I began writing letters to my grandmother when I was nine years old. After a long visit to Chicago for Christmas I didn’t want to say goodbye, so I wrote her a letter and set it on her desk. When I received my first letter back, and unexplainable excitement flourished in my stomach and drove me to keep them up.
Every week or so, I’d get a letter addressed to “Ms. Ally Hall” and I’d send one back, building off of what she wrote as well as updates about my exciting life as a small girl. My letters were packed with stories about how “One kid in my spelling class threw up in the class room today. It was orange.” or “We dissected a cow’s eye today and I got to touch it. I didn’t throw up.” Reading back on them, waves of nostalgia hit me and I reminisce about all of these small moments of my childhood I shared with my grandmother.
Some of them were deeper than others as I entered my junior high years and realized that there was a lot more to life than pukey kids and cow eyes. I talked to her about what I was going through in school and how my writing was going. Odd stories about weird kids and bodily functions arose in some of the letters, but they went from silly and childlike to asking big questions that even she and I couldn’t begin to tackle in our words.
To me, writing is the most raw and truthful thing you can do in this world. Whether it’s writing letters, music, novels, or diary entries, putting your words on page is one of the most vulnerable feelings. When you have a conversation with someone, they might remember a few words and the topic of what you spoke about, but they will not remember how you formed your words. Putting them on paper is permanent proof of what you thought of saying at the time. It gives someone a glimpse into who you are as a person and how your mind operates. That is one of the scariest things to do.
My best friend and I are starting an exchange now and I hope we both gain a heavier knowledge about the different sides of our personality we can so easily hide with spoken words.
I have a collection of sealed envelopes hidden in my room entitled “Letters I’ll Never Send”. They range from letters to my third grade crush to my future self. Perhaps you, the one reading this, has a thin white envelope written to you.
The point of all of this is to tell you that if you really want to get to know yourself or another, write to them. Write letters to your past self, your present self, or even your future self. Write to your family. Write to your friends. Write to the boy who never pays attention to you or the teacher who always calls on you. Write what you want to say, even if you don’t send them.