Just like you have seen in previous posts, we have had volunteers share their experiences with you from when they volunteer at Vans Warped Tour. Here is Katie's story:
The Vans Warped Tour has always been an event I’m in love with. The rawness of the outside venue parallels the authentic connection everyone has to the music playing on stage. This was my fourth year attending the tour—but this time I was picked to volunteer for the To Write Love on Her Arms tent, and I knew it would be totally different.
TWLOHA has been in my life since I first saw Bayside in concert almost five years ago. There was a merch booth at the show, and I instantly felt a connection with what they stood for. I still have my “Love is the Movement” shirt in my closet.
This year, when I met Jason at the gate in the morning, it felt unlike any of the previous Warped experiences. I was there representing not just any organization, but one that has sincerely helped so many people, including myself, talk about the darkness of depression and the reality of recovery. I was about to stand behind the table I had walked up to so many times before.
I was extremely nervous, no doubt about that. But as people began approaching us, I realized I was seeing a bit of myself in each of them, even those who had never heard of TWLOHA. I felt great comfort from this feeling of connectedness, knowing that the table covered in T-shirts I now stood behind supported people and represented kindness and genuine care. It didn’t matter if one was a frequent visitor of Warped Tour or a first timer; we were all there for the same things. Stripped of the different make-up, hair, or clothes we were wearing, we were all just… people.
I was reminded of just how personally I had been influenced by TWLOHA when I went to watch The Used on the main stage. I hadn’t listened to their music in years, but when ‘Take it Away’ came on I remembered why. I had flashbacks of blaring that song in my bedroom alone when I was upset and self-harming many years before. It was a dark time. I didn’t really talk to anyone because it was uncomfortable and I was embarrassed in a lot of ways.
But there I was, five years later, hearing the song while on my break from the TWLOHA tent.
I went back to the tent feeling proud of myself. I had moved past that part of my life, and I was now in a position to help others the way those late night Myspace blogs had helped me years ago. TWLOHA had made me feel safe about talking about my addictions.
The whole experience came full circle when Bayside was playing on the stage closest to the TWLOHA tent. It’s hard to fully explain the feelings that ran through me during their set—but I think the best part was that I was feeling at all. I had become disconnected with much of my life, and I hadn’t really had the chance to just feel what was going on around me. TWLOHA has always been a kind of anchor for me, a reminder of the compassion people can have toward another. It harbors me to trust people and let them in, so I don’t drown in my own thoughts. That compassion was apparent throughout the entire day, regardless of the rain or heat or whatever else Houston threw at us.
Volunteering with TWLOHA at Warped Tour has only reminded me of what kindness and caring really mean to people. I hope that even during the cruel and harsh times of life, I can remember the bravery of each person I spoke to at that tent.