A few weeks ago, I wrote a little bit about the organization To Write Love On Her Arms for our Item Of The Day and this week I had the chance to interview founder, Jamie Tworkowski. (P.S. The adorable main photo is of Jamie and his nephew, Landon!)
The organization started in 2006 when Jamie was trying all he could do to keep his friend Renee alive. He wrote a MySpace blog with the same title (TWLOHA) about what was going on and found a way to help her. Little did he know the small support group he created was going to turn into a huge non-profit movement.
Since they first started, TWLOHA has donated over $1,000,000 to treatment and recovery for those who are struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. The movement has been joined by some big name celebs like Miley Cyrus, Joaquin Phoenix, Liv Tyler and Sophia Bush. Last year, they were awarded a $1 million grant from Chase at the American Giving Awards, which allowed them to take their HEAVY AND LIGHT tour all around the United States.
It’s a great organization and it was a privilege to interview such an inspirational dude.
Hi Jamie! How are you?
Hi! Good! I’ve had a crazy couple of days. I know a lot of people love HelloGiggles, so we’re happy to be a part of it. How are you?
Great.. thanks! I was watching some old YouTube videos and I didn’t know the way you got your name was kind of inspired by Joaquin Phoenix. I just figured To Write Love On Her Arms went along with what the organization is about.
Yeah… well, it was all wrapped up. I saw Joaquin directing a music video. I didn’t even meet him that day, but I saw him with notes and reminders scribbled all over his arms. Then it was two weeks later that I met Renee and learned a bit about her story and what life looked like for her. All connected and related and I think Joaquin accidentally inspired that title.
Cool! Who inspires you?
I have a go-to 3. Bono is my hero, like my favorite guy. I love his music, but I also just love what he has to say and the way he sees the world. So I put him at the top and two others are friends of mine. One is another singer/another front man named Jon Foreman. He’s from the band Switchfoot. And then Donald Miller- he’s a friend. He’s actually my favorite writer. One thing those guys all have in common is that they’re very honest and very poetic and those are two things that resonate with me.
It’s pretty funny because those guys have songs that go along with TWLOHA. U2’s ‘Walk On’ is one of my favorites and ‘Dare You To Move’ from Switchfoot.
Yeah, good call! Both amazing songs.
So I’ve never interviewed a non-musician before, so I was wondering…
I like music… if that helps.
No, I’m not saying it’s a bad thing! I’m just saying it’s cool that you’re the first person.
I’m like a non-musician who hangs out with musicians that’s obsessed with music.
What bands/artists are you currently listening to?
You know what, more than anything lately, I’ve been listening to Drake and The 1975. I don’t typically listen to a lot of hip-hop, but I’ve really gotten into Drake. It’s something new for me. I’m late to the Drake party, but I’m enjoying it. And then Macklemore too. I’ve had that album for a while. I’m just so inspired by his story, how he’s gone about things, his humility and just the fact that he has really important things to say. I think him as a dude is as inspiring to me as the music. And actually Mary Lambert is playing our shows.
Yeah! I was just going to say she’s in your HEAVY AND LIGHT shows.
Yeah, we have LA on January 11th and Orlando’s January 19th. And they’re both at the House of Blues. We also have The Summer Set, Jon Foreman, some speakers, a really amazing poet named Anis Mojgani and then we’ll be announcing one more artist as well.
Cool! I also saw Amanda de Cadenet on there, which is awesome.
Yeah, I’m so excited. She’s a friend and so gifted and so cool. I’m really excited that she’ll be sharing. HEAVY AND LIGHT is my favorite thing that we do. It’s become our flagship event. I’ll also be speaking both nights. I’m really proud of it.
What’s your favorite part of working at To Write Love On Her Arms?
You know, I feel like it’s just such a privilege to bring my heart to work everyday. And I know that unfortunately not everyone gets to do that. I get to wake up everyday and write things that I really believe and say things that I really believe. I get to be creative trying to encourage people and move people to know that it’s okay to be honest and that it’s okay to ask for help. And the other part of it is I get to hear the best comments/compliments- basically people just saying they’re still alive and getting help because of the work that we do. It’s so incredibly humbling and encouraging.
I was reading some of the comments on blog posts and it has to be an amazing feeling to hear things like that. It’s awesome.
Yeah, I feel like I get to be a part of something so much bigger than me and that’s a really cool thing and a really healthy thing.
