In 10 years I…
What do I want to feel in a decade? What do I want to have accomplished or achieved? What dreams do I want fulfilled, and which do I hope to still be fighting for?
I’m honestly not sure.
To Write Love On Her Arms turned 10 yesterday. They asked the question, “Where will you be in 10 years?” and while I saw my friends’ answers, giving away pieces of their heart and sharing them with the world, I came to the conclusion that I have no idea.
While I can’t tell you much about where I’ll be 10 years from now, I can tell you about who I was a decade ago.
I was 15, had just started senior school and was in a never-ending cycle as I battled depression. I fought to go to school everyday, fought to not let the thoughts win, and fought to sleep.
I didn’t think I was sick any more—the darkness of previous years had passed, but depression was still there. Ever present. I had already talked about my story with people. I don’t think I’ve ever done anything half way, which is probably why, at 14, I told my class “I had depression. I have thought about dying. I fight to live. God saved me.” It seemed simple, neat and precise. It was my story, and I was largely alone in it.
My friends can tell you the exact moment they heard about TWLOHA. They saw a t-shirt worn by their favourite band, heard a song, read a story or met the team at a music festival. I have no recollection of this happening, all I know is that somewhere along the line between 16 and 18, probably hidden in the ‘Top 8’ of MySpace friends, I stumbled upon the organisation, and I loved it. It was proof that I was not alone, and that other people were willing to talk about this stuff too.
I never thought about becoming an intern for TWLOHA, but when I looked for opportunities to travel and live in the USA, working with them seemed like a logical choice. And so, in 2011, I sent the team an email and asked how international applications worked. I received a response from the then Intern Coordinator Lindsay, but didn’t pursue it.
Two years later I was still sold on moving to America, and I was desperate to get there as soon as possible. I looked into interning again, and decided that along with a spate of other applications, I would go for it. I would apply for TWLOHA’s Fall 2013 Intern program and hopefully bring my passion for media and mental health together.
I put a video on YouTube, filled out an application and waited. And hoped. And prayed. And begged God to make it happen.
Things happened over the course of a few months. There were emails of interest, a Skype interview I nearly slept through, my grandpa passed away, stress at work, conversations with other non-profits about internships, and sad emails about just missing places and terms in organisations I loved.
I was desperate, so I decided boldly (stupidly?) to move to LA the next year. Thank God I received an email a week or so later from Lauren, saying I had a place in TWLOHA’s next intern group. If not, it’s safe to say I would have been jobless, penniless and lonely on the streets of Los Angeles.
My visa passed in two days, I finished my job in three weeks, and within a month I was in Melbourne, Florida, living and working with TWLOHA.
Those three and a half months were some of the toughest, and most sacred moments of my life so far. I befriended people who understood my pain, but also pushed me to reach for the light. I became a better writer and worked with some amazing professionals answering emails, writing a blog and finding social media content. I was invited into people’s stories, and given the unique opportunity to tell them that hope was alive, and they mattered. I was finally able to give people the precious gift of what I wish I had at 13—a place in this world.
Two and a half years have passed since that fall term, and a lot has changed. I have changed. I have grown. I have become a better person, a better friend, a better writer. I have become braver, stronger, and weaker than I ever thought possible.
I have taken home the lessons and love I was given in Florida, and have used them to bring hope to my hometown. I have made roadtrips to see new friends connected by TWLOHA, caught up with old staff members, and gained a family I never knew was possible. I have visited and felt the pain of letting go, and the joy of being a part of TWLOHA’s story.
Ten years ago I was me. Strong, brave, resilient. But today, largely due to TWLOHA, I am more me—stronger, braver, gentler, more resilient and more compassionate.
TWLOHA’s 10 year anniversary has weighed heavy on me today. There aren’t words to sum up what this movement has meant to me, and how it has changed my life. But I am grateful. Grateful that each day my TWLOHA family invites me to fight the anxiety, OCD and depression with them by my side. Grateful that their mission remains about the ‘one’. Grateful that, thousands of kilometres away, on the other side of the ocean, I know there are people who are in my corner, and who are walking through countless stories with many other people at the same time.
Grateful that these people taught me Jesus doesn’t always appear tidy, and neat and altogether. But that more often than not, He comes to us with tears in His eyes, scars on his wrists and a story that makes our heart as heavy as lead.
There have been concerts, catch ups, reunions, a blog, a t-shirt, interviews, book reviews, a movie and meet and greets since Fall 13. There have been tears and happiness and hurt and healing.
10 years ago I had not lived all this. And as I celebrate TWLOHA’s 10 year anniversary, I celebrate the becoming of me and the becoming of people all over the world.
I do not have an answer about where I’ll be in 10 years. I don’t know where I’ll be, what I’ll have achieved, or how I will feel. But instead of being afraid, I chose to be excited. Excited that the next decade will be just as transformative as the last. Excited to see the adventures my friends and family around the world take. Expectant of the people they will bring hope to with a simple word, gesture or action.
Happy birthday TWLOHA.
Chad once wrote a blog titled “Because they are Copeland I am Chad”. I could insert different bands or people into that phrase for myself, but if I were to sum up the last 10 years I would say this: “Because they are TWLOHA I am Jessica”.
And I am grateful.