It's been over two months since my internship at TWLOHA ended. Those two months have been very full. I closed the distance with my fiancé, finished planning a wedding, wore a pretty white dress while I committed to spending the rest of my life with the man I love, went off on a week-long vacation with my best friend to one of the most beautiful places I've ever been, came home to my ever-loving cat, and started searching for jobs. It's been a difficult two months, filled with questions and depression that likes to linger in the spaces of nothing to do and emails saying I'm not qualified enough. It's also been a beautiful two months, filled with mornings waking up next to my best friend and the fear of a giant ache that comes with missing someone slowly fading away.
With as full as these last two months have been, I haven't spent a whole lot of time reflecting on the time I spent in Florida. It's weird and hard to explain, really, but I almost forget that period of my life existed. I spend a lot of time thinking about Minneapolis and the time I spent there and the friends I left there. My heart aches for that city - for the lights I could see through my apartment window as the city slept, a calm moment in an area of chaos. I ache for the roommates I left behind - for the nights we laughed about the word "whimsical" and found community in such unexpected places. I ache for my other friends, too, for Joey and Michaela and Hannah and all the others. But I don't think about Florida. I don't think about the sunsets I watched over the river or the 7/11 I bought too many slurpee's at or the big wooden door that always stuck or the dog that ran through the office. I don't think about the messages I sent or the stories I heard. I do sometimes think of the people, though. Of the girls I woke up next to on my favorite morning, lying on the ground and sweating in the awful humidity. The people I cried to when parts of my past tried to haunt me and the people I celebrated with when I finally saw a gator in the wild. I do think about them, but I think about them in a way that feels disconnected from the whole experience. As if they were a part of something different.
I think my experience in Florida was more difficult than I like to admit. It was, and is, difficult - because it was difficult in a different way than my difficult seasons usually tend to be. It was a season where my depression faded and rarely flared up, where joy found me more easily and laughter was a part of most days. Maybe that's why it's hard to think about - because it was a time when I felt "fixed," but I've since found that I may never feel completely whole and void of my illness. But it was difficult. Living with eight people is difficult - plain and simple. Responding to emails and hearing stories of the hurt that people feel - that's difficult. And I think I came in with unrealistic expectations. I tried really hard not to, but that's a hard thing to do when you're about to do something you've wanted to do for about as long as you can remember. So, it was hard. There were days when I forgot why I was there - when I focused on conflict or on the difficult parts. It was hard.
But it was also worth it. In so many beautiful ways, it was worth it. It took me two months to come to that realization. To stop being bitter or hurt over the difficult parts and to remember the good ones that outnumbered the bad ones. Today, I got a package in the mail. An unexpected surprise - a signed copy of Jamie's book, If You Feel Too Much. I haven't read a book since I graduated because I ended up reading too much during college and kind of got sick of it. But today, I picked up that book and started reading. I read words that touched me before I even knew the internship existed - words that spoke into the very dark seasons of my life. I read words that encouraged me while I was in Florida - words that reminded me to keep going, to remember why I was there. And I read some new words, too. I think the title, "If You Feel Too Much" resonated with me today - because that's exactly how I felt. Too much and not enough all at once. It was impossible to read Jamie's words without thinking of the ones I had the privilege of writing to supporters reaching out for help; and that was both painful and joyful. I took some time to finally sit down and reflect on the time I spent in Florida - to remember that it did happen and it was a part of my story, no matter how difficult or exciting that may be. Because it was both. And it is both, as life always is. And after reflecting on the days, weeks, months I spent working at the greatest organization in the world, I came away with one truth screaming louder than the others: it was worth it.
My time at TWLOHA may have been difficult for me personally, but it was worth it. If one email that I sent gave someone the courage to keep fighting for their story - it was worth it. If one of my fellow interns walked away with a new friend - it was worth it. And I know I sure did walk away with some amazing, life-long friends. Friends whose voices sound a lot like home and whose texts feel like wild Friday nights that turn into sleepy Saturday mornings. So that makes it worth it. The people I spent time learning under, who took me under their wing and taught me the words to say or the numbers to enter - they made it worth it. Lauren and Jessica and Lindsay and all the others. The stories I got to hear from strangers through computer screens and the ones I got to share with roommates on walks in the pouring rain at midnight - that made it worth it. The blog post I wrote and the ones I threw away, the nights I spent crying over Taylor again and again, the days I made tiny steps away from the monster in my past, the 5k I ran as a present to myself - it was all worth it. Every single second.
I'm not quite sure how I'm supposed to end this, because I'm sure this is only the beginning. I have a lot to think about and process if I want to keep reflecting on all that happened in those three months. So, for now, I'll leave you with the few paragraphs I found in Jamie's book that hit way too close to home today:
"Why did a group of young people put their lives on hold and move to Florida a week ago? Why would they trade everything they know, all their normal comfort and quiet, for a crowded house and endless hours of this word 'community'? Why would they want to join a conversation that most people run from?
We're trying to fight for people with kindness, with words that move, with honesty and creativity. We're trying to push back at suicide with compassion, with hope. We're pointing to wisdom, pointing to medicine, saying that hope is real, help is real. We're fighting for our own stories, our own friends and families, our own broken hearts. We're saying there's nothing we can't talk about, nothing off-limits. We're kicking elephants out of living rooms, making room for life.
You. It's about you."
And might I add: it was all worth it.