You’re Not Alone: Messages of Hope from the Dear Richmond Journal

Have you found our “Dear Richmond” mailbox hidden in the James River Park yet? Once you do, make sure to grab the journal inside, find a nearby rock to sit on while you flip through its pages, and share your thoughts with others who stumble upon this community journaling project too. Below are some of the most recent entries left in the journal by your friends and neighbors who have left words of inspiration, messages about their struggles and the healing power of nature, trail observations, or simply the words they need to hear. There’s no right or wrong journal entry. This mailbox is a collaborative project with Richmond Grid magazine and is for you to define.

A sampling of messages, with names removed, left in the “Dear Richmond” Journal this fall:

-It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. But when we look back, we’re going to fondly remember being here together. 

The healing process begins here. 

Thank you to whoever created this mailbox and to everyone who writes in this book. This year was hard for me and I appreciate seeing what other people enter here and feel less alone. 

-I’m not a crier, but I’m crying reading these journals. Love to everyone. 

I wonder why I leave this note to you. Is it love? It is grief? Hope or maybe doubt? 

-Today is my 27th birthday! I have the day off from work so there was no doubt I wanted to share my beautiful day with nature. I feel so alive and grateful for my friends and family, boyfriend, and health. Medication has significantly helped my mental health this year and it’s something I want to continue to cultivate. I am feeling extra happy today and started up a conversation with a stranger in Starbucks before coming here. Turns out he was a wonderful older man from France with commonalities to me and it may lead to some work and volunteering connections. The beauty of connecting is such a powerful thing – we are all connected in ways beyond our control.

-I see you; I feel you; I love you. You are not alone.

-I retreat to the woods when my mind won’t stop racing. When I am so overwhelmed by anxiety that I feel like I am going to snap at any moment. My emotions are always so overwhelming. I often wonder what normal levels of feeling is like. It’s so black and white for me. I either feel everything or nothing. Sometimes I miss being unaware of my mental illness. It was so blissful being able to be in the moment. Now I am so aware that I can’t let it go. I have the ability to be in the driver’s seat so I feel obligated to maintain control. It’s exhausting constantly balancing and maintaining. It is like forcing myself to give myself space before I react so I stop hurting other people with my reckless actions and words. And now I am falling in love with my friend. I have kept emotional intimacy at bay for almost three years. It is scary. It is intense. It is exhilarating. I just hope it is worth it. I wish I was stable. I wish I didn’t have to keep low medication doses to avoid being totally numb because it still feels like a kiddie roller coaster. It’s like riding the Scooby Doo instead of the Volcano. I hate being bipolar, it’s awesome.

-What is love…. Moving from NYC to Richmond was a dramatic change. The culture, the people, the food, the air with the smell of tasty dishes. The sound of cars honking, people chatting on their front porches, people yelling across the street to capture a moment of someone’s attention. There are so many love moments from walking the Brooklyn Bridge to visiting the many parks. My love for NYC was like no other and I thought that I would never like nor ever fall in love with Richmond, Virginia. But I have. I’ve found some similarities in parks and adventure and while it’s quieter, it has grown in my heart and from a branch. 

Thank you, universal spirt. 

-It has been three weeks since I first wrote in this book. It was a blessing to see someone responded. I came here feeling very hopeless, like I was drowning in the constant churning of life. I just feel sometimes like I am tumbling through space and time with no direction, killing time until one day it’s over. Thank you. 

-Congratulations, you have found it. An imagery pat on the back. 

The rock is weeping, but I’m smiling. No matter how long I’ve lived in Richmond, I still find new things, places, people that make my day. I always come to this place where the rock and water meet to clear my head. Love to everyone else passing through and to RVA forever. 

-I am grateful for my mom and dad. My teachers. I am grateful for my daughter — pure love. I am grateful for my grandson — my hope. I am grateful for my sponsor — my guide. I am grateful for my recovery — new life. I am grateful for my creator — always present. I am grateful for nature — my home, my joy. I am grateful for my being — just as I am. I am grateful for my physical form — feeling alive. I am grateful for connection to others — love.

Please help the world and respect nature. Be nice. 

-The 5th grade class hiked here. 

Hello Richmond nature people. Just ate some mushrooms and excited to see where it will take me. Lots and lots of love. Thank you for your beauty. 

Friends, I hope you’re enjoying your run, walk, hike, bike today. 

-Today is my 1-year anniversary with this girl and I’ve never been happier. If you’re reading this, if you ever have to question your love for someone, or their love for you, it isn’t right. You will know when it’s right. 

-I was feeling very dejected until I went on this walk with my wonderful friend and her handsome dog, Eddie. They helped me realize how lucky I am. 

-Find your peace, wherever it is because your stresses will certainly find you. 

-Don’t self-destruct and beware of self-sabotage. May light be with you.

-Howdy there, partner. I hope you are having a breathtaking day! 

-Leaves fall while changing colors. Tree trunks stagnant yet seem taller. Roots growing underneath as we speak. A beautiful transformation into a new season. Change in direction is unforeseeable, yet right in front of us. Continue the path.

-Well, I’m glad I decided to do this Quarry Loop! Ready to continue running back into the green tunnel turning orange, ready, yellow.

-Love is always worth it. It’s an act to get love. But you deserve that. 

-Hey, what’s up Richmond. It’s been a moment since I moved but it’s good to be back even if it’s just for a week. There’s nowhere quite like here. Cheers to good times with great people and a kindness journal. 

-A rock in the James River. Sun-bleached on top. Ripples along the water line. I sit on the bank. Toss pebbles. Finally pick the tan stone. Create a new island in the stream.

