Shake it Out
Song - Artist -
Anything could happen - Ellie Goulding -
With the fast-paced lifestyle of the twenty-first century, many people these days try to express themselves with as few words as possible. Text messages are our most common form of communication, but can you really abbreviate all your feelings into 160 characters? We tell people about ourselves via Facebook statuses and Twitter updates, but are we really learning anything about one another from reading things such as “Person X can’t wait to get drunk tonight” or “Person Z is pissed that the Cowboys lost again”?
I took several creative writing classes throughout high school and college, and in every one, we discussed that the main reason people write is to understand the world better. Maybe people today just don’t care, but I feel that the most accessible outlets for expressing ourselves aren’t all that effective. When I was a kid, I used to write letters all the time. I kept pen pals with kids my age whom I met on vacations, family parties, wherever, and I wrote regularly to my great grandmother Gertrude Ryder, who lived her whole life on Cape Cod. I am obsessed with family histories, and as she was my only living great grandparent, I had tons of questions for her and was fascinated to hear about how life was in the early twentieth century. We corresponded back and forth for many of the years that I was in elementary school, her letters scrawled in cursive on a small piece of parchment, mine in messy print with the address carefully written on the envelope with glitter crayons. The letters continued until my great grandmother had a stroke that forced her to live in a nursing home in Sandwich for two years until her death at the age of ninety-five in 1999, when I was in sixth grade.
Although I write on a daily basis, I must admit that I had pretty much abandoned letter writing after my great grandmother passed away until the past couple months. I too have grown accustomed to texting, emailing, and the like, but no form of communicating with people feels as gratifying as hand writing a letter, sealing it in an envelope, and dropping it in the mailbox, knowing that unlike other forms of communication, the addressee will not be able to see what you have written him or her only seconds later.
I began writing letters again in October. Love letters, to be specific. And no, they aren’t the types of love letters you see in movies where the two people are separated by some unfortunate circumstance such as war or the disapproval of one’s parents, nor do they look like something out of a book on Shakespeare, written as sonnets or in perfect iambic pentameter. I will admit that I often feel as though I was altogether born in the wrong time period, but these are love letters to an ex, who has begun dating someone else despite the fact that he and I broke up for a lot of superficial reasons and it was never really over between us. I poured my entire heart out into a notebook while sitting in my hotel room in Tennessee a month and a half ago, the first of four drafts of what I thought was a very convincing account of how I felt. Evidently, it was not convincing enough, and several weeks later I found myself writing yet another letter, this time asking questions that have long gone unanswered and which I myself cannot provide answers to. Since there was no new documentary to be aired on my radio show last week, I instead discussed my new project (because this will most likely turn into some epic project of mine) while playing songs that mainly stayed within the theme of heartbrokenness. My hope is that maybe if these letters do not work for me, that other people out there will at least give writing letters a try, because it really is a good way to express yourself, and I hope that at some point I have written enough letters, whether or not they are love letters, to compile a book out of them; we write to try to understand the world better, and what better way to understand the world than if we all started writing letters to one another? I’m starting a snail mail revival - anyone with me?