By Whitney WilsonFebruary 23, 2012

Confession: During my first four months on staff at TWLOHA, I mostly cried when I wasn’t at work.

(And, sometimes, even when I was.)

It wasn’t TWLOHA’s fault that I wasn’t okay. I should have been perfectly happy: I had a job in a difficult economy; I worked for a cause I believed in; I had people who loved me back home and people around me who were ready to continue the friendships I started during my internship. I shouldn’t be allowed to be hurting or upset, I told myself. I should be grateful for what I had.

I locked myself up with my expectations to steep in unhappiness. And I cried about it because I wasn’t who I thought I should be, feeling what I thought I should feel.

When I try to think about just what the hell was wrong with me during those first four months on staff, a few things come to mind.

1. I was in a transition, and I don’t do transition so well. Change is hard, and settling in requires grace. I didn’t know how to give that to myself yet.

2. I wasn’t sure I made the right choice in moving away from my community at home, and missing them was like a physical ache.

3. I was in a position at work that was born from necessity but not really on sure footing yet, so my schedule didn’t have the structure to which I was accustomed.

I didn’t choose to feel these things, and yet they are shining truths of that season.

Things changed in May. I traveled to New York for my first TWLOHA event and connected our mission with faces and names. When I returned to Florida, I started training the interns to answer messages, the desire to share my passion for words and empathy finally fulfilled at work. I moved into The Yellow House with new roommates. I threw the notions of “I should feel” and “I don’t deserve” in the trash and reached for “This is the truth of right now” and “It’s okay not to be okay.” I took space for me and read books to soothe my soul. I sat on my front porch until all hours of the night talking about everything and trying not to laugh loud enough to wake the neighbors. I made sure distance didn’t dissolve the community I loved back in North Carolina.

And I gave myself permission—to leave, to stay, to feel whatever I was feeling.

Something I love about music, and all art really, is the meaning of it is actually up to the person experiencing it. When I listen to this year’s HEAVY AND LIGHT Encore, it’s impossible for me not to move back and forth with the melody when they sing, “Any day now, any day now, I shall be released.” Those few lines make me think about the prisons we keep ourselves in. Although it takes my mind first to prisons, the song doesn’t leave me there. When Abby plays her solo on the violin, her bow across the strings is like a breaking of chains for me.

Yes, I shall be released, and I have the power to release myself.
I don’t have to be trapped.

I have a choice,
and I choose to be free.


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