Photo by Kamen Wolf
Jamie’s sense of humor was apparent from the moment he stepped onstage, a tiny, slender brunet in a blazer and TWLOHA tee, announcing that he dropped out of University of Central Florida (to pursue his career), so he was proud the college invited him to speak. His compassion, sense of humor and optimism were catching.
Jaime related the story of his friend Renee who suffered from depression, addiction and self-injury. He and their mutual friends convinced Renee that “treatment is needed and deserved“. Once she was finally in recovery, Jaime approached Renee about the possibility of sharing her story. Renee lit up, thrilled that helping others would mean there was a “purpose for her pain”. And To Write Love On Her Arms was born.
Once Jaime had Renee’s consent, his family and friends’ support and some promotional t-shirts printed, he created a To Write Love On Her Arms’ MySpace page. He explained, “being in [people’s] top eight was very important. You didn’t want to be ninth. And there was this guy Tom with a lot of money but a very bad default picture…”. Jaime knew TWLOHA needed internet fame in order to find, “a home for the story”. People found their way to the MySpace page. Numerous individuals emailed Jaime, saying, “the story [of TWLOHA] you’re telling is my story or the story of someone I love”.
Since 2006, TWLOHA has flourished, offering hundreds of thousands a loving community to belong to. He realized, “maybe these are not emo issues, maybe these are not white people issues, maybe these are not American issues. Maybe these are human issues… TWLOHA is a haven for human being[s] talking to other human beings, [convincing them that] they weren’t alone”
Jamie said inviting his musical friends to perform at TWLOHA events isn’t just a marketing tool-(“and it’s bad to call people tools, anyway!”) On the contrary, “music has a unique power to remind us that we’re alive… Songs have this funny way of being almost friends”. The ballroom, jam-packed with college students, community members and friends responded enthusiastically.
The Minor Prophets performed a few of their songs, to thunderous applause. “Let’s find a place where there’s joy and let that joy burn the pain. […],” they sang, “we may never get over this, that’s okay”.
Jaime admitted, “i don’t have all the answers” to depression, feelings of loneliness or being in pain, but “my hope is that you leave here encouraged… It’s okay to say you’re not okay”
“Healing comes when we let people see those wounds and things we don’t know what to do with. My hope for you, for myself, for all of us is to try to live like that… Everyone is living a story that is sacred…and priceless…and entirely unique. The shit that’s happened to you, who you are, matters. You deserve people who remind you that your story is priceless.”
“The message Jaime reiterated and wanted to leave the audience with, is one I want to leave with you, dear readers, as well: “You’re not alone… Please know that you matter. Please don’t give up… This world needs you. You were made to be known and to be loved. You were not made to be alone”.
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