I used to write letters fairly often, probably as many of you did. If not letters, I’d at least pass notes in class or send postcards with little bits of writing on them. I used to send personal words on the backs of physical objects via real distances.
Of course, now I mostly send those personal words on the backs of airwaves or invisible computer particles via light-speed distances (however that works). It’s a very different thing.
I was thinking about letters vs emails recently. I wrote a letter to a friend a while back, someone I used to be somewhat close to and now don’t really speak to at all. It was the first real letter I’d written in a while and felt pretty important (though the contents surely weren’t that important). The whole process of writing my words, whether they described feelings or stories or observations, on a real piece of paper and then sending them away is still kind of remarkable to me. I’ll never have those words back. I mean, when I send an email or text now, I’ll also never have those words back, but I’ll at least be able to look at them again and somewhat own them. I can always go back and re-read an email I wrote to a friend or ex-lover or potential employer. I can go back and dwell on or revel in those words and see how I decided to suggest certain emotions or desires or needs or anecdotes. But with physical letters, those words are gone on my end. They now belong wholly to someone else. It’s a little bit upsetting but also really beautiful.
Maybe I need to get a pen-pal.