-The smell of nature is part of my DNA, and the smell of nature has become your smell. All inextricably linked. An imprint that may fade but will remain. 

-Dear RVA: Me, my mom, and my sister happened to stumble upon this. We hiked near here a lot and we just found it. My family is very outdoorsy and my parents are from West Virginia. We always love going our hikes together and exploring nature. 

Love yourself enough and more than enough. To only seek more through nature and not people. Nature is limitless plane to seek and search. What is it that you want to obtain and accomplish? Be free in the space of nonconformity. 

-Incredibly grateful for Richmond! I moved her two years ago and it has been the best move. I’m overwhelmed with the joy and friends this city has created.

-When you take a random side turn giggling with your friend to be a kid again.  

Today is my 33rd birthday! I always love coming here to read this journal. I can feel everyone’s energy and emotions and it makes me feel connected to people. That’s something I’m solely lacking heading into this new year. I yearn to be close to people, to have deep and meaningful connections – but I can’t seem to let people in. I feel like I accidentally spent the last decade pushing people away. So now, here I am in my own lonely world that I created. I put up my own birthday decorations. I bought my own cake and presents just so that I wouldn’t get let down. I’ve spent too many birthdays disappointed when others didn’t come through for me like I do for them. I’ve been told my expectations are too high. But I refuse to settle. I refuse to accept that I’m too much. Those who actually see me and understand me and love me wouldn’t think I’m too much. I just need to find my people. 

Time is precious. Three things to do every day: laugh, think, and have emotions move to tears…cry. If you laugh, think, and cry every day, that’s a full day. 

-I finally told my mom that I am moving to Seattle this morning. It feels so much more real now. The future is exciting me in a way it has not for some time now. Do you ever feel like you want to change everything about your life? My mantra is Step 1: Move. Step 2: Figure it out. 

-It’s a forward struggle for identity, the city and me. A past soaked with sins and scars and the struggle to move past while acknowledging those hurt. Nature and concreate, life and death. We find each other amidst it in the arms of community. 

Nature is a safe place for all but it’s how you utilize and appreciate it that distinguishes you from another. Respect, gratitude, and acknowledgement will get you so far in life. The concept is quite simple, it’s how much effort you’re willing to put into it to build as a community and a collective. You can still be an individual in a community among others. We are all equal. Similar, yet different. Embrace it and respect others. If you have respect for yourself then that brings awareness and understanding that other people could and may be going through something similar, so please be considerate. It doesn’t hurt to take one extra step or initiative. If you don’t know or understand, then please ask for encouragement or help to further expand your knowledge. 

-Walking through this energy, grief love and surrounded by the falling leaves. Grateful. 

It is important to find our roots and seek nature in a world full of technology. 

RVA Trail Lovers: How could I, or anyone, make it through school without opportunities to step away and refresh the mind. I’m thankful for these trails for this reason. I’m not sure if any other activity in Richmond does for me what riding my bike through these woods does for me.

Here with my daughter and our dog. So happy to share this day with them and this cool journal with you all.  

What a treat this is! The opportunity to share my feelings. Remember Black Lives Matter. Indigenous Lives Matters. Remain peaceful and cherish every moment alive. 

I’m sitting here thinking how to begin telling the story of how I fell in love with my best friend. It feels like we’ve been in love forever. What we have is timeless and effortless and open. We’ve loved each other for a long time, our friendship is over ten years old. We’ve seen each other through so many highs and lows – it’s crazy to think about how much more we will see together…even if we might not be lovers forever. I know our lives will always be connected. I’ve never fallen in love before and I could have never guessed it would be her. But also, it always has been her. True love does exist and it’s a lot different than you might expect. Love might require a lot from you, but if it’s true love it will never be too much. I’m so thankful to have had the courage to fall in love and to experience what it feels like to love and to be loved fully with no expectations. I love you. 

You are a lifetime. 

To whomever needs to hear: You have all the power and ability to heal from within. Keep exploring. Keep spending time in nature. Tell the trees, leaves, rocks, river, birds, squirrels, and yes even insects, that you love them. Tell your spiritual cheerleading team that you love and appreciate them and ask for their assistance with whatever it is that troubles your soul. Nature is here to help you learn, grow, develop, expand, and transcend. Learn how to unplug, re-center, and shift your vibration to a reflection of those you see in nature — peace, balance, harmony, beauty, love, joy – all that good stuff. And remember, you are worthy of all of this too. Ask. Create. Thrive. I believe in you, my friend. 

We love the buttermilk! Grateful for this space and all of the magical trees. 

Quarries remind me that all that we build comes from earth, deep under it forests, or extracted from its molecular elements. We fashion the earth, and earth just waits, utterly still, and yet still alarmingly alive and moving. 

I just moved here from Chapel Hill, and this feels like home. Thank you. 

Powers that are, Powers that be. Powers of earth, air, fire, moon, sun, and sea. Protect and nurture my loved ones and me. This is my will. So let it be. 

Wow! Wow! What a treat! I’m hiking with my gal pal today and we stumbled upon this magical mailbox. What a delight. Damn it feels good to know there’s magic in this world. I hope you’ll know this magic too one of these days.

Thank you, I needed this today. 

CategoriesGeneral, Live, Storytellers

Grid is a solutions-oriented news platform that celebrates makers, storytellers, and community builders. Our goal is to share stories about people inspired by a purpose beyond themselves. We are interested in hard work, humility, authenticity, and stewardship. And most of all, people who roll up their sleeves and push Richmond forward.