Agreed, I’m still looking for that- the perfect job.
Well, you’re off to a good start…it sounds like.
Thanks! We talked a little about music…I was wondering how you guys got involved with Warped Tour, Bamboozle and the musicians who are a part of To Write Love On Her Arms?
You know music has been part of our story since the beginning and I mean literally the initial To Write Love On Her Arms story that I wrote, music shows up in it. That story focuses on a five-day period and I think two of those nights we went to shows or concerts. We took our friend to shows just so that she could be in a room with music. Then musicians were some of the first people or even friends to support us. And so they had so much to do with our message getting out there and people finding out about us. We really see a lot of common ground where music is allowed to be honest. Music reminds people that they’re human and that it’s okay to feel things and it’s okay to ask questions. I think music is okay with the fact that not everything resolves. I think there is just so much common ground between that and the conversation we’re trying to invite people into. So we love to point out- we don’t see it as a marketing thing. We’re totally grateful that musicians have supported us, but we like to dive in a bit deeper than that.
Yeah, it’s definitely true that music allows you to speak what you can’t normally say. And concerts where you feel connected to everyone in the room…it’s a great feeling.
Totally! I think it helps people feel less alone. To hear someone sing something that feels like where you are or where you’ve been…I think is really powerful.
Definitely. Who’s the most interesting person/coolest person/someone you didn’t expect to join the movement?
Good question! Umm, you know there’s been some surprising open doors. Sophia Bush is one. She’s been incredibly supportive. And just a really passionate woman, who doesn’t just support us, but supports a lot of different things that she believes in. Christina Perri has been super supportive. She’s another one that comes to mind. So many people have found out about us because of her excitement and her making noise. So those are a couple. It’s a tough one. And certainly Joaquin- he’s become a friend through this whole thing. And I certainly wouldn’t have anticipated that or expected that. And the cool thing I think is that for pretty much everyone we bump into or we hear from, it’s personal for them in some way- it relates to their story, it relates to their family or someone they care about. So I think that’s where the connection comes from.
I was planning on asking about your biggest fear and greatest dream, but I figured you’ve been asked it before. I did some research and found a recent interview that you did with your friend.
Yeah, I’ve been asked that before. I’m really proud of that campaign. It’s been a really cool thing to see so many people answer those questions. And I think not only to let them feel heard and let them feel like their answers matter, but I think also to relate to other people and other answers to see that they’re not alone in their fears and dreams. I think it’s important to try to give people a platform where they can finish the sentence.
So I was wondering if you wanted to tell the HelloGiggles readers anything?
Yeah, definitely. I think the message we always hope that people leave with is to know that they’re not alone and to know that it’s okay to be honest- to be honest about your questions and the things that you aren’t sure about and the places you feel stuck in your life. And we’ve just come to believe that everyone deserves a support system. Everyone deserves friends and a community. And then to know beyond that- that it’s okay to ask for help. You know, it’s okay and it’s great to ask for professional help. It’s such a cool thing that people have dedicated careers and a big part of their lives to helping other people through the hardest parts of their story. So yeah, that’s the heart of the matter. The music and everything else- it’s fun, but I think that’s the bigger picture. That’s what we hope is the takeaway. We’ve learned that so many people live alone when it comes to issues like depression and addiction. We’re just so thankful that we’ve heard from so many people that are taking steps towards changing their life and getting the help that they need.
Well said. You’re an inspirational guy.
Thanks for talking about what we’re doing! That’s important.
I’m glad to. I love getting the word out about great organizations like this.
Sweet! Thanks for writing about something other than music!
Thank you for taking the time to talk with me!
You have a good night! And thank you so much for taking the time. Take care.
I wanted to leave you guys with this: Jamie’s Biggest Fear is to be alone, to not find love, the fear of settling, living a life he doesn’t believe in. And his Greatest Dream is the opposite- to find love, to have a family someday, to live a life that he believes in. My Biggest Fear and Greatest Dream are actually the same as his. I’ve yet to find love. I never want to settle for less than I believe in. And I really want a family of my own some day.
I really love the Fears vs. Dreams campaign and was wondering what yours is? Let us know in the comments below or fill out your own statement card and post it to tumblr. Also, be sure to check out the HEAVY AND LIGHT show if you’re in the area.
Have an awesome holiday! And if you’re feeling lonely, know that you’re not alone and there’s someone out there that wants to listen and talk to you.