This summer was lonely for a lot of us. It was full of news reports informing us of the COVID-19 levels and instructing us to stay home between 11 pm and 6 am. It was a barrage of dismal numbers and isolation. Something that helped me feel connected to the friends I made in college was sending letters. Although it may seem silly to send letters to friends when everyone is a click, swipe or call away, letters helped me get to know my friends in ways that I never did in person or on a call.
Letter writing is not what I expected to enjoy most from quarantine. I thought I would remember the whipped coffee and banana bread crazes. I thought that the most interesting part of the summer was going to be the screen time on my phone reaching the double digits. I never thought it would be purchasing some stamps from USPS, sitting down at my kitchen table and writing letters. I wrote to many friends that I met through various organizations and even my roommate. Now, those are some of the strongest friendships I have from school.
When I was home, my mom used to chuckle at how excited letter writing made me, but it’s something that I think has been lost on us Gen-Zers. We have instant communication, so why would we need to write letters that take days to get to someone’s house, anyway? What’s the point?
In letters, we could talk more freely or relive experiences that we never had the chance to verbalize. When you write a letter, it’s a one-way conversation, so you have the spotlight. In letters, you can share your wildest dreams and goals for the future without fear of real-time reactions. Everything is a little bit delayed, but that makes it almost more comfortable to write to people, knowing that they won’t see what you’ve written for a few days.
In a weird way, receiving mail also made quarantine a little easier. It also gave me something to do and look forward to in between summer classes and binging Brooklyn 99. It was always exciting when a letter from a friend in North Carolina, Georgia or Texas arrived. Getting letters was a little dose of happiness when I needed it most. It’s nice to know that your friends are still thinking about you, even if the school year got cut short and nothing went according to plan.
The hybrid version of snail mail was interesting because I could text my friends telling them that I sent their letter and they would text me when they received it. There’s something nice knowing that your friend is reading your words and that they’ll sit down and write words back to you.