voice. They held that knowledge close to their hearts because that was all they had power to do. They held those grudges to keep themselves safe and sane.
Anyways, Kathy had the life I wanted. She had two parents who didn’t hold grudges, Swedish meatballs, knew Jesus was in her heart and didn’t really freak out about Author of the Month contests because she knew she was destined to win.
I had no idea how that felt.
How did it feel to know you were destined to win, that you were smart, that you were strong, that you were beloved and loved?
I wasn’t that kid.
I was the poor kid who needed to be saved, I guess. This is probably why a lot of the kids in my books are poor kids who want to be saved?
But the thing that saved me over and over again was writing. I wrote my way through it when my stepdad died, when men were bad to me, when my best friend died, when my brother died, when my mom died, when my dad died. I wrote my way into college scholarships. I wrote my way out of sleeping in the backseat of my car. I wrote my way out of living in an apartment where the ceiling was caving in. I wrote my way through pain and into triumph over and over again. I’m pretty sure I even wrote my way into political office – yes, it was just city council, but it still counts, right?
Here’s the thing: Writing gives voice to those who society has silenced.
Here’s the other thing: Writing gives you power when you are absolutely powerless. It gives you hope when all hope is gone.
But reading? Reading is just as important. Reading outside your own experience, helps others to be heard. There is nothing better than hearing, than growing, than knowing about things and experiences outside of yourself. Empathy and knowledge aren’t swear words. They are words that make us all better, lifting us up.
So, go write even if your teachers or your friends don’t give you an A-plus and you don’t know where the semicolon goes.
So, go read even if it’s things that other people make fun of.
Go create. Even if you feel like nobody else will ever listen to you, YOU need to go listen to you.
Write your way through it.
Write your way up.
Be your own author of the month, author of the year, author of your life. You’ve got this.
We all can’t be Kathys. But we can all be ourselves. And that’s even better.