By Kylee Doty
When I was a freshman in college, I started writing poetry and recording it for YouTube. I would write about the world, love, and all the things that felt important enough to communicate to other people. One day, thinking about these topics, I started to wonder how many people had something they wanted to say to another person that they just couldn’t. This could be for many reasons: the person could have passed away, fallen out of touch, or been very toxic, among other things.
I decided to begin a project that would allow people an alternative way to air these thoughts and feelings. They could submit these statements to me, which would give them a way to “say” what they wished they could say to others, without actually having to confront those people. I thought this might provide some release from the emotions that so often get hidden away inside of us. The only rule, and I mean the only rule, was that specific names were not allowed. Everything else was fair game: no length requirements, no restrictions on vulgar language, etc. I wanted to provide a safe place for people to let it all out.
Over the span of three years, I collected more than 60 letters of various moods and lengths. I included them in what became my undergraduate senior capstone project, appropriately titled Letters Project. This book became exactly what I had hoped for, a pinnacle of freedom and release, a concentrated concoction of some of the most poignant and joyful parts of strangers’ lives, bundled together into something other strangers could read.
Throughout the process, I learned much more than I had anticipated. I learned there is no timeline for how long something can hurt, or how long someone can miss another. There is no timeline for falling in love, or falling out of love. In this way, feelings can be timeless. Healing is not linear, but talking or writing about such salient situations can produce some peace. Reading other people’s stories allows us to understand that we are not alone.
I am not an expert on feelings, nor am I a counselor or therapist. But I will not hesitate to tell you that there is a need to be more empathetic in a world that values being tough and appearing to have it all together. Many of us wake up and decide that it is another day to pretend to be okay.
What if we became the Letters Project for those close to us? A safe place to help those we love feel comfortable enough to be open and honest and messy without the fear of judgment. We need that in this world. I am thankful to have been able to bear the burden of reading so many beautiful, joyful pieces, as well as some gut-wrenching, despairing ones. Feeling emotions is not something to be ashamed of, as we are so often conditioned to believe. The art of feeling things is something raw and beautiful and human, and we should not only treat it as such, but encourage it in others.
*Letters Project is available for purchase on Amazon as an eBook.
Kylee is currently pursuing her MA in Communication and Media at Bowling Green State University. She graduated from Adrian College with her BA in Communication Arts and Sciences in 2021, where she double-minored in Leadership and Ethics and Journalism. She enjoys collaborative projects, writing music, and the vocal arts. Instagram: @ kyleedoty; Twitter: @ kyleedoty13