Growing up moving from place to place, writing and receiving letters meant a lot to me. I never was very good at it, largely owing to my particular brand of lazy perfectionism, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t moved when I found a friend’s handwritten words, heavy with meaning and intimacy, in my mailbox. And because I craved that joy of connection to another human being, I would eagerly scribble my own words in response.
Then email came along. And instant messaging. And Facebook. And then cheap and ultimately free long-distance. And my life started to look decidedly more grown-up and I found I had all the meaning and intimacy I could handle. Plus, writing letters takes time and I can’t seem to find enough of that as it is, and there is shit that needs to get done. So I don’t write letters at all these days.
I miss it. For one, I am tired of finding absolutely nothing worthwhile in my mailbox. Amazon Prime is nice, but online shopping does absolutely nothing to fill my postal void. More than that though, I miss putting a pen to paper and writing words for another person. With a handful of sentences I can surgically expose my mind to single trusted recipient. I miss seeing my thoughts take shape at my own hands. I miss the sharing, the openness, the softly-spoken vulnerability of a hand-written letter.
This isn’t to say that I resent social media or email. I am no luddite, and I love how the internet has dismantled distance and time. But nothing is an everything-tool, and I am interested in exploring what the humble handwritten letter can do that the mighty internet can not.