letters: a little more effort

When was the last time you sent or received a letter?

The only letter I can really remember receiving was from Lang, who was dating my little brother at the time — and let me tell you, I was so beyond excited! It was written in blue ink during classes, with little drawings sketched in the margins. Other than that, I’d received a couple cards from friends — one or two birthday cards, and I think a single Christmas cards. But letters? They’ve a thing of the past.

When I was discussing the effort which is shown with writing and sending a letter, he commented that letters became obsolete with emails, and emails became obsolete with text messages and wall posts…and now? Now it’s pressing the “like” button on Facebook. The expression of affection has been reduced to pressing that little button, saying with minimal effort — “oh, that was kind of funny,” or “congrats on that thing you’ve just accomplished!” When put that way, it’s almost sad how little effort we put into keeping up with friends and family.

In contrast, I recently started dating a boy who practically refuses to communicate through text messages, Facebook, or even email — instead, he writes letters to friends and family, because he appreciates the effort that is put into writing and mailing them. In fact, he has become so invested in letters that he writes on vellum with a quill and in calligraphy, and mails his letters folded up — without an envelope — and sealed with wax. He writes in the abbreviated Roman Epistolary form, which I’ve found has three main components: a greeting (usually in the form of a blessing), the body of the letter (discussing recent events and topics of interest), and a second greeting / farewell (where one sends regards to and from people of mutual acquaintance).

For a Seven Day Challenge, both Lang and Alex suggested writing and mailing a letter a day to various individuals of my acquaintance — a way to send a little love through the mail, in effect. And, between the recent conversation and the boy I started dating, I figured now would be a good time to check that one off my list. And let me tell you — I learned a lot.

First, I had to buy envelopes and stamps. That wasn’t so hard, though — fifty envelopes for a dollar at Kroger, and a few stamps from the post office on campus.

Second, I realized I only had four addresses, which would clearly fell short of a week-long goal — so the first step was to get a bunch of addresses. I realized I’ve never even started an address book, and I figured I could use this as an impetus to start one. I emailed almost forty friends, and about thirty responded with their addresses and birthdays (which I’d also asked for). I updated these in my gmail address book, which also syncs with my phone — something I find immensely cool, because it would allow me to navigate to their homes through the GPS built in my smartphone.

Third and most challenging, I didn’t really know what to write about. In fact, I’ve found it’s immensely challenging to start a written exchange without sounding entirely full of yourself. Without anything to respond to from prior correspondence, you can really only ramble about your own recent events and thoughts. At the end, you write a couple questions inquiring about the person you are writing in the vain hope that the expression of interest somehow dims the bright fluorescent light of your own narcissism.

So that’s about it. I did not manage to send the last three letters on time, though I did write them all on time. All in all, I learned a lot…and I look forward to maybe getting some responses?

And in case you’re curious, those who received letters were: Lang, Alex, Jena (with Max included), Beth and Breanna (one letter), Chris Truelove, Danielle Beardsley, and Rachael Karr. I think it was in that order, too? If you feel left out, let me know, and I’ll make it up to you.

Personal Success Rating: 8/10. One point off for not sending the last three letters on time, and one point off for writing some pretty narcissistic letters.

Conclusion: I love writing letters! It’s fun, personal, and unique. However, I think it’s hard to find someone with which to create a letter exchange, which is really what would be desired, right?

Follow up challenge: In the spirit of the season, I think some Christmas Cards should be mailed! Thus, a Christmas card challenge! Five letters a day for seven days, I think — it’ll about use up all the addresses I have, anyways! Keep an eye out for your card!

PS — sorry it took me so long to update — but Thanksgiving was a blast!


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