At TEDxBrum, a poet who writes love letters to strangers
At the age of 23, TEDxBrum speaker Jodi Ann Bickley was performing her poetry in venues all over England. But after a performance at a music festival, she contracted mengo-encephalitis, a brain infection that led to a mini-stroke, and things changed.
Left with daily chronic headaches, exhaustion, and dizziness, and without the ability to write or walk, Jodi had to teach herself how to live after illness. She re-learned to walk, and write, but many things remained a challenge.
At TEDxBrum, she told her story of starting over.
From her talk:
The bit about long-term illness that is not explained to you in the discharge lounge is the sense of loss you feel for your life before. Certain friends disappeared. Simple things like answering the phone, checkout noises at the supermarket, you know the beep, beep, beep, it leaves me close to passing out. Some days I’d spend trawling Facebook and Twitter, seeing what my were up to and beating myself up because I wasn’t doing the same.
…[One night a small distraction] made me realize I could either sit here and let this consume and potentially kill me, or I have to do something a little bit magical.
So, what could I do? All I have is me and a lot of time and my love of writing. I’d always left little notes around for people, whether it’d be on my mum’s fridge or on the back of bus tickets left on seats for the next people to find.
What about if all these notes found the people they needed to? What if they weren’t notes? What if they were letters? Within half an hour, I’d set up onemillionlovelyletters.com. The aim is that if I can actually talk one person down from the curb, then that’s a success. The way I’d do it? Through letters.
…So I sent a call out to every person on the planet other than me: If you or someone you know needs reminded how amazing they are, I’ll send you a letter.
Within one hour of the website going online, I had 50 emails from all over the world. I was opening emails to stories ranging from 14-year-old girls who had just started to self-harm due to bullying to the elderly women who had just lost their husbands after 40 years. Stories of abuse, loneliness, grief, self-doubt, exam stress, depression, long-term illness, lost souls, heartbreak, and people who just needed to be reminded that they matter…
What onemillionlovelyletters has shown me is how similar and strong we all are … I haven’t been divorced, or abused, or experienced many of the problems people have written to me about. But I have [experienced] that moment when it feels like the world is starting to crumble. And I have learned that, sometimes, all you need to be reminded of is that you are loved and that you are not alone.
Through onemillionlovelyletters, Jodi has sent over 700 letters with still 600 waiting to be written as of June, and the project is still going strong. Above, Jodi’s letter to everyone watching her talk. Below, Jodi’s entire talk: