To Write Love On Her Arms: Pain, Hope, Questions, and Community with Jamie Tworkowski and Anthony RaneriFebruary 25, 2012 —
“It’s Okay to be Human, You’re Not a Machine”
To Write Love On Her Arms
Conversation: Pain, Hope, Questions, and Community
with Jamie Tworkowski and Anthony Raneri
Statler Auditorium, Wednesday, February 22, 2012, 7:30PM
Jamie Tworkowski and I sit backstage before he faces the eager crowd awaiting him in Statler Auditorium. From the moment I meet him, I note his friendly and welcoming personality, traits which the entire audience got to see minutes later. Jamie’s easy-going but passionate atmosphere aided the feel of the entire night, and the event turned into a safe space for those searching for the answers to the most difficult questions.
In 2006, Jamie began his non-profit organization, To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA), as a way to help a friend fund her recovery efforts. At that time, the company was mainly an idea, a few hundred eye-catching t-shirts, and a myspace page. Thanks to Jamie’s friendships with band members of Switchfoot and Anberlin, who wore his shirts during their shows, TWLOHA quickly gained publicity. Yet this accidentally successful marketing scheme is not the sole reason a story became a full-fledged organization: TWLOHA also features a message that resonates with people all over the world.
When TWLOHA first gained popularity, Jamie realized his friend’s story “represented people all over the world.” Over the six years of the organization’s existence, Jamie and his team have received over 170,000 emails and messages to people who have experienced or can relate to stories of depression, addiction, self-injury, or suicide. Rather than “promote awareness” (says Jamie: “I don’t even know what that means”), TWLOHA works to point people to outlets that can heal and help. More importantly, it gives people a space where they can speak up and speak out; in Jamie’s words, it gives people the “privilege to talk about things people don’t want to talk about.”
The event started with an acoustic set from Jamie’s friend Anthony Raneri, frontman of Bayside, who played a number of his band’s songs as well as new music from his solo EP, “New Cathedrals.” In our interview, I asked Jamie why he thinks music has such an impact on people. He believes that music is especially healing as it has “the unique ability to move people and remind us we’re alive… you can get away with things you can’t say in everyday conversation.”
He expressed a similar statement as he introduced Anthony, calling music a “hall pass that allows us to be really honest.” That honesty was visible in Anthony’s first song, a cover of Bad Religion’s “Sorrow,” which featured lyrics including “What if every living soul could be upright and strong? / Well, then I do imagine / There will be sorrow / …no more.”
Jamie’s talk after the performance stated a similar theme, and he really wanted to stress that people can and should talk about their sorrows, find strength and support from those around them, and get help. “We all have moments we feel stuck in,” he emphasizes, “but you’re a person; you’re not a machine, you’re not a robot, you’re not perfect, your world is not based on scores. You matter because you’re here and alive on this planet.”
His question and answer session at the end of the event helped illustrate what he was trying to say throughout the entire night. Some asked questions about his work, some asked about his experiences with his friend’s addiction, and others shared personal stories. But all proved his point that people should talk about the tough issues rather than suffer silently. Thanks to Jamie Tworkowski, To Write Love On Her Arms will always be there to help.
Jamie Tworkowski and Community Outreach Chair of Cornell Minds Matter, Celia Muoser, during the question and answer session
More information on the organization To Write Love On Her Arms, its mission statement, and its story of inspiration can be found at its site: http://www.twloha.com/
To find support on campus, check out Cornell Minds Matter: http://mindsmatter.dos.cornell.edu/community_outreach.html
Jamie meeting with audience members after the show
Images by Slope Photographer Matt Munsey