I had a pen pal from summer camp once. She was from Japan and always included lots of pink silly stickers in her correspondence. I liked her foreign handwriting and cutesy matching letters and envelopes. I liked deciphering the feelings behind the neatly-phrased, polite, grammar-school English.
But I wasn’t a very good pen pal. I got bored quickly and didn’t often write her back. It felt like work, and I was 12 years old and more interested in play.
Now I have a new pen pal. I wrote her a letter back today and it was delightful. A sweet college friend of mine invited me to join her in this communication. I was touched by her beautiful letter and by the process of responding. It tickled me to be finding joy in something so simple as writing, something I do all the time, and yet this was different.
It’s cathartic to write, with an actual pen, not just taps to a keyboard. But it’s not identical to the release of a journal entry. It’s not a confessional, although secrets and stories are shared. It’s a conversation, a slow, dreamy, meandering conversation.
A letter takes its time. It doesn’t arrive immediately, the news it carries is from days past, so the message doesn’t need to be urgent. It doesn’t need to be about the very moment of writing, or the quick reaching out for answers or schedules.
A letter requires reflection and choice. What words, what memories, what morsels to share must be chosen. There’s only so much space in a single card. Only so much time before my unaccustomed hand starts to cramp and my lefty scribbles become more and more illegible. Choices are made, but the letter also unfolds at its own accord. It flows, like all writing, like all thoughts.
The internet has ruined me I know. I spend too much time on blogs, email, social media, news sources, videos and more. I am one of many people the post office can blame for their quick demise. My mother does her darndest to keep them in business, sending me articles weekly from the Times, knowing full well I’ve already read it online more often than not.
So I’m happy to be redeeming myself, in the minutest way, sending a letter out for a reason beyond a Christmas card or check in the mail. Writing just to be friends, just to write, just to share a smile.
Love and Blessings,