To the Guy in 15F.

By Jamie TworkowskiNovember 23, 2015

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

This was true of Aaron Carter last night, but few people were kind.

Aaron tweeted about struggling with his weight, about dealing with anxiety. And then the internet went wild when he “compared himself to Michael Jackson.” Aaron was an easy target, his words misunderstood.

We forget that famous people are real people with real problems and real feelings. We forget that the things we say online can have real consequences. And why is it that we love to watch someone fall?

i had an unusual perspective last night, and i don’t mean because i work in Mental Health. i mean that as Aaron tweeted from Seat 15F on that Delta flight from Orlando to LA, i was about five feet away, seated in 13C.

i first noticed him as we boarded the flight, a young man on the phone and clearly having a hard time. i didn’t recognize him at first and then it crossed my mind, “i think that’s Aaron Carter.” i googled him and sure enough, the photos matched the guy two rows behind me. i looked at his Twitter and it was clear that the hard time was not confined to one phone call. His Twitter was a sea of confessions and explanations and trying to defend himself from people being mean.

I tweeted to him, “i’m on your flight, in Row 13 if you need someone to talk to. Peace to You.”

He didn’t respond. i watched as the tweets continued. i kept looking back to see a young guy staring at his phone, typing constantly. And in that moment, i recognized him. Because i’ve been there and maybe you’ve been there as well. Not with half a million followers and not with our tweets making headlines. But i know that feeling of fighting to explain and to defend, using words in hoping to be known, but then it all goes quickly south.

i knew he couldn’t win. His words were only fueling the fire, only giving the haters more material. The whole thing made me sad. i pulled a notebook and a Sharpie from my backpack and i wrote a note: “I’m sorry for the hate on Twitter. People love to hate. I’m here if you want to talk.” i stood up, took three steps in his direction and handed him the piece of paper. He thanked me. A few minutes later, he tapped me on the shoulder and we walked to the back of the plane.

We talked for about 10 minutes. We got cut short by the flight attendants who seemed excited to be talking to a famous person. We didn’t get to trade info. i didn’t make an epic speech. i’m not the hero in this story.

By the time we landed, Aaron’s tweets had made their way to Cosmo and E! and Perez Hilton. People were using words like “meltdown” and “rant.” My own friends, people i follow and respect, were adding to the noise.

There’s something i wanted to say to Aaron last night, but i didn’t get the chance. i would like to share it here:

“You don’t have to convince anyone. Your value is not based on performance. You deserve love. You deserve friends. You’re enough.”

People found his Michael Jackson tweet hilarious. Aaron said that Michael had once passed the torch to him. People took it as if the words were Aaron’s, but really, he was sharing a story from his youth. As a young superstar, Aaron got to know Michael Jackson and Michael had told him he was next.

Michael Jackson is perhaps the most legendary singer of all-time, in a league of his own. Aaron’s career peaked when he was a teenager. He has not released new music in 10 years. People were quick and mean in pointing out the space between the two performers.

The MJ story stayed with me. i wondered why he chose to share it, what might be at the heart of it. i didn’t get to ask him so this is only my opinion but it feels worth sharing. i wonder if that story, the one that made headlines from the 15th row of a cross-country flight last night, the one so many people twisted and used against Aaron, i wonder if there’s another way to say it.

Here’s what i think Aaron Carter tried to communicate last night: “Someone great believed in me once. It felt really good. It meant a lot to me. My story isn’t over. My career isn’t over. I’m still alive and I remember Michael’s words because there’s hope inside those words. And in a difficult moment, hope is no small thing.”

Aaron Carter is a real person. He may not be “the next Michael Jackson” but that isn’t the point. He is a brother and a son, a person who no doubt has lived a very unique life, amazing in ways but challenging as well. And at 27, i hope he’s early in his story. This website exists to say that every person matters, every life and every story. Aaron Carter is included.

So to the guy in 15F,

i’m sorry for the hate. Please know you’re not alone. You don’t owe the haters anything. Whether you go on to release the greatest album of all-time or never write another song, you matter infinitely. Your life is priceless. You deserve love. Not for any performance or success but simply because you’re alive. If you need someone to talk to, i’m in Row 13.

