I remember receiving my first note in school.
I do not remember receiving my very first note in school, but I DO remember around the time when note passing became part of my everyday routine. Friends would write me notes, long and short, and throughout the day, I would have to write each of them a response. Some of these notes were simple: my friends told me how their days were going. Some had gossip: You won’t believe who I found out slept together! Some of them had questions: Can you meet me after class? I have to talk to you. And some of them had secrets unveiling right before my very eyes: I keep thinking about you.
In my high school days, when a teacher was absent and a substitute teacher wasn’t available, we were sent to a specific room on that given period (sometimes we were sent to the cafeteria if a lot of teachers were absent. And although (because I was such a good student) I used this time to get homework out of the way, I also used whatever time I had left to write notes.
Unlike me, my friends could fold their note paper is these cool designs and it became their signature. I didn’t even need to see their penmanship on the paper to know who the note was from; I could tell by the way the paper was folded. Of course, all my friends knew which notes were from me because I plainly folded mine in the most basic way possible. I’m creative in other ways. Paper folding is not one of them.
It was always exciting to get a note from a friend. It was tricky to try to read these notes whilst pretending to pay attention to your teacher, but we all got it done. And it was fun to write back. It never really felt like an obligation. I loved it.
Now, let’s backtrack a little.
My nana was a writer of sorts. She dabbled in all kinds of writing (from what I remember). Short stories, poems, but mostly letters and journal entries. And even though her beautiful handwriting was often difficult for me to decipher, it was thrilling to get a letter from her…in the mail.
For those of you who born after the 1980s, yes, people actually wrote to one another with their hands on paper with a pen and sent these letters in the mail. #mindblown
And long before I was ever born, letter writing was the main form of communication. I really hope you know this but if you don’t then please skim a history book or something.
Back to letters from nana. I just loved getting something in the mail that was written for only me. And much like I would in years to come, I enjoyed writing back.
Maybe when you reach into your mailbox you get a card. A holiday card or a birthday card or some other card to mark a special occasion and it gives you the warm and fuzzies. FINALLY something came for you in the mail that was NOT a bill! But also, someone took the time to find a card for you, maybe write a little something in it and send it. It’s becoming more of a rarity these days, but it’s wonderful when it happens.
When I was in seventh grade, I signed up to be a volunteer with a group of my friends. We were going to visit, befriend and raise money for some elderly people at a local nursing home. Our work only lasted a few months but in those months, we were assigned pen pals. I wanted two. So I would sit down at home and write to these two elderly people (I had met them both already) letters and they would write me back. It was awesome. And even after our volunteering gig was over, I kept writing. I don’t recall exactly how long this went on for, but it made me feel good to know that these two people, who rarely got visitors, were at least getting a letter from me. I was only about 13 so there wasn’t much to tell. I would tell them mostly about school. At some point, we stopped writing. I don’t know who stopped first but I won’t ever forget these two people. Not just because they were my friends but because of the letters.
Stay with me, okay?
You can only imagine how cool I thought it was that note writing was a thing when I entered high school. Not only was it a good way to practice your penmanship, but it was also a good way to practice communicating.
I was really sad, you can imagine, when shortly after graduating from high school, email became the new thing. In the beginning, I hated email.
I hated email for a multitude of reasons. One was because we had dial-up internet at my house and two was because I was not a fast typer. My fingers could not keep up with my thoughts. Fortunately, that’s changed. But at the time, it was frustrating. Yet, I had to do it. It was the way people were communicating.
As the years went by and dial-up was no longer an issue and (thanks to having to write many research papers in college, I became faster with my fingers- as I bite my tongue to NOT make a lesbian joke here), I didn’t mind email so much. In fact, I kind of liked it. I would write emails in different fonts, different colors, et cetera. It was a good time. And it was the best feeling to see that I had a message in my inbox that was NOT Bank of America asking me to apply for a credit card.
I don’t really know what happened but at some point I didn’t want to keep up with the changing times. I mean, I did and I didn’t. My phone, for example, is not smart…it’s a flip phone. It is actually small enough to fit in the pocket of my jeans…barely but it does. I didn’t even get my first real cell phone until I was 25 years old. Yes, you read that correctly.
Nowadays (wow using that word made me sound ancient) most people my age or younger communicate via text messaging. They use acronyms such as “lol” and whathaveyou and don’t usually type out full words. To this day, I still have to ask my sister, my girlfriend or Google, what certain acronyms means because I would NEVER ask the person who texted me for fear that they would laugh at how “old school” I am. I frequently get texts and to be honest, I don’t often reply. Sometimes if I have a lot to say in response to a text, I will text the person, “call me.” Yes, I’m that girl. If it is a quick “hello” text from someone I don’t regularly hear from, it makes me happy sort of like in an “aww. They were thinking of me” type of way. And I do respond to those texts. But emailing apparently is not even a thing anymore. When people want to “talk” to their friends they do so by ways of texting, Tweeting, Facebook, instagramming (not even a word, I know) or some other way that enables a message to get across with as little contact with the message receiver as possible. Maybe I am old, but this makes me sad.
