Last month, I wrote a letter to a friend everyday, for 23 days.Early February, I headed to Singapore for work. One of the things I wanted to investigate during my travels were the transformations that occur when we set aside time to write a letter to someone we love from afar.
What changes in you?
What changes in the relationship between you and the person who receives it?
What makes this mode of communication so special?
Here's what I learned from a month of writing letters:
1) Letter writing is a practice of gratitude.
"Appreciate can change a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary." - Margaret Cousins
As we age, our understanding of the world both expands and contracts. I'm humbled by the very expansive world and devoted to the few things I know to be true. One of the things I know to be true is that the relationship we have with our family and friends are without question the most important things in life and should be fervently cherished with sincerity and gratitude. We are fortunate human beings, to have those we love walk with us through life, even for a short while.
Last month, when I had a passing thought (instead of letting it pass), I set aside some time articulate those thoughts into words— writing messages to someone I love (something short and sweet). Over the course of the month, my feelings of gratitude increased ten-folds. Every time I picked up a pen, I was reminded of how thankful I was to the universe— to be so lucky to have them be part of my life. Giving a moment to recognize our gratitude is profound. Having the time to reflect and recognize the value of these relationships happens as you send them passing thoughts and treasured moments that you want to hand off for safe keeping.
Gratitude is a practice. It is life-changing and should be cultivated with love and care.
2) A moment of self reflection
Letter writing gave me a moment of self-reflection during the course of a long day. Often, I get caught up with life's small logistics and tend to glide over time. It's easy for me to tune out a long day by web browsing or turning on a movie. Self-reflection isn't easy— it requires the ability to be present. What I found is that letter writing acts as a tool for self-reflection, makes the daunting task an easier one.
Over the course of the month, I began to see patterns in the letters I wrote. Certain observations, memories, and moments in time that I thought would be important to share. It reflected what I valued, what I thought was important, what I wanted to remember, and what memories I wanted to retain. I imagine that these will change and shift as time propels us forward— but it feels nice to send off a piece of you in that moment of time. Somewhere, someone you love will hold on to that part of you, regardless of how you change in time.
Remember yourself. Remember your purpose. Take some time to remember.
3) Make the day count
Letter writing made me seek out new experiences. It made me want to find fresh stories to share with my friends. It made me look for growth and change. Although normally, curiosity holds a fierce stronghold in my DNA, this past year, I've encountered a lot of slumps and downs (it was a tough year). In a way, letter writing, for me, was inspiration accountability— it kept me on my toes. I know that my friends (those receiving my letters) are those who push themselves, knowing that 'new experiences' = 'new ways of seeings' = 'new ways of creating.' This always inspires me.
Experience something new. Make the day count.
4) The importance of sharing experiences
One of the most important part of my life has been travel— growth occurs exponentially when you go out to explore the world (especially when you do it alone). I do my best to take the opportunity when it arises. I learned that the best time to travel is always now. Always (Remember, there's never a good time. The time is now).
Although an exciting experience, traveling requires one to be able to navigate through the world independently and fearlessly. At times, loneliness is prevalent, and I, for one, long to share my experiences with the people I love.
In the last several years, while traveling and moving in between cities—I thought a lot about how we can maintain our relationships with the people we love. How can we continue to foster our relationships while avoiding social media as the only avenue to connect and relate? How can we continue to have 'human' relationships, even when we're apart? I believe that big, profound moments are important in relationships, but the small, seemingly inconsequential ones that make up so much of our day are often what builds the foundation. How can we exchange those small moments?
Writing letters helped soften that that physical gap — you could convey love, show affection, send thanks, etc.— an act of tenderness unseen in other mediums of communication. There's a tactility to the act of letter writing that makes you feel like the person is closer in a very real, but magical way.
Your stories are worth sharing.
5) An act of release
Writing your feelings and thoughts into a letter and sending them off is cathartic. The word "catharsis" originates from the Greek language that means to cleanse or purge. Today, it also means the process of moving deep emotions to the surface, and allowing it to come out and be released. That's what letter writing feels like — a release. In psychology, they call this method, "transactional writing," – a tool that allows one to 'complete an exchange of thoughts, beliefs, and feelings with someone else.' Although my letters vary in tone and content— I felt refreshed and purged when I sent my notes off to the postoffice.
Write freely and let go.