Tucked in a corner of a room dressed in vintage posters and noses buried in computer screens, a particular desk at Nautical Bean Coffee Company contains 11 letters from anonymous writers.
“It makes me really happy that [customers] are comfortable enough to come in and do something like that and be so vulnerable,” Nautical Bean Manager Josh Muckey said.
The letters date back to May 16, 2018 and contain personal testimonies regarding mental health and daily struggles faced by ordinary people.
Originally stumbled upon by a curious Cal Poly student, the letters paint a story of unheard voices in the San Luis Obispo area. Environmental protection and management junior Erica Flojo was wandering around the coffee shop when the desk caught the corner of her eye, not knowing what would soon unfold.
“It’s really cool knowing that whatever you are going through you are never alone,” Flojo said. “You think your struggles are unique, but who knows what could be happening in a stranger’s life?”
The first letter, labeled “Read 1st,” sets the tone of the narrative that follows. It reads, “I am writing to you [reader] to remind you how accomplished and loved you are.”
“I am writing to you [reader] to remind you how accomplished and loved you are”
Scribed in the corner of the first letter, the Instagram handle @moreloveletters hints at the source of inspiration for the conversations that follow. The non-profit organization The World Needs More Love Letters was founded by Hannah Brencher in 2011 with the hope that small acts of writing love letters could produce a domino effect of vulnerability and compassion, according to its website.
Every proceeding letter is numerically labeled and responds to the previous one. Each contains a common theme of the importance of love and self-care. Although the writers of all 11 letters remain anonymous, the letters hint that the subjects are primarily young adults. Some even mention they are Cal Poly students.
For instance, the last letter, dating back to Sept. 16, 2018, explains the struggle of a Cal Poly graduate finding a job. It describes how San Luis Obispo is “such a special place here and everyone reading this should not take that for granted.”
Stress is the top mental health concern among college students, according to Penn State Center for Collegiate Mental Health. These letters serve as a reminder that struggling students are not alone. Mental health has been a widely discussed topic in recent years, and these 11 letters do not shy away from the topic.
Later on, Stranger #2 from an earlier letter responded to the following letters. The stranger wrote in the ninth letter, “When I wrote my 1st entry, I had only been in the area for 2 months. Now, it has been a little more than 5… things are much better… [and] the magic of the Central Coast is helping fill my heart with light and love and pushing out the darkness.”
If there is one thing the writers of these letters understand, it is compassion.
“There really is a lot of good in the world,” wrote Stranger #4. “So, thank you, strangers #1, 2, and 3.”