My life has been busy this summer, and when my sister and I were on our way to volunteer for TWLOHA at Vans Warped Tour, I had about ten million feelings. I had a lot to do at home, and going to the tour that day would in no way get rid of my stress; if anything, as a former TWLOHA intern, it would make me nostalgic and sad. I had so much to prepare for my upcoming move to Texas, I needed to make money, and a day at Warped would only take me away from work. But I do love seeing Jason and Emily, the TWLOHA representatives on the road, and I knew my sister wanted to go. So we found ourselves driving to Darien Lake for Warped Tour’s stop in Buffalo, NY.
A recent concert had turned the main grass area into a muddy mess, so we got all confused by the layout of the venue, but eventually, we took our spots behind the TWLOHA table. We sold a lot of merchandise, people filled out their Fears vs. Dreams, and things progressed as usual at the booth. But I also felt weird; it felt like I wasn’t having any real conversations with people. With this being TWLOHA’s seventh year on Warped Tour, everyone seemed to already know about the organization already or perhaps just wanted a new shirt.
Then, when The Summer Set was doing a signing at our booth in the afternoon, a lady, about 50 years old, came up and started looking at an info book. I let her be, and she just kept paging through it. Then she just walked away.
I’m not sure why—maybe I just realized she was upset, through her body language or something—but I followed her. I had to run and push through the line of people waiting to get The Summer Set’s autographs. When I couldn’t even see the TWLOHA booth anymore, she was standing in front of me. I tapped her on the shoulder. She turned around, and I saw she was crying. At all the booths I have worked in the past, I have never had someone cry in front of me.
We talked for a while. She has an adopted daughter, around 14 years old, who self-harms. This woman had raised five children and now has grandchildren, but she had never seen this before. She told me she gives her daughter everything—even brings her to Warped Tour—and is always there for her. But in spite of her efforts, her daughter still self-injures.
I had so many feelings. I knew that, by myself, I couldn’t make this better. But I told her about the Learn and Find Help pages on TWLOHA’s web site. I told her she and her daughter were welcome to email TWLOHA to learn more. I told her this happens more than most people know, and it was not her fault. I told her that self-harm is often misunderstood and occurs for many reasons, and what matters most is that her daughter knows she is there for her. I asked her if she wanted a bottle of water or to sit down and breathe for a second, but she was concerned her daughter would see her with me. So we parted ways.
I know this conversation was nothing out of the ordinary in what TWLOHA does, but it got to me. This mom could have been my own mom or dad, only a few years ago. Our interaction pulled me out of my stress and reminded me of the real hurt and pain in our lives—pain that can’t be resolved easily.
I don’t know what will happen to this mother and her daughter. But I do know the tension, the ache, and the worthy struggle to express love in a way each person will understand. It’s difficult to make a concerned mother or father see they are not failing because of the actions of their child, just as it’s difficult to make an individual believe they won’t always have to struggle. But I’m thankful we all have people in our lives, families, and communities who care enough to try. I’m thankful that hope is real and help is possible. And I’m thankful for my own parents, who were not so unlike the woman I met, who cried, and yelled, and tried their best—and got me to a place where I am able to worry over things like moving to Texas to go to graduate school.
—Kelsey Naughton (Former TWLOHA intern and Vans Warped Tour volunteer)