Dear Jamie Tworkowski,
I just finished reading your book, If You Feel Too Much, this evening and felt it necessary to write you this open letter in the hopes of it finding its way to you and others who may be struggling with the issues you’ve so gracefully put into words. I’ve been a supporter of To Write Love on Her Arms ever since I saw the logo circling around MySpace back in 2006 and I am so relieved to know that there are others out there who feel things as deeply as I do; something I feel is equally a blessing and a curse.
It is 1:45am on July 13, 2015 and my world was completely turned upside down exactly 20 days ago. I’ll spare the details, but on top of the pain of letting something go and watching every fear I’ve ever had come to life, it pushed me back into everything that has crushed me for as long as I can recall. Opening up about it to a loved one only made things worse. I haven’t slept properly since then and I’m sure you know all too well that an anxious heart leads to a noisy mind.
I’ve always felt things deeply. Maybe too deeply. As a teen, I was always struggling with my inner turmoil which basically consisted of me constantly asking myself, “Why don’t they see what I see?” The maddening part is that I still feel this way.
In high school I was known as the girl who was mad at the world and I guess you can probably say that I kind of still am. I was the sad, introverted girl nobody understood, so naturally this made me the prime target for ridicule. The worst part was that my so-called friends and acquaintances knew this about me, yet not one of them stopped to ask me why I felt the way I did or if I needed a shoulder. They were all pretty vocal in telling me that my sadness was a personality flaw yet none of them offered up any moral support, which at that time in a teenager’s life, is what we all crave. We crave connection and to feel as if we are heard and understood. It might have given me a different perspective. Hearing, “Just get over it already,” however, made me bitter, allowing me to fall further inside myself fearing any sort of connection for fear of being misunderstood.
“If you weren’t so shitty, maybe things would change,” they’d say. I grew to hate not only myself after being told how horrible I was, but I also grew to detest my peers. I always felt under attack, feeling as if I had to constantly apologize for being human; for wanting to have those real conversations about real things that all of us go through. My main concern was if it would always be like this. If everyone I came into contact with would be in hiding, afraid of being human. Afraid of pursuing something worth fighting for. Would life always be a game of, “You need to drink this to avoid everything” and, “She’s too much to handle so let’s ignore her?” They say, “It gets better,” but in my personal experience, it just gets easier to push to the side. It’s always there, though – lurking, waiting to lunge at any given moment.
You tend to observe a lot when you’re an outsider looking in. The outskirts are a place everyone seems to be afraid of wandering into, yet once you’re there, it’s hard to imagine ever not being so self-aware. After watching your peers for a while, it starts to feel as if everyone blends into the same person. The ability to see through that is maddening when all you want from people is pure honesty.
Now, at almost 27 and a decade later, I’m still asking myself these questions as my inner circle gets smaller by choice and issues keep getting swept under the rug. As a human being trying to make her life mean something with her writing, it’s easy for others to suggest that my words are useless without any influence. We are measured by our social media followers, not by what we have to say or how our words have the potential to keep someone breathing.
I constantly feel at war with the world, an imaginary middle finger placed on my forehead as I walk the streets of my home in New York City. As every person blends in with the next, I’m trying to make my escape, desperately seeking substance and a breath of fresh air and a place where what I feel and who I am can coexist without unease and anxiety ruling my life. This world is stifling me. Feeling it all weighs heavy on the heart with no relief until I plug my headphones in. As the music I cling to fades it all away for a while, I’m able to regain oxygen.
I don’t want to be a product of the system. It is simply unbearable. I am not a robot nor do I want to interact with one. I want to be the one who brings on a revival of respect. I want to ruin the darkness that’s been cast upon our lives, shattering the preconceived notions of how we should be, think and feel in the process. I want to break barriers with my bare hands. I want to live intentionally with a purpose and drive knowing that I can make a difference.
There’s a line from a song by the band COIN titled, “It’s a Trap,” that goes, “All the wasted youth tells a bitter truth.” As I look back on my life so far, I feel as if I don’t have enough time. I have a mission that’s burning up my chest with no clue how to bring it to life. Anytime I bring this up with anyone, I’m always scolded for what I should have done differently. This is why I write. To let all of this hurt and anger out. There isn’t anyone trustworthy enough to open up to and the more I try, the more the disappointment kills me. Your piece, “There is Still Some Time,” reassured me that maybe I’m on the right path. Maybe my vision isn’t impossible. You said that we are “more than a job.” The pressures of finding something just for the sake of surviving, though needed, is terrifying to me. I don’t want to just survive. I want to live.
Thank you, Jamie, for existing. Thank you for starting such a monumental movement as TWLOHA and for telling every breathing human being that we matter. Thank you for being brave and speaking up for the introverts, the old souls and the lonely. Thank you for sharing our stories with integrity and heart. Thank you for being a beacon of light in a world that feels intent on only showing us darkness. Thank you for admitting to the world that you feel too much. I feel too much. The person sitting next to us on the bus may feel too much. Thank you for telling us that it’s okay to feel everything; to be human; to love selflessly in a selfish world; to wear our hearts on our sleeves. Thank you for reminding me that it is okay to feel it all; that bravery is facing it head on no matter how much we wish there was an off switch.
But most of all, thank you for reading this. You always tell us that we are worth more than our pain and that our stories are important. I’m here to remind you of that, too.
From one big heart to another,