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Losing a lost art

| Thursday, April 7, 2016

My best friend from high school, Alex, recently graduated from boot camp for the Navy. Obviously, I’m super proud of her and all, but the best part of her graduating was she got her phone back.

For two months, I wrote Alex letters; it was the only way we could communicate. Every couple of days, I would type up and send her a several page document with updates to my life, Grammy winner lists, a description of Beyonce’s Super Bowl performance and updates regarding Kanye West’s Twitter rants and subsequent drama.

Every Thursday — she was only allowed to send mail out from Great Lakes, Illinois on Sundays — I would receive what were, essentially, journal entries about what she was up to each day since the last time she wrote me. Everything would be handwritten in all caps, because that’s how she was told to practice writing.

Even when we were living in the same state and attending the same high school and living only a few miles apart, Alex and I were in constant contact: texting. I’m even in a very animated group chat with her and her brother. Ever since Alex and I both had cell phones, I don’t think we’ve ever gone more than a couple of hours without some sort of communication.

Occasionally, I’ll see an article about the “lost art” of letter writing — usually accompanied with statements of how “impersonal” texting is — and I wonder if those people longing for the forms of communication of old have ever been in a situation where that was the only way they could communicate with someone. Alex was only out of my texting inbox for eight weeks and we weren’t completely out of contact, but only getting one letter’s worth a week of conversation was still highly irritating, at a minimum.

Here’s a short and incomplete list of things we missed out on for eight weeks: horribly unflattering Snapchat selfies, links to articles and videos we thought the other would like, live-texting Netflix binges, instantaneous advice, comfort during a rough night, sharing small town gossip from home.

Perhaps I sound whiny. But even if I’m a bit melodramatic, look at things from the perspective of Alex. You’re leaving home for the first time. You’re surrounded by people you don’t know and probably won’t bother to get to know well because, in eight weeks, you’ll all be separated anyway. You have no sense of privacy: community bunks, community showers. You’re exhausted and frustrated and every so often, you get to stand perfectly still while someone screams at you. You get a few minutes of break here and there throughout the day, so you read letters from your friends and family. For longer breaks, you write your responses until your hand cramps. You think about how these letters won’t even be read until the following week. You’re lonely and miss all your loved ones.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Megan Valley

Megan Valley was Assistant Managing Editor for The Observer. She majored in English and the Program of Liberal Studies and hailed from Flushing, Michigan.

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