I’m a firm believer in “be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.”
Since I was a child and really understood what “friends” were, I was always chasing community and trying to build it. This most definitely comes from being an only child in an extended neighborhood where every other household had at least 2 children. So being the only person without a sibling was often isolating and led me to believe that I needed to bring something to table before I could simply hang out with anyone.
So, with that as my foundation, I was always searching, always building, always connecting community in some way. I found that in some facets with hockey, but if you’re not actively playing, most of those relationships tend to fade. I found deep community in Magic, which has been the one constant in my life from high school through present day, but those relationships tend to ebb and flow as my time permits me availability to play. I know I can reconnect with any of those friendships the moment I step back into a card shop or go over to someone’s house to play cards, but that is still a time component I don’t always have.
When I joined Amanda last January to support her trip to the first Heart Camp in Melbourne, Florida, I was interested to see what would come of it. Needless to say, I had found the community that I had always been searching for. None of what I am saying here should discount any of my hometown community, family, or friends I’ve made over the course of my life. It just happens that those are often point-to-point interactions, and while often deep and meaningful, they exist in siloes and unfortunately are very temporal… life happens, time moves on, and if neither person in that relationship reaches out, it starts to fade. What was discovered in Florida during Amanda’s Heart Camp session – a true communal effort of deep and authentic relationships – made we want to sign up for the next Heart Camp session that I would be able to attend, which would not be the next month’s Heart Camp in Florida again, but rather in Los Angeles at the end of April.
During Amanda’s time in session at her January Heart Camp, I was reading Richard Rohr’s “Falling Upward” and one of my favorite quotes from that book came from the introduction – “the demand for the perfect is the greatest enemy of the good.” My takeaway from this quote was you do not have to know what is next to make the leap. Seeing the connection, seeing the honesty, seeing the support of the 42 people in that room, from an outsider’s perspective only experiencing a small part of it, made it quite clear that I was ready to take the jump and plan a trip to Los Angeles and buy in.
My first-hand experience at Heart Camp LA was nothing short of mind-blowing, heart-filling, and life-affirming. I know all of this sounds like hyperbole, but it is not. Trust me. Jamie started Heart Camp with the intention to take the conversations that he’s had over the course of his career as the Founder of To Write Love On Her Arms and bring them to a place that can give them the gravity, the time, and the space they deserve. And in several meeting rooms across the country, he has indeed done that.
The only thing I could really immediately process after two days of storytelling, sharing, connecting, and if you know me at all, crying, was a Facebook post that was serendipitously timed with so much intention from one of my favorite yet underrated professional wrestlers…
@MustafaAliWWE simply posted “Be the reason someone believes their dream can come true.”
Combined with my original Heart Camp viewing experience and now my first-hand Heart Camp LA participation experience, the only thing my brain could process was the fact that I needed to start listening to myself, believe that I could be the reason my own dreams come true, and then that may simply be enough to make someone else’s dreams come true.
I am one who believes in signs. I am one who believes in serendipity. I came into this weekend knowing what to expect. I came out of this weekend with expectations blown out of the water and having myself steeled to the fact of knowing exactly what I want to do and never knowing that more in my life.
#heartcamp18 #heartcampla was something that I knew I wanted and thought I needed. I was not prepared for the 40+ souls in that room to inspire me with their openness, their bravery, with their honesty, and their love.
Too often we don’t really think to answer the inconsequential questions… “who are you?” or “What do you do?”
Every person in that room has traveled a journey worthy of a light-year’s time. For them to show up and share those moments with me, I will be forever grateful.
Many more reflections will come in time (accompanied by the talented @ken.nef photos) but this is the inspiration that has to happen first. This is the sign that has to be answered, the itch to be scratched, the heart to beat…
I could have easily talked to anyone in that room for an hour or more with no problem at all. But unfortunately, due to the laws of time and space, that wasn’t possible with the 40+ people in two days. Even with all the Doctor Who and Harry Potter fans throughout Heart Camp, there was no way that was found to effectively stop time. So, I did the next best thing… I started a podcast to share the stories of the people in that room.
If you are not familiar with Anthologies of Hope, it was completely inspired by the sense of community that I found in Heart Camp, the conviction in the voices of other Heart Camp family members, and the desire for absolutely everyone to make it known that the motto of Heart Camp is entirely true – Your Heart Is Welcome Here. I’ve spent close to 20 hours recording conversations, another 30 hours editing 10 podcast episodes for an inaugural podcast season, and plenty of episodes left to edit for an upcoming sophomore season. And every time I go back to listen or work on anything related to Anthologies of Hope, I am reinvigorated by every interaction I’ve ever had with all the members of the Heart Camp family combined.
