I will admit that since returning from Warped Tour a few weeks ago, I’ve been just a little heavy hearted. While my time out on the traveling festival was extremely uplifting, and it’s been amazing to return home and see my family and friends, I just haven’t felt as rejuvenated in this cause, or in humanity as a whole as I had hoped I would. Perhaps it’s because it’s so easy to witness people being so ugly to each other, as has been evident in the Colin Kaepernick protest. Maybe it’s because today is the day Brock Turner was released from his exceptionally short jail sentence, and it’s just a shining example of a broken system that seemingly refuses to protect from people like him. Or maybe I am just still realizing how much work there is to do when I come home to learn about rape culture being represented so clearly in my own hometown.
An antidote to the melancholy that’s faced me these past few weeks has been to reminisce about the experiences and conversations I was able to be a part of this summer.
It’s easy to lose the hours and days on Warped Tour. The days are similar in routine which typically starts around 7:30am and finishes around 7:00pm, and after that you’re typically so tired afterward that even if you do socialize a bit, bedtime comes pretty quickly. The hours that the festival are open are wrapped up in conversation with people at the tent, and these are what it’s all about. These conversations are why I left my friends and family for 2 months to sleep in a less-than-ideal bunk on a moving bus with 17 other people.
I think of my conversation with Brandon*, who disclosed that he had been raped when he was young and he felt recovering was especially hard for him as he was also autistic. He told me he didn’t think he was worthy of ever being a father because of what happened, and I got the distinct privilege of looking him directly in the eye telling him that he was absolutely worthy of being a father if that’s what he wanted in life. I got to tell him that no matter how painful his past was, it didn’t have to dictate his future. I got to see him smile.
I think of my talk with Sara*, who asked me if she could come behind our tent and talk with me. She asked me how to feel normal after sexual assault. I got to talk with her about her experiences, and I learned that she was not welcome at home with her parents because of her sexuality and felt she didn’t have any support, and typically spent holidays alone. I was able to talk to her and lead her to heartsupport, another organization on the tour that assists people dealing with addiction, thoughts of suicide, depression, and self-harm. They happened to have a volunteer with them that day who has promised to spend Christmas with her and start helping her find support.
I think of Amanda*, who came to me and point blank told me that she has to share a room with her brother who is abusing her. Her mom knows and has chosen to do nothing about the situation. I was able to give her several resources in her city and remind her of the power that she had. She promised she’d call one of them, and I got the honor of seeing her, for the first time, realize she wasn’t powerless.
These are just a few of the stories. I can’t even call them the stand-out stories, because there are so many stand-out stories. These just happened to be the ones I wrote first. Not every discussion I had was profound, and I certainly didn’t always have the answers someone wanted. But even when I didn’t always have the solutions, I was able to offer support. I was able to look at a person and see them for who they were, where they were. I was allowed to accept them with all their beauties, flaws, interests, stories, quirks, and traits. And for the duration of the time they were at our tent, I was able to see that they felt loved. They were.
When I returned to work, my boss asked me what was the main thing I learned while out there. I didn’t have a solid answer, and week later, I think I’d have to answer that it was less of something I learned and more something that was reaffirmed. There are people that are hurting, and they need us. And I don’t mean us as in AVFTI, I mean us as in you and me and everyone else. If you’re reading this, they need you. You. Me. Us. If you think you’re ready to join us, please contact us and ask how to get involved. Or fill out a volunteer application. We’d love to have you. And people need you.
I plan on writing more about my experiences on Warped, from more stories we heard to the relationships we formed. And when I do, I will leave each one with a note or two from a book we had at our table. When we were out, we’d have many people thank us for being there, and we’d let them know that Warped Tour’s founder, Kevin Lyman, was primarily responsible for our ability to attend, and we’d ask them to write a thank you note in a book that we presented him at the end of the tour. I made sure to get a photo of every single one of these heartfelt notes, and I’d like to share some of them throughout each of these writings.
Whether you have been directly impacted by this issue or not, you’re needed. Join us.