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Playing guitar, listening to music, reading, and travelling

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Meeting My Hero

February 27, 2012

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Well, I have just had a couple of the BEST days here at Niagara and possibly the best night of my whole life!

As I wrote in my last post, Jamie Tworkowski, the founder of To Write Love on Her Arms, was at Canisius College last Thursday giving a speech and meeting people. Three of my friends, Mary (my "other half" here), Sam, Jojo, and I all ventured on over to our rival, Canisius, to see Jamie speak. We got there at 6:40 and had to wait outside - in the freezing cold, until 6:45. Yes we suffered a whole five minutes (true dedication).

Once we got in, I was determined to get a good seat where we could actually see Jamie, not just that back of other people's heads. Surprisingly, the whole front row on the side of the stage was empty and I was thrilled that I was actually going to be able to see Jamie's face! (Since I'm legally blind, I'm used to going to concerts, musicals or any kind of event and only being able to listen to what's going on since I can only see faces if they are about 10 feet or less in front of me. Basically I can NEVER see what the people on stage actually look like, or what kind of facial expressions they have, which believe it or not, add a lot to the overall feel of the event.)

The event started with an acoustic performance by Eric James of The Last Royals. He was awesome, his voice was flawless and his setlist was perfectly mixed between upbeat and slow songs.

After he was done, it was Jamie's turn! At this point, I was shaking and couldn't breathe I was so excited. Now let me explain why I love him so much. It's not just because he's super cute, has awesome clothes and surfs (although those things definitely make him even more lovable). It's because he has a genuine care for people despite their past, race, gender, appearance, experiences or anything that many other people take into consideration when meeting someone new. He started To Write Love on Her Arms because he wanted to show people who were struggling with depression, self-injury, addiction and suicide that they are loved, that there are people out there who will truly care for them and be there when times get rough. He didn't want anyone to feel alone, or like noone cares about them and he wanted everyone to know that hope is real.

Hope is something that people struggling with depression, addiction and self-injury often forget, but Jamie wanted to show people that it exists and is something so important to never lose sight of. He is dedicated to helping people realize that they are living a story, an important story that has made them who they are and is ever continuing. He wanted to let people know that they can - and will - overcome their pain and that periods of struggle and pain are not where each of our stories end. He strives to inspire people who have been stuck in periods of pain to seek help, to go to a counselor, join a support group or check into a rehab facility, because these things work. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness but rather a sign of being strong enough to know when you cannot do it alone any longer. He has helped so many people throughout the years and is always giving words of encouragement and comfort to anyone who needs it.

And this is all why Jamie Tworkowski is my hero.

He started with a few words on leadership. He hadn't really been planning on talking about it so he decided that at the end of his speech he would just say “hashtag (#) leadership,” but figured that that probably wouldn't suffice. He said some really interesting things about being a leader. Most of the time leaders are looked at as having it all together. They are super-humans who can take on anything and everything without stumbling, right? They don't need any help and can do it all, no matter what.

But Jamie disagrees with this. In his opinion, the most important quality about being a leader is honesty - honesty not only with one's followers but with oneself. It's important, as a leader, to have a good support system that you can fall back on when things get to be too much and it's also important to know when something is too much and when you need to ask for help. Those things make a great leader. They make someone you can count on to tell the truth and who will get things done when they say they will. Honesty in a leader is one of the most important and admirable qualities.

After his intro on leadership, he talked about how the movement got started. I've been following this movement since around the time it began in 2006 but the details he gave regarding Renee Yohe (the girl who inspired him to start To Write Love) were things I had never heard. He talked about his own experiences with friends who had committed suicide and his time spent with Renee while she was getting ready to leave her life full of self-injury, depression and addiction behind.

Jamie's whole speech was filled with hope and inspiration. He reminded everyone how important it is to live life with other people, and have a strong community of people who love you for who you are and who will be there to support you in your darkest hours.

Before going to Canisius that night, it had been rough to keep on persevering with the To Write Love on Her Arms club that I am starting here. I was still working hard to get it going but after four months, it gets tiresome. I knew I wanted to start the club, I knew why and I knew it would be awesome, but it had just been taking such a long time for it to get up and running that it was beginning to become dull. But hearing Jamie speak was just what I needed to remind me why I wanted to start this club and re-energized my passion for helping people who are struggling and in pain.

