I’m hardly the first to point out that this age of texts and tweets, pins and posts, status updates and endless check ins has had a profound impact on the way we communicate. Hell, I practically majored and in texts and tweets, forced to consider the ways our communities have changed because of them. Our words can be amplified beyond our own safe worlds, with the power to inspire or incite. They can also get lost in the chaos and noise. Even as I sit here in my bed I know this will be safely read by a select few, but with the powerful potential to live on in unimagined places. Digitized, our intimate becomes impersonal, and our impersonal public.
So in all that noise, there’s one bit of magic that remains: a letter. To be more specific, a love letter.
I don’t mean the romantic musings that kept soldiers at war attached to home, or that make their way into literary archives. I simply mean the act of putting a pen to paper, and letting the love you have guide your hand.
Even as I write the words they sound rehearsed and saccharine. The cynic in me is laughing at how silly I sound. But the cynic isn’t the part of me that becomes elated at every hand-addressed envelope that winds up in my mailbox. It also isn’t the part of me that keeps all the best letters I’ve gotten in a box, stashed away.
Every letter I write, excepting maybe the obligatory thank you card or the quickly dashed off birthday note, is a love letter, some more so than others. There are the undeniable love letters, the confessions that my heart might burst if I loved any more, penned late at night in dim light. The soul-rending admissions of guilt and past wrong-doing, the vows to always be there, the pathetic attempts to soothe a deeply felt grief. They all fall into the conventional category of “love letter,” so expected.
But my love of love letters started long before I knew what it was to be in love. When I was little and my mom had to leave town she would leave a postcard for every day she was gone, a small handwritten reminder that she was still out there somewhere. As I grew up the notes became fewer and far between, but still just as important to me. After a particularly devastating heartbreak from a particularly life-changing First Love, she snuck a postcard in my bag. “In the great adventure of life,” it read, “you have hit a tough spot.” It’s hard to remember truer words being spoken to me, and I still sometimes pull that postcard out to rub the small bit of seaglass taped to it: good luck for bad times.
That doesn’t even begin to touch on the countless letters, less profound but no less wonderful, that fill my little box: letters to and from my Grandma, exchanged every couple months like pen pals; letters at camp bringing bits of home when I needed them most; letters this Christmas that made me giggle and snort thinking of the friends they came from; letters from Africa that have travelled far and long carrying tales of red-headed adventure. All love letters in their own way, and all treasures I’ll hang onto.
I will sappily admit I just finished a love letter to Patrick (and have now ruined the surprise), a little habit of mine that I hope he hasn’t gotten sick of yet. It used to be that the distance made it feel important, a way of sharing an intimate moment from 3000 miles away. Now it’s just habit, and when the words start to bubble out I put a pen to paper. The cynic in me sometimes loses out to the dreamer. And then some bad TV comes on and the cynic wins.
After I write this I’ll go bad to my day-job as a snarky and guarded purveyor of pop-culture knowledge and not-funny jokes. But every now and again I like to escape into a love letter. For a sometimes comical escape into love letters (and their spiteful counterparts), check out Letters to Ex-Lovers. They range from the short and sweet and strangely earnest to the hilarious (sweet Norah Jones quote), the odd, and everything you’d expect from the internet. I can’t help but feel like every letter is accompanied by that little bit of wishful thinking that maybe just maybe that one ex will read it, which is a little heart-breaking.
If you like a little more variety in your love letters, Post Secret is a good standby. From the laugh-out-loud to the unbearably sad, it’s hard not to think of every secret as a love letter to the project itself. I also stumbled across Other People’s Love Letters. So maybe I was wrong, maybe the internet is a wonderfully magical place for love letters. But I’m thinking not.