Peace to You.

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Comments (39)

  1. Kaitlin

    I think people forget that music is a creative venture that doesn’t have a time limit on it. And nobody should be judged by the amount of time it takes to create something beautiful or great.

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  2. Sue

    Oh Aaron – my heart breaks for the pain inflected by people who find you an easy target. Don’t look to the people who are trying to knock you down. Reach out to the people who are trying to support you. You are in my prayers.

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  3. Claudia Johana

    People believe they know anything about someone else’s struggles, people think they have a say on someone else’s life, that they can judge and mock someone else’s words, someone else’s story. People can be horribly mean; but some people can also be wonderfully gentle and genuine… that’s the kind of people I continue to search for, that’s the kind of people I want to be.

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  4. Syd

    I wish more people could be like you. The world would be such a better place. And I hope AC is alright.

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  5. Rebecca

    “Hope is no small thing.”
    Thank you for reaching out to the guy in 15F. Thank you for sharing this with all of us. When I need someone in Row 13, I’ll come back to these words and find your compassion.
    Aaron Carter, you are enough.

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  6. Cheryl

    Thank you for your post, I agree with all you have written and conveyed. People can be so cruel, and we can be cruel even to ourselves. Thank you.

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  7. Laura

    Hello Aaron my daughter love your music your song Candy

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  8. Ty kane

    Omg thank you so much for the beautiful words and thanks for trying to help him on the plane I’m glad to see he wasn’t alone thanks for that. I’m a. If Aaron supporter and this means the world to me so thank you again!

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  9. Katherine Brozyno

    If there were more people in the world like you, the whole world would be a better place. No one should treat anyone the way people were treating Aaron Carter on twitter. I don’t care who you are no one has the right to treat anyone like that. When I see things like this it reminds me of something my parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles always told me when I was growing up. “IF YOU CAN NOT SAY SOMETHING NICE, THEN DO NOT SAY ANYTHING AT ALL ABOUT SOMEONE”…. It also reminds me of something else I was taught. “EVEN THOUGH IT IS ONLY WORDS DOES NOT MEAN IT DOESN’T CAUSE PAIN”… ALWAYS REMEMBER TO THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK BECAUSE YOUR WORDS CAN CAUSE MORE DAMAGE THEN YOU KNOW. ALSO PLEASE REMEMBER THAT IF YOU WANT SOMEONE TO TREAT YOU RIGHT AND WITH RESPECT YOU NEED TO TREAT PEOPLE THE SAME WAY WITH RESPECT. I remind my children of this every day. WORDS CAN CAUSE WAY MORE DAMAGE THEN A PHYSICAL INJURY. AARON CARTER YOU ARE IN MY PRAYERS, AND EVERYONE TREATING HIM WITH DISRESPECT YOU SHOULD ALL BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELVES. HE IS A HUMAN BEING AND HAS FEELINGS JUST LIKE THE REST OF US.

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  10. Fra

    Thank you for trying to help Aaron and thank you for this brilliant piece.
    There’s should always be a 13c guy in our lives.

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  11. Nykki

    How beautiful are you to take a minute and extend a shoulder, an ear and your heart to Aaron. In a moment where many, like the stewardess, would have flocked at the opportunity to speak with a famous person, you recognized him as a person and validated him. While I have followed Aaron’s career since seeing him open for his brother when he was a mere ten years old, a short encounter with him and you have been able to get to the heart of Aaron. He is a fighter and continues to rise above. His true heart is gold. In a moment of hatred, you extended a hand. Thank you for sharing this story in such a beautiful way and for helping not just Aaron as a famous person but as a person. The world needs more compassion and people like you.

