Have you ever written a letter? I mean, other than the ones you wrote to your parents when you were away at camp? (Dear Mom, Girl Scout Camp is fun. Today we made lanyards and went on a hike). Have you ever written a letter as an adult?
Or semi-functional twenty-something, whatever.
As you may have guessed from my frequent posts cataloguing letters other people have written, I’m a little interested in analogue forms of correspondence. So recently I decided to begin writing letters myself, to friends of mine that don’t live in New York.
Something else you should know is that I refresh my inbox hourly.
I sent a letter three weeks ago, and I’ve checked my mail every day since. It remains empty but for credit card offers and information on my polling station come November. I desperately want to see an envelope with handwriting on it, not a clear plastic window covering the words, “Gemma Kaneko or Current Resident”. But the mail only comes once day, and then only six days a week. And all of this time keeps on passing, all of these things keep happening, like a ridiculously beautiful sunset just after a thunderstorm and the Jazz Age Lawn Party and that creeping end-of-summer feeling. I want to write it all down, to say, hey! This is the way my life is moving.
But the speed of communication I’ve chosen in this case is unusually slow for the twenty-first century. So I don’t commit any of that to paper and I just keep waiting on the mailman. I could journal, I guess, but I don’t. When I did journal, I was just horrified at myself, and have said many a time that when I die, I want all of my diaries burned. On one hand, I want to write things about my life that someone else will read, but when I think about anyone reading my journals, I get immediately nauseous.
It’s something to do with exchange, I think. There is something undeniably sweet about the idea of communications seasoned with personal reflection. Since we’re not texting or talking face to face, I’m allowed to inspect myself a little more deeply, without the ebb and flow of conversation. I don’t need to be afraid that I will say something I won’t mean, or that my thoughts won’t find their full expression. To me, it’s fuller that journaling because at some point, there’s correspondence. In writing letters, our thoughts mingle and deepen.
I could, I suppose, just write letters to someone unknown, and collect them all in a notebook, and refuse to call them a journal. But I think I want the ceremony of it, too. I like the waiting, I like folding the pages into three, I like sticking the back of the envelopes closed. I like thinking someone out there cares enough about me to read what I have to say.
That’s it, really. Journaling feels like shouting into the void and receiving a letter is like getting an answer back. Because I’m listening for the yelling too.