The Art of Letters: An Account of a PenPal Experience

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Most people have a certain activity they like to do because it engages every aspect of them. The world’s volume is lowered and attention is fixed on one thing. For some, this is a sport; a bowler focuses entirely on the ball rolling towards the pins in hopes of a strike, the avid reader is engulfed by a novel, a photographer becomes one with the lens.

If you haven’t experienced this feeling yet, soon enough (when you least expect it) you will.

For most of my life, I was never able to devote myself to one thing. I would get bored, lose interest or not have enough faith in myself to work hard enough to be satisfied with the results.

As I scrolled through my Twitter, a link to a YouTube video of someone writing a letter to their penpal popped up. I always enjoyed writing letters of appreciation to my friends, so I figured I could make internet friends and transform them into penpals.

The video had steps of what a usual letter consisted of: the actual letter, a playlist, a list of questions, washi tape samples, stickers, photos. I like to add a facemask to my letters.

I narrowed down some of my key interests to find common ground on and found my soon-to-be penpal, or mutual, as the Twitter world calls it. Her name was Queenie, a Chinese girl living in California.

I followed her, unaware of her name or where she lived. I remember hoping she would follow me back. One March afternoon, a notification popped up on my phone saying she had. I was excited… but also nervous.

I had no idea if I was supposed to DM her or like her tweets in hope that she would start a conversation. I thought if I didn’t go for it, I would regret it later. I sent her a friendly message and asked basic information, like where she was from and what artists she liked.

I had no idea that Queenie was interested in being my penpal for a solid four months. We were so interested in sharing information about ourselves that the topic never came up. I told her that I would love to send her a letter, but because my birthday was coming up, she insisted on sending me one first. We exchanged addresses and about a week and a half later I had snail mail. The letter was so beautifully decorated and made me feel like it was Christmas in the middle of summer.

After I realized how happy one penpal made me feel, I decided to find more. Soon enough I found Cici. Like Queenie, she was a freshman in college. We did not share the same interests but connected over both being Hispanic. We made sure to educate each other about our passions. Cici’s way of writing is like a comforting older sister. Not that my own sister isn’t comforting, but there is simply a different feeling. I have received four letters from Cici; each one different from the last and that much more special.

In a recent letter I wrote to Cici, I told her about all of my worries and explained how stressed I was for the whole college process. Her response included a homemade word search, which came in handy during a midnight mental breakdown.

She gives me advice on school, relationships, friends, and makes sure to remind me of the importance of taking care of myself.

It is strange how a piece of paper and ink can make me feel so warm and genuinely happy. I enjoy sitting at my desk for an hour or so putting a letter together and listening to my favorite songs. The satisfaction of giving and receiving is a healthy balance that motivates me to continue to do it.

It is my strike, my fictional world, my perfectly clear photo.

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