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  12. Désirée

    I desire you the best for u!!! and dont forget if u dont care ur health u dont have NOTHING.our body is important
    Take care Aaron and God bless u in everything u do .loves from Cordoa.Arg

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  13. steffy

    Thank you for your words, and thank you for taking care of Aaron 😉

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  14. Marielle Collette

    Aaron I Will Always B There To Love & Support You your An Amazing Person And Very Talented!! Don’t Listen To Those Bullies Who Tries To Put You Down!! Love You Aaron Your Fan Always Marielle 🙂

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  15. Elle

    I think it was years ago, I’m not sure who said it, but a UK chat show host made the comment “we all like to see celebrities fall!” It was Mum who told us about it. She was angry and still gets annoyed by how people behave online and otherwise. Neither of us enjoy seeing celebrities fall, but sadly, so many do because it makes them feel better about themselves. Famous or otherwise, nobody should be mocked for showing their feelings!
    I’ve been noticing a lot of hatred towards everyone lately – everyone who has the guts to show empathy and compassion. It is treated like a disease and that is frightening for the future of our own children.
    I don’t say too much to Aaron because I’m scared of saying the wrong thing or bombarding him with tweets. I know what it’s like to take things the wrong way or when everything gets on top of a person. Very few actually realise what others have had to face. They don’t know what’s going on in person’s mind or heart. Words can actually hurt more than anyone knows, like an invisible button being pushed at the wrong time.

    I didn’t know Aaron had health problems, but I did wonder about the anxiety. (Is why I’m careful)
    As someone who has issues with both, I feel for him. Nobody should make assumptions. I never make comments about people’s weight either way. I’ll be honest, I believe he always looks great so I wouldn’t have noticed. That won’t help though because when someone doesn’t feel the best about themselves, they won’t hear that. I hope people will at least start to consider that.

    As for the Michael Jackson comment: It never would have occurred to me to find any fault with it. I love the photos of Michael, Nick and Aaron. Not only were all 3 blessed with talent for dancing and singing, they all posses something amazing that shines from within.

    I don’t know what else to say here, except thank you for posting this beautiful and honest blog which I took the time to read, whereas I rarely even pay mind to the magazines mentioned. And thanks to Aaron for sharing what he does and being inspirational to others.
    I try not to judge anyone for what they share about their personal lives. I do, however, notice those that kick them when they’re down and I feel great disappointment when I see this. I’m glad there are decent humans in the world waking up to it all.
    Have a nice day.x

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  16. Caitlin

    I follow you on Instagram and saw your post that lead me to this link.
    My heart felt so many things while reading this and I just felt the need to tell you that I think it is an amazing thing that you reached out. I wish people reached out like this more.
    So many hearts is this world are struggling just like his and it’s so easy to throw out the simple fact that famous or not we are all in this together and somehow it becomes so easy to judge and trample someone’s feelings simply because we think we know their hearts from a social media perspective.
    I wish people could take a more positive root with the opportunities we are given through social media and try to first see the brokenness someone might be dealing with simply because they are human and for no other reason and reach out in more positive ways.
    The world is sad at times but it’s people like you that help us see the constant beauty within it.
    Thanks for your words.

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  17. Marielle Collette

    Aaron Your An Amazing Artist & Very Talented And a Real Sweetheart When It Comes To Your Fans Such as Me!! Dont Let Anybody Pull You Down & Bully You!! #Wish There Where More Role Model Like You In This World #Aaron Your An Amazing Person With a Big Heart Xo

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  18. Jemielene

    Thank you Jamie for sharing this, it is really eye opening how people can be to one another. Thank you for being so kind to him and being persistent on being there to listen to his story. Now I have to call my sister to be there for her. You are deeply and utterly inspirational with your clear and loving understanding words.

    Thank you Jamie. Peace to you.

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  19. Batmom

    Beautifully said! It goes for everybody! <3

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  20. Glenda

    Thank you for being there for him He’s such a good person My daughter and I’ve met him quit a few times and he always been such a sweetheart to his fans even to this old married mom Watching him grow and become a great young man I don’t like anyone getting bullied Aaron your fans are still here for you . We’re not going anywhere

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  21. Hilary

    I met him ages ago because my friend worked for Libby Lu and he was doing an appearance in our mall. He couldn’t have been nicer! That is how I think of him; a really nice guy. I’m glad you could make a difference in his day. At the end of the day, if people don’t like you for you then they aren’t worth your time anyway.