When my email inbox tells me that I have a message it is usually an ad for sale at some place I bought something at two years ago and they asked me to give them my email address for coupons or it’s a notification from Twitter telling me that someone mentioned me on Twitter or it’s a notification from Facebook telling me that so and so is inviting me to play x game (I do NOT want to play x game with you on Facebook, thanks), but it’s rarely an actual email…like with words that a person took the time to sit down and string together into…gasp….full sentences.
There are still some people who will indulge me and write me emails. Most of them are around my age and none of them can write an email as long as I can. I’m that good *wink*
And then there are other people who give emailing with me a chance only to find that it’s actually not that bad after all…maybe they even secretly like it.
When doing the whole online dating thing, messaging another person was an option. Actually, you kinda HAD to message another person to get some conversation going. For the people who wrote back in a timely manner and actually had something thoughtful say, I would upgrade them and give them my “real” email address instead of messaging via the online dating site. These people became my new pen pals. And the more often they wrote and the more they had to say, the more I liked them. And maybe they even grew to like me a little more just from what I had to say through my written word. If you think my blog posts are long, imagine getting an email from me!
People do something in writing that they don’t usually do in texts or on the phone…they tell you some of their deepest feelings and thoughts. That said, I can understand why some people…sorry…why most people do not write anymore: it’s scary. Words are powerful and once you write them down and can see them, they are real. Nevermind the courage it takes to send them out and share them.
Also, writing is time consuming. This, I think is funny because people can text one another ALL. DAY. LONG and think nothing of it because they are quick messages scattered throughout the day. But I bet if you add up all the time each text took, you could’ve written an email. Again, I’m not an avid texter so I’m guessing here.
It’s a typical thing now to be out and see EVERYONE on or with their phone. People use their phones for everything (to get directions, play a song, read the news, etc)….everything….except call people.
How are we always with our phones yet not always talking to each other? Never have there been so many ways of communicating yet so much distance between us all.
Part of me thinks cell phones are great. Having mine handy makes me feel safe because if I have a seizure, my emergency contacts are on me, in my address book, highlighted in red for any paramedic or stranger to access in case something were to happen to me…and it has. Phones are great because you can send and receive those little texts to briefly tell someone “Hi. How are you?” Nothing committal…just a kind gesture. Cells are great because, in any emergency, someone (hopefully) can call for help. Someone (maybe) can even record an event that will help aid an investigation. Remember the recordings from 9/11? The short videos taken during the Boston Marathon bombings? For these reasons, I can appreciate cell phones especially the more advanced ones.
The other part of me feels like it creates a distance between us…ironic, huh? I have sat down with a person to hang out for a coffee and while we hanging out, they are texting someone else. I’m sorry, but unless it’s an emergency I don’t really think that’s good manners. Again, maybe it’s just me. One or two texts, fine, but a whole text conversation…really?
I don’t know what’s worse: being the person on the other side of the table who feels like they do not have the full attention of the one they’re with or (in some cases) that no one at the table even thinks twice about this because it’s normal!
And people wonder why, in this age of technology, we struggle to communicate face-to-face with one another.
Not long ago, I watched the movie, Her, and I loved it especially from a sociologically perspective. I also feared it because I don’t think the concept is that far-fetched. People were falling in love with their operating systems (basically a computerized personality). That’s not even the strangest part. The strangest part was that as I watched it thinking “this is strange. Who does this?” I was simultaneously feeling the feelings of a romance as if one of the “characters” were human and not a computer. Needless to say, the movie does well in proving its point.
But are we that far off that it is easier for us to communicate with a computer rather than a person? To develop a relationship and express ourselves in acronyms more than in fully spelled out words? I don’t know. It sometimes seems that way.
What I do know is that I don’t want to be in world surrounded by so much communication but have us all so isolated from one another. Can’t we strike some kind of balance?
Still, for me, there is nothing like receiving an email from someone in which they express their thoughts, their feelings, their secrets, and maybe even some gossip. It shows me in a way unlike any other that they felt the need to take time out of their day to write to ME. I was worth their time. They want ME to know their words; their stories.
And receiving a letter? Well, I won’t even go there.
I prefer face to face communication but sometimes, even for me, it’s easier to write what I’m thinking; it’s safer somehow.
I feel a bit sorry for the younger people these days. Do they even know what it’s like to pass notes in school? Do they even know what the handwriting of their friends’ looks like? Could they identify it in a line-up?
As someone who values communication, I will have to adapt to texting and to whatever comes next. That said, I am not entirely opposed to texting and am willing to get better at it. But for those of you who have never really experienced letter and/or email writing, I ask of you the same: don’t completely oppose it until you try it.
Lastly, for those of you who do take the time to write to me, there is so much I want to say to you but I’ll leave it as a simple thank you. And as you know, you will hear back from me.
“More than kisses, letters mingle souls.”
― John Donne