These two simple words strung together make a powerful statement that I can’t take credit for. They came to me from the most unexpected of places – from one of our recent writing retreaters – an older lady with a varied past that was slowly revealed to us through a series of stories and poems. I need to keep her identity anonymous, but without saying too much, I can assure y’all that she is, by the truest of definitions, a total badass.
It was sometime on Saturday morning that she began handing out these little “business” cards to all of us in the house. The funny thing was, the cards had nothing to do with her, or her writing, or her business. They were simply a selfless affirmation – a gift – and one that will forever be inextricably tied to my memory of her.
You see, these retreats we hold at Rockvale Writers’ Colony consist of more than 30 hours’ working time and countless weeks’ worth of research and planning, 5 home-cooked meals serving 11 different appetites and dietary restrictions, and 5 hour-long workshops curated with the intention to say something new, exciting, and different. They consist of a seemingly never-ending series of early mornings, late nights, and 9 bedrooms to clean on Monday morning. (And by Sunday morning, I’m already dead tired.)
But it’s every Sunday afternoon, after we’ve hugged each resident goodbye, that the good feelings rush in: reflections on conversations had, memories made, laughter overheard, and deeply personal stories shared. Suddenly, the hours of work mean nothing – they’re tiring, sure, but they stand for so much more than a paycheck.
And it’s moments like the sharing of that little “You Matter” card that manage to define the entire weekend.
You see, I never signed up to lead writing retreats. Given the choice, I would have chickened out or deemed myself too unworthy and inexperienced for the task. But after more than a year of doing this, a rhythm has set in. And while the nerves are still there, there’s something more important at play – because I realize that, through this job, I get to help people. I get to encourage people. I get to stand up for peoples’ passions and tell them that they’re worth it.
And sometimes, in some strange twist of fate, I get to feel like I’m worth it, too.
That little business card message that this woman handed to each of us ended up having a profound impact on so many of the writers in the house this weekend. One writer sent an image of it to a student who had just reached out contemplating suicide. Another writer came to tears as she realized she was worth the time and investment involved in developing her personal writing space within her own home. And I, well, I have been ruminating over those words – You Matter – as I’ve worked on ways to balance my work-home life with my own personal desires and needs throughout this week.
I know that I – like many of you – have a to-do list waiting on me that’s a mile long. Thoughts are spinning around, making me think I should be trying even harder in this new year, when really it’s taken every ounce of me to simply get through this past week. So this weekend, I think it’s enough to simply pass on these words of encouragement.
There’s a lot of talk out there about self care and self love and self worth and self confidence – but what’s the harm in being told by someone else, if only every once in a while, that we matter? The statement in itself isn’t something that we earn. It’s simply a fact – a great, inexplainable, universal force of truth – and one that we too easily and often forget, brought down by our personal burdens, our prejudices, and our differing opinions.
But everyone matters – of course they do – and innately we already know that. We see it in other people all the time, but we very rarely feel the need to say it. And so none of us ever hear it, either. And the words become foreign. Until someone dares to print them on a little piece of paper, in bold black ink that can’t be ignored:
You matter enough to chase that wild passionate dream you’ve always wanted. You matter enough to find a way to carve out some ‘Me Time’ in the middle of your busiest days. You matter. And I matter. What we’re doing, writing, creating, believing, and fighting for matters.
So find the time for it. Make the time for it. And go get to it.