To myself as a third grader, who just needed to know that she was enough,
Written by Katherine D. Morgan
You are only nine years old and you are so unhappy. You are incredibly lonely and all you want to do is belong. You never quite feel successful, so you spend most of your time immersing yourself in books and in your writing. It works in your favor though, because you’re already reading at an 8th grade level and your teachers are so impressed with the words that you write down on college-ruled paper in your best handwriting. You may not be the best at expressing yourself vocally, but on paper? You’re a goddamn star. As you get older, you continue to grow as a writer. You make friends that you don’t think that you can live without. You fall in love multiple times, and sometimes, they love you back. Your work even gets published! Yet, you are still not happy.
Now you’re almost 25. Time has continued to move forward, and although you have managed to become an “adult,” you’re still unhappy. You still feel like you don’t belong. You still don’t believe that you’re enough. You were never taught that you’re enough just the way you are. It’s not too late to learn. It’s never too late to learn.
I was once asked to talk to a class of third graders after performing an essay that I had written in front of a large crowd. The teacher flagged me down as I got into my Uber and asked me if I would be interested in speaking in front of her class. Her class needed to see people like me in front of them. When I was younger, I didn’t know any authors of color, and I couldn’t find books with those characters front and center. It didn’t mean that they weren’t out there though. I sat in front of those students and I answered their questions. They gave me their respect and I respected them enough to talk about what it was like being a black woman and what it was like growing up. When I was asked why I chose to be a writer, I answered that I was lonely, and it made me feel safe. The teacher paused to ask how many of them felt lonely, and I could see the kids putting their hands together and pulling them apart. It was how they showed that they could relate to what I was saying. My heart broke because I needed them to know that that loneliness doesn’t have to be there. I needed them to know they could be happy. They deserve to be happy.
This letter is dedicated to those bright faces that I saw in that class. I told them to work on whatever it is that they are good at, because you can’t be good at everything. I’m not the best at math, and I am okay with that. I am great at writing, and that fact alone makes me happy. It has kept me alive. Kids need to know that they can grow up and be happy. I wish that I could back in time and look that little nine-year-old in the eyes and tell her that she will grow up and she will be okay. She is not a failure because her degree took longer than expected. She is not a failure because her most recent relationship ended. She is not a failure. She is a winner. I can’t go back in time and tell her this, but I can look at those students and tell them instead. I am 24 and I am learning to be okay.
Someone who will believe all of the kind words that she hears about herself
Katherine D. Morgan (@katneedstowrite) is the kind of person who will call out your racist family members over bottomless mimosas. Her work has appeared in the Rumpus, Portland State University's literary magazine, Pathos, and in countless zines that discussed topics such as body positivism, feminism, and her feelings about our current president. When she's not writing, she's either binge-watching Frasier for the umpteenth time or impatiently waiting for the next Beyoncé album. She and her feisty cat Ramona (named after the Beverly Clearly character, of course) currently reside in Portland, Oregon, where she works as a bookseller at Powell’s City of Books.