Editor’s Note: This story includes mention of sexual violence.
Positive messages began to appear consistently around IU’s campus in January. Some were handwritten on orange sticky notes, while others were printed on white paper. None had the same message, and not all were taped to the same location, but each note ended the same way: “Love, Lani.”
Lani, better known as senior psychology major Noelani Edwards, is on a mission to spread joy.
“My whole thing is spreading love and positivity,” Edwards said.
In spring 2021, that meant buying flowers at Kroger and handing them out to people near Dunn Meadow next to a sign that said, “Take a flower if you need a smile!!” This semester, it means leaving encouraging messages to students in various spots around campus.
Edwards left this message for students to find at Sample Gates a little over a week ago:
“Be proud of yourself for getting through the moments that you never thought would end,” the message read. “And if you are going through that moment right now, be patient and kind to yourself. Each day will get a little easier and a little better, I promise.”
Each note includes her Instagram handle @love.lani.project, which has 72 followers as of Wednesday.
“I just wanted more people to see it,” Edwards said about starting the Instagram account. “Honestly, I just wanted at least one person to read the messages and make a positive impact.”
Edwards started leaving encouraging notes in Ballantine Hall last semester but said she wanted to be more consistent this semester, trying to put a positive message up at least three times a week. In addition to the Sample Gates, Edwards has left notes near the bell tower, the Psychology Building and other places on campus.
Edwards anonymously left a handful of the notes last semester. Now, she adds her name to create a more comfortable and personal experience for the reader.
“I want to be that emotional support to people that might not have it,” Edwards said.
Last week, Edwards started leaving resources on some of the notes, like the one on Sample Gates. Under her signature tagline, she included the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and IU’s Counseling and Psychological Services crisis line so they are more accessible to people.
Edwards said she is a survivor of sexual assault and the idea for the notes came from her own healing journey.
“I would write myself little messages encouraging me to just have a good day or love life and just find healing and happiness,” she said. “Those inspired and helped me so much that I realized that those are the messages that I think other people needed to hear too.”
Edwards said she finds the quotes in self-help books, articles and other sayings she has collected in her journal over time. Some are from psychologists and therapists. A lot of sayings she comes up with on her own.
Edward’s parents, Ingrid Najarro and Buddy Edwards, said they are both incredibly proud of their daughter. Najarro said Edwards didn’t talk to them about the project before starting. It was something she did all on her own.
“This was her deal,” Najarro said. “The messages that she’s putting out are messages of support that she wishes she saw when she was going through her really dark period before she shared with any of us.”
Edwards said a couple friends she told about the project were really supportive, including IU junior and psychology major Sarah Fetter.
“I’m always amazed by her because she is one of the sweetest people I have ever met,” Fetter said. “She continuously wants to make other people happy, so to me it just made sense that she would want to do something like that.”
Fetter said the notes make her feel hopeful.
Edwards said she has received feedback from both students and parents.
“I received one message from a parent,” Edwards said. “She was saying that her daughter took a picture of it and sent it to her, and she was like, ‘This is exactly what I needed today, I was having a really bad day.’ And that’s all I want.”
A list of resources is available here if you or someone you know has experienced sexual harassment or abuse.