Jamie has asked me to introduce myself, and I’m excited to be able do so. My name is Kaitlyn, and I am looking forward to getting to share with you over the next couple of months. Let me tell you a bit about why I’m here…
I’m studying Social Work at The Florida State University in Tallahassee, FL. This summer, I am working with TWLOHA’s internship program (which, by the way, is still accepting applications for this fall until July 10th – check out our News section for more info). I was awarded an Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Award to conduct a research project, and I am exploring the use of creative expression in bringing about self-care and a sense of empowerment for people working in the mental health arena.
I love words. I love to write. One reason I love this organization so much is because of how we value stories – we say that they matter and we mean it. Personally, I believe that as we are able to explore our own voices and come to realize the power that comes with sharing our stories with others we move ever-closer toward change and healing, surrounded by people who “get us.” It is one thing to hear someone say, “You are important and what you have to say matters,” and it is something completely different to know it deep inside yourself. To own it.
At TWLOHA, we love our role of getting to share simple, honest, true statements from a platform that is capable of reaching so many – statements that pierce darkness, break through stigma and suffering, and creep into the darkest of situations and secrets, only to find themselves even truer still. This week, as Jamie speaks on a stage at Cornerstone Festival in Illinois, our Warped Tour team is trekking across Texas meeting some of you at our tent, and I’m sitting in a coffee shop in Central Florida writing to you. We are all communicating the same message: You are not alone. You are loved. You have a story to tell, and it matters.
It resonates, this message of hope.
What I am forever grateful for during my time here this summer is my ability to witness encouragement happening all around me, whether it’s in a vulnerable, heart-felt MySpace message, or in my writing workshop with our interns. This week, I asked the interns to write a few notes of encouragement for one-another in regards to each person’s writing style. The stuff they shared about each other went way beyond syntax and their ability to breathe life onto a piece of paper. Their encouragement was validating, loving, honest and true. They spoke about one another’s character, insight, natural talents and passions as they were evidenced in writing; simple little lists of, “This, you do well. You are unique, valuable, special, and you have something important to share.”
By summer’s end, I’m looking forward to finishing up my project and hopefully adding some real, researched data to this idea that our stories matter and that hope and help are real – for all of us.
What I want to remind you about today is that each of us has the ability to encourage others in real-life; the tangible, the face-to-face. Why not call a friend today? Write a letter to a parent you’ve been fighting with. Hug someone and tell them you’re not giving up on them and that you love them. Join us in encouraging others to dream, to breathe deeply, to fill up their lungs with air and be fully alive, knowing they are fully loved.
I believe it all starts with words, and with you.