The Power of Words: Meeting Jamie Tworkowski

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Me and Jamie Tworkowski, the founder of To Write Love On Her Arms

I’m not one to smile often, and I never have been. I keep a straight face most of the time, and maybe that’s just my being an introvert. But there are rare instances in which I can’t help but smile, be happy, show everyone the positivity radiating inside of me.

June 8, 2015 was one of those days.

★★★

When I looked at the upper right corner of my Samsung Galaxy S4 and realized the time read “12:00 AM,” when I swiped left twice on my home screen to check my countdown and saw that the orange font had read “0 days,” the excitement came over me. The day had finally come: Jamie Tworkowski, the founder of To Write Love On Her Arms, was having the Chicago (Naperville) stop of his book tour.

I had already read his book, If You Feel Too Much: Thoughts on Things Found and Lost and Hoped For, so attending this event was much less about getting a second copy of his book and more about Jamie himself.

I was excited about having the opportunity to see him in person with my own eyes—it wouldn’t be a photo of him that I was seeing. I was excited about getting the chance to hear him speak with my own ears—it wouldn’t be his voice coming out as audio from a video via an electronic device. I was excited about having the privilege of meeting the person whose personal, honest, heartfelt words have affected me more than I ever would have expected.

So no, I wasn’t excited about getting another copy of If You Feel Too Much at “An Evening with Jamie Tworkowski,” but it certainly gave me more of a reason to be excited about the event and meeting Jamie.

★★★

I don’t remember when I first heard about If You Feel Too Much, when I first heard that Jamie had a book coming out. I don’t remember where I first heard about it either. It was probably on Twitter or some sort of social media, but, once I found out about it, I knew that I needed to have it.

I pre-ordered If You Feel Too Much the first chance I got, and I’m not exactly sure why I felt the urge to do so. Yes, I wanted to read the book, but I didn’t really know why I wanted to. I didn’t know what I would be getting out of it. Maybe I was just curious as to what it would entail specifically, or if it could help me when I feel like my being consists of anxiety—when I feel too much.

Regardless of my reasoning behind the decision, I still managed to have this lingering sense of excitement within me during the days I had to wait for the book to be released, during the days I had yet to actually own the book. And, once I got it, that feeling of excitement only multiplied.

When I finished reading it in the couple of hours it took me, I realized what I actually wanted out of it, and I got just that: hope.

Jamie’s stories and words were all so personal and honest, but so vulnerable and touching. It’s about him, but it’s not really about him. It’s about him and his experiences, what he got out of them, and how we can use it all to our benefit.

Each and every one of his words have urged me to be honest and open, unafraid to act in such a manner, to look at life at a different perspective. Some of them made me want to cry and be sad, and some of them made me smile and laugh, but they all offered something. For me, though, one specific passage has helped me the most.

And God must be a pretty big fan of today, because you keep waking up to it. You have made known your request for a hundred different yesterdays, but the sun keeps rising on this thing that has never been known. Yesterday is dead and over. Wrapped in grace. Those days are grace. You are still alive, and today is the most interesting day. Today is the best place to live (28).

For someone who wants to be a writer, words aren’t usually touching for me. Maybe that was just because I hadn’t let them or found the right words to do so. But when my eyes made their way across the 180 or so pages of If You Feel Too Much, that changed—specifically when I encountered the above passage early on. That change made me want to meet Jamie more than ever before. I wanted to meet the person who changed that for me.

★★★

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The event was supposed to begin at 7 p.m., but it was a couple of minutes after that until Jamie actually showed up and started the event. I sat next to my friend Sofie, and she was getting a bit anxious about the delay. She was fine, though, and even joked, “The stage is going to open up and he is going to pop up.” I also joked that he’s probably late because he was watching the U.S. women’s national team play in the Women’s World Cup. We then both realized that was a definite possibility.

But the event did start, and it was great to put it simply. He walked down to the stage by going down the aisle closest to where my twin sister Amanda, Sofie, and I were sitting, and that certainly made Sofie giddy—she blurted out, “Hi!” as he passed our row.

