New research shows the current generation of children lack the dexterity and hand strength that existed 10 years ago due to an overuse of technology, making it difficult for them to hold pens and pencils. If this sounds unusual, don’t be so surprised. Cursive is no longer being taught in schools. Technology is being incorporated more into education, not to mention into our own lives.
The idea that my generation was one of the last to grow up preceding the birth of the internet seems so unbelievable. I still remember having to handwrite essays. Before I had my own email address and my own instant messenger account, I wrote letters to friends and family. Writing letters is one pre-internet tradition that I still try to uphold. It’s much more holistic than writing an email and I feel more connected to the person I’m writing to. Receiving something personal is such a novelty and the fact that someone you know took the time to sit down and handwrite you a note, then put a stamp on it, and pop it in the mail feels extra special.
The summer of my junior year in high school, I attended a program in Saint Andrews, Scotland, where I met a girl named Lara. I was in the history program and she was in the creative writing program, but we somehow ended up hanging out in between classes. We quickly became good friends. When a boy I liked in my program told another friend of mine that he thought I was nice but he wasn’t looking for a relationship, then proceeded to hook up with a girl one on of the last few nights, Lara was quick to jump to my defense. Little moments like that make a friendship.
After the program ended, we met up in London. We promised to keep in touch. Letters were our tether. We shared moments from our life. She sent me poems and once, a wallet made out of duct tape that was green with leaves all over it. I could never afford to go visit her as I lived in New York and she lived in Colorado. For a long time, as these things happen, we stopped writing letters for a while. I saw her live a whole life through Facebook posts. I wanted to ask her about it, but felt strange prying since we hadn’t talked in at least a year or two.
This week, I’m going to a wedding in Seattle, where as luck would have it, Lara now lives. When she invited me to stay with her for a few days before the wedding, I was thrilled. Somehow, despite the fact that we haven’t seen each other in eleven years, I feel sure that the person I know through our letters will still be a kindred spirit. I’m sure there are things that I don’t know and maybe never will. Sometimes it’s hard to explain life in words unless you’re there to experience it yourself. But either way, I look forward to putting a whole person behind the pen.
Writing letters is a great way to keep in touch with long-distance friends or family. Including small presents or photos adds a fun surprise to your letter. If you can’t find anyone to write letters to, there are also websites that help you find can sign penpals. Postcrossing is also cool because you can sign up to send and receive postcards from people all over the world.
This fall, I began my editorial fellowship at the Tempest and had the opportunity to join an inspirational team of writers, creators, and leaders. Despite just meeting them, all of the staff and co-fellows have treated me with warmth, support, and compassion. In an effort to connect more, I put out feelers and have found several people who also enjoy writing letters. I look forward to picking up my pen yet again to share my life and my terrible handwriting with all of them.