When I was at university, I kept in touch with my friends and family through writing actual, physical letters and cards. This was not out of choice, but out of necessity – pay-as-you-go mobile phones meant I couldn’t afford to ring or text very much; there was no internet connection in my halls of residence for email access; and Facebook did not yet exist (I know, can you imagine?!).
My friends Vicki and Becca were the best correspondents – it was the first time we’d been separated and going our different ways was hard, the blow softened by writing down every detail of our new lives so it felt like we were still sharing them. Becca and I were at uni in different cities, and Vicki was down south (a relatively unknown quantity for all of us), doing voluntary work on a gap year.
My stepmum and, to a lesser extent my dad, kept Royal Mail in business, often sending me a card or letter once a week. I realise now how strange it must have been for them to send both my sister and I off to university at the same time, going from a loud, chaotic life with us laughing, shrieking and fighting, to an empty house (although I am sure the quiet was blissful!). Now I have children of my own, I imagine how our parents must have thought about us often and wondered what we were up to – writing to us was a way to tell us they missed us and worried about whether we were happy (we were, for the most part).
I still have most of these letters. They’ve accompanied me to seven houses over the past twelve years and every so often I spend an hour or two reading through them, reliving the past and marvelling at how much has changed since then. I really miss the anticipation of sending off a letter, knowing it could be a week or two before you’d receive a response. Nowadays, communication is so immediate that I take it for granted, catching up with friends in short bursts rather than sitting down to write a letter, concentrating on what I’d like to tell them.
So this brings me to my penpal project. This year, I want to write and receive more personal letters, so I posted on Facebook (oh, the irony) asking my friends if they’d like to become penpals. So far, six people have joined me – some local, some national and one international – and I’m excited to begin writing to them. I’m also planning to try out some DIY stationery projects from my Pinterest board, especially handmade and repurposed envelopes. I’ll be blogging my progress and would love to hear about your own letter-writing adventures so please feel free to share!