Jamie talked about the uniqueness of Hollywood Palms and how interesting it was to see all of these different movie characters bordering the ceiling walls of the theater. He joked about the office chairs we were all sitting in, asked whether it’d be strange for him to sit in the one provided for him on the stage, showed concern over the trouble with the microphone feedback and the little lighting that was provided.

Jamie let us all know that he was rooting for the Chicago Blackhawks over the Tampa Bay Lightning despite being from Florida, because no one in Florida cares about hockey. He asked how far people traveled to get here, questioned whether Chicago was actually far from Naperville, made sure he acknowledged every single person who wanted to tell him how far they went to come see him.

Jamie asked all of us which parts of his book we would like to hear him read from, and he mentioned how reading it out loud to us reminded him of school—he would tell us the page number of where he would be reading from so we could all follow along.

Jamie took questions before To Write Love On Her Arms was shown and the book signing would begin. The girl sitting in front of me had the same idea I did: She asked the first question of “Why don’t you capitalize your ‘I’s?” He told us that he had just always written it that way, that part of it had to do with humility versus narcissism: Capitalizing ‘I’s can make one seem better than others as opposed to leaving it as a lowercase letter.

All of his pre-movie/book signing words just solidified the idea I had of who he was as a person: kind, caring, honest. And I think that’s partially why it was so easy for me to actually talk to him when it was my turn to meet him and have my book signed—it’s something that doesn’t happen often.

I’m a introvert who doesn’t open to people easily. Sometimes in class I can hardly speak up without feeling nervous—even if it’s a small one with people I’m already familiar with. But that wasn’t the case at all with Jamie.

I just went up to him when it was my turn with absolutely no nerves whatsoever, and I gave him my book to sign. Jamie told me that he liked my outfit, and I told him how I was planning to wear my Kyle Korver All-Star shirt—I even brought it to show him—but that I decided to wear my new TWLOHA USA shirt.

Jamie proceeded my saying we needed to take a photo together with my Korver shirt to send to Kyle, and I’m surprised I didn’t have an awkward, fangirl-ish moment about it. It seemed Jamie also spotted my Kirk Hinrich Chicago Bulls phone case, because, after we took a photo together, he asked if I was “hinrichbullsfan” from Instagram. I told him that is indeed me, and he replied, “It all makes sense now!” (I’ve since changed my Instagram username to “wijangco12,” so it matches my Twitter username. Jamie is aware of the change, though, so all is fine!)

It was really awesome having him acknowledge my presence on Instagram, knowing who I am because of it. That was probably the best part about meeting him.

It didn’t even matter that I had to buy another copy of his book to meet him (I wanted another copy anyway), and it didn’t even matter that I had to miss a good chunk of TWLOHA to actually meet and speak to him. Jamie made it an atypical meet-and-greet moment in that he went out of his way to actually talk to me and Amanda when he didn’t have to do so. There were around 120 people at the event to also see Jamie, and he the time to really meet me, Amanda, Sofie, and everyone else there.

★★★

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Me, Jamie, and my twin sister Amanda

I still can’t quite say what specifically made meeting Jamie so great—other than the fact that he’s Jamie Tworkowski of course—but I’m thinking it has to do with his personality and how sincere and welcoming he was. It was evident through the words he wrote in his book, and it as evident through the words he spoke at Monday’s event. I’ve never met someone quite like that, and it kept me smiling for a good while. I was quite happy and excited after meeting Jamie, and the feeling was still persistent when I got home around 11 p.m.—it still is.

I’m still not set on what made it more memorable than I anticipated, but I do know one thing: There are special people out there who are put on Earth to help people, make them feel special, let them know they matter, and Jamie is one of them.

Thank you, Jamie, for your honest and personal words, for sharing them with the world, for taking the time to help people, for going across the country to really meet people. You’re a real winner, Jamie, and I’d just like to say, “Can we be friends or do you have enough friends?” (I’m sorry I stole your idea, Sofie; you’re just very clever.)

★★★

Please check out TWLOHA and know you’re not alone if you feel too much. Also, buy one (or a few) of TWLOHA’s cool shirts to help support its cause. Lastly, If You Feel Too Much is a must-read regardless of how much one actually feels. I’ve never encountered such open, honest, and caring words until I came across Jamie’s in his book.


 “Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with shades of deeper meaning.” ― Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

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