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  23. Maria

    Unfortunately due to social media in general there’s a lot of people that like to hide behind their phone & computer screens growing a pair of “internet balls” behaving in a manner that they wouldn’t have the guts to do in the real world, bullying others, getting off on the fact they can get a rise out of others. It’s despicable & down right pathetic! The best way to handle & deal with these disgusting & unfortunate members of our society is to ignore them completely. Don’t give them the satisfaction of knowing that their words & actions are getting to you. Instead of letting them rob you of your peace, rob THEM of their pathetic attempts of having any power over you! It’s sad really, they feel ‘accomplished’. By responding or trying to defend yourself, you have made them part of your life, online or otherwise. You don’t owe them an explanation, they don’t deserve a response… They are pathetic excuses of our society, don’t give them that power over you in knowing that they have an impact on you in any way whatsoever. Live your life, pursue your dreams… Include, respond & acknowledge the people that are there for you. Reward the ones that love & support you, that believe in you. THEY are the ones that deserve acknowledgement. I know it’s hard to ignore some of the nasty comments & horrible people, & may be easier said than done, but it is SO worth it. Embrace positivity and ignore negativity. One of my favorite sayings & most important lesson I’ve learned is “peace of mind is worth more than anything you could ever own”. There will always be pricks out there trying to bring others down, but one at a time, we all have it within ourselves to make a difference & turn things around, we just need to wake the hell up & grow a pair of balls of our own! I hope this blog post & all of our comments reach others & hopefully wake some people up. Hopefully these words of encouragement will give some the strength to overcome any negative influence they are dealing with, & realize that they deserve happiness, YOU are deserving of peace, simply…. You have worth, and you are worthy!

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  24. Debbie

    Thank you for this. I happened to be on twitter while this was happening and wanted so badly to jump in front of the “on coming train”, yet not add fuel to the fire.
    I could not have said what you just did any better.
    It was by random chance that Aaron followed me on twitter and I followed back and I have only seen the nicest of tweets posted from him to anyone who wanted his attention.
    Its unfortunate that people have to be so ugly & for no reason.
    I wish nothing but the best for him and for you for taking time to pick someone up, not knock someone down.
    Sincerely, Debbiefromiowa

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  25. Pam

    Wow, I’ve read all the Twitter comments while it was happening. And this message is right on ! It makes me so happy to see Aaron’s words (intentions)finally understood. Aaron is. Talented, humble, and just awesome!

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  26. Missie

    Thank you.

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  27. Coleen B.

    This made me hopeful and sad at the same time. I hope your act of caring, of reaching out to him, gave him some much needed light and something to grab onto when the negativity gets overwhelming in his life.

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  28. Tia

    We are all the guy in 15F at one time or another. Great post.

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  29. Sara

    What a straight to the point story about real life. Everyone is living one and NO ONE should ever assume to know what’s going on with them unless they tell you themselves. Give people space, privacy, and most of all a second to breathe. Think of your worst moment and then picture all of the world chiming in to give advice, hate, or comment. Even some random stranger, that’s rude for no reason, may have a reason. Maybe their child died, maybe they’re spouse, mom, dad, sis, brother. You never know. Choose to be patient……….then kind.

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  30. Matt

    Bravo that you acted on your intuition by making that letter on the plan that day.

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  31. Joanne Hansen

    I didn’t see the Twitter exchange, but thank you for reaching out to him and for offering us a different perspective on what he might have been trying to communicate. Kindness and support matter.

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  32. Jon

    I searched for this after todays news. I remembered reading it and thinking how sad is this.

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  33. Alexyis

    Beautifully written…he was very misunderstood…I hope he is at peace…r.i.p Aaron

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  34. Jaye

    Rest in peace, Aaron…

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  35. Lathaniel

    Very moving. When we observe others in their current state without any judgement, the energy shifts.

    He’s finally at peace now, no more suffering. Rest easy Aaron, we love you.

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  36. Charlotte

    Profounding! Depression is the worst enemy I have met my entire life. The mind takes the longest to heal, if it ever does. RIP Aaron Carter. Peace to you for reaching out to him.

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  37. Jae Turner

    Beautifully written.

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  38. Tj

    You have such a good heart like him. Thanks man

    Reply  |  
  39. Judy

    Your life is not the sum of one action or inaction it is a series of experiences.

    Reply  |  
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