After his speech, he was meeting people in a different area where they were selling merchandise. Before he came out, I decided to buy a super cute sweater. I realized that, no matter what, I'm still a poor college student so either I spend $30 on food and water or I spend $30 on an AMAZING sweater, so naturally I chose the sweater””since it's clearly much more beneficial to my well-being than food or water.

When Jamie finally came into the room, I was basically hyperventilating. Well, not really but I was shaking and couldn't breathe and turned extremely A.D.D. Nothing could keep my attention because I was just so excited. After waiting my turn, it was finally my chance to talk to him. I literally just smiled and looked up at him and word vomited for like a good 45 seconds. I can't even remember what I said although I think it was some weird mixture of, “Hi, you're my hero, I love you. Hi, oh my God, thank you, you're speech was amazing, you're my inspiration. Hi, oh my God. Hi, you're my hero. Hi.” I ended my introduction with, ”Hi,“ which is obviously not a good way to end an introduction. My friends kind of brought me back to reality and Jamie looked down at me (since he's like seven-feet tall and I'm like four-feet tall) and said with his genuine, gentle smile, “Hi, what's your name?” I somehow pulled myself together and muttered out “Crystal.” And we were off to a good start!

He shook my hand, and his hands (!), they were SO super soft - odd for such a tall and manly dude. But, hey, I'm not complaining! Anyways, I began to tell him about how much I loved his speech, how I'm starting a UChapter at Niagara, about how I attended a MOVE Conference and a little bit of my life story. The thing about him is that he is so genuine. While talking to him, it was obvious that he actually cared about what I had to say and he nodded his head and would ask questions and was always smiling. He found even the most common things interesting and admirable. He is the kind of person that makes everyone feel important and loved, and those kinds of people are not the most common to come across. I can't even explain how amazing it was to meet him but it was definitely one of the best moments ever. I'm so happy to know that true, genuine people like him exist and that there really are people out there who care so much for other people.

Unfortunately, after talking to him I was naturally thinking about everything I should have said. Nothing I said really made sense because I was talking a thousand miles a minute and I couldn't breathe and I was talking with my hands a lot, which, if you haven't seen me do, it is REALLY distracting (but that's just what I do when I'm nervous); I was basically incoherent. BUT AT LEAST I GOT TO TALK TO HIM. I'm sure he gets the giddiness a lot so it was alright. He was still extremely sweet and let me take two pictures with him! Now next time I get to meet him (maybe we can get him to come to NU once our UChapter gets up and running!), I will be totally prepared and be able to play it cool.

After I talked to him I remembered I had one more thing to tell him so I waited until he was done talking to my friend, Sam, and I walked up and said, “I have one more thing to tell you,” which he was totally fine with. I then told him how I got a tattoo inspired by To Write Love on Her Arms. It says “Remember Hope” just to remind me to never forget that my best days are ahead. He seemed really intrigued by that, which just made me even more delusional, but it was definitely worth it.

On our way back to campus, Mary drove and we got lost in a not-so-nice part of Buffalo, but I am happy to tell you that we got back...alive! However, I didn't even realize we were lost for 20 minutes because I was in complete bliss having met my hero and I was pretty much in an alternate reality.

Needless to say, Thursday was an INCREDIBLE day that started off a streak of wonderful days. I shall only list the things I did in the days that followed because, well, this blog post is most definitely long enough!

Friday: Lasertron with EAGLE (we played 12 GAMES IN A ROW) so, basically, I was DRAINED by the end. After Lasertron, we all went to get bubble tea and I, being the food-obsessed child that I am, got spring rolls too!

Saturday: Leadership conference, which was eye-opening and , like Thursday, very inspirational. After the conference, I got to babysit the two CUTEST little girls in the world. They are three and five years old and SO MUCH FUN! We played with playdoh, puzzles, watched Alice in Wonderland  and played in this giant cardboard house that you can color the walls of; it was just awesome.

Sunday: My friends and I sat in Clet Fine Dining for about 2 hours at breakfast, which was THRILLING, let me tell you.

And now it's Monday, and SPRING BREAK is in T-minus four days!

Thanks for reading! (Really, thank you - this post is absurdly long.)

The picture is of me and Jamie - can't you just see my excitement?