So fast forward to Melbourne, Florida two weekends ago. Fifty-five members of the Heart Camp family from across the 5 Heart Camp workshops throughout 2018 came back for the first Heart Camp reunion, in the same town, on the same beach, in the same hotel that it all started a year prior. I had a lot of high hopes and expectations for this reunion, based on how good 2018 was, the depth of the conversations I had throughout the year, both on and off-mic… I was not quite sure it would be possible to reach the peaks I had already visualized in my head. Needless to say, I was wrong…
First, the weekend of the Heart Camp Reunion was also the same weekend as the NFL’s conference championship games. This was the same hotel lobby that I watched the Minnesota Miracle happen, while standing next to a native Minnesotan a year prior. And just three weeks after that ridiculous ending, my Philadelphia Eagles would win their first ever Super Bowl and bring a lifetime of disappointment to an end. Needless to say, football is a major influence in my life. But during the Heart Camp Reunion… I did not check the score of any football game, did not feel the need to watch any game or highlights on my phone… I totally skipped all NFL everything that weekend and could not have felt better. To put it mildly, that’s big.
Second, Amanda and I have been pretty open about our journey through IVF over the past year. We were so very happy that the Heart Camp Reunion was falling in the window of Amanda’s second trimester from our successful frozen transfer in September, which meant this was the safe travel window for pregnancy. To both of our complete surprise and absolute bewilderment, a room full of people who were complete strangers 365 days prior threw us a surprise baby shower… A baby shower with so much stuff that we had to ship it all home in a 50-pound box… I know I’m new to this whole baby thing so far, but 50 pounds of baby stuff is a LOT OF BABY STUFF!!! I don’t think there has ever been a moment in mine or Amanda’s life that we felt so seen, so validated, and so cared for. Throughout both of our lives we’ve been the ones to pour ourselves into everyone else tirelessly, often with disregard for what reserves we had left for ourselves. To have this group of people, with the same hearts, bring both of us to tears, render both of us speechless, and give so much love to our baby girl, I will never know how to repay them.
There were so many conversations, events, memories, pictures, and just pure moments – of both the highest highs and some pretty low lows – over the course of the weekend, I can’t ever imagine anything else coming close to it. During the Heart Camp Reunion, there was a private concert with Noah Gunderson, one of Jamie’s personal friends – but still someone who Jamie didn’t think would fly across the country to perform in a hotel conference room. One of the things I was most looking forward to for the Heart Camp Reunion was this concert, but not for me. It was to see the reaction of a few people in the room and in their experience of it, notably Eric Adams. I recorded a podcast episode with him that has not aired yet, but he says in the interview that he is a massive Noah fan and couldn’t wait to see him. To see him sitting front and center, taking it all in, jamming out, could not have made my heart fuller, just twenty-four hours removed from the aforementioned surprise baby shower. Another Noah superfan, Jonathan Clodfelter, was sitting right next to me and I could feel his ear to ear smile and energy coming off of his face throughout this concert. Seeing and experiencing the pure joy that he had in those moments will be ones that never leave my heart.
If you’ve stuck with me this long, thank you very much. I don’t consider myself much of a writer, so I am taking my inspiration from Heart Camp and putting my hands to the keyboard and just letting it flow. Much has been shared about what Heart Camp means, is, or has brought to those of us who have attended. The running joke is that no one really knows what it is and can’t really define it. But that’s the beauty of it at the same time. None of us really knew what we were jumping into, none of us knew what we were really looking for, but at the same time, we found it. And we found it all. There are more Heart Camp sessions running this year, with all the details available at heartcampwithjamie.com. If there’s something that can inspire me to write this much, create & produce 20+ podcast episodes entirely on top of my regular 50-hour work week, and make four trips either south or west across the country, don’t you think it’s worth taking a look for yourself.
In closing, I’ll borrow some inspiration from another Heart Camp brother, Kris Stranzl. To all the misfits, to those of us who have been told “don’t do that”, “don’t say that”, “you’re too much”, “you’re not enough”, or simply “suck it up”… you don’t have to hide any longer. Your heart is welcome here.