Thursday, October 8

Writing to Other People

Okay, so, basically I just like to send out mail. I like to write recreational mail and send it out to friends. I'm a little disappointed when they don't write back, which is frequently, but there is a brassy core that is my delight at distributing interesting postcards and stationery, and it is dented and a little burnished but otherwise uncompromised.

When I graduated from high school and was about to go into the Army, I very shyly asked a close friend if she wouldn't mind exchanging letters with me. To my delight and confusion, she readily agreed, and she became my first serious pen pal. She introduced me to other media that provided networks of pen pals and correspondents, and when I was stationed in South Korea I was actively writing to no less than thirty individuals. Mainly these were gothchicks around my own age, scattered throughout the U.S. I'm in touch with none of them now.

I got out of active duty in '91 and went into the National Guard until '95. During that time I secured my AA degree at a community college and started further schooling up in St. Cloud, MN. That university provided me with my first e-mail account and I spent a lot of time figuring that thing out. The mail program was PINE, text-only, and when you printed out your e-mail it got sent to a room across the hall where a chamber of large dot-matrix machines cranked out tractor-fed sheets of paper, maybe 11" x 17". They were huge, I remember that, and they took up a lot of space as I explored the Internet through Magellan, printing out all my interesting findings. I happened to find a Usenet group dedicated to pen pals and quickly made a few: it seemed people were very anxious to meet and talk to other people around my nation, around the world.

I'm only in touch with one of them, a lady in South Africa. We're not in regular correspondence, but we do touch base every now and then. I've also sent her regular mail, and she has to me, but it's quickest and most secure to fire off an e-mail to her. I still have our dot-matrix, tractor-feed printed-out conversations, a thick ream folded in half and stored safely away. The one thing that always impressed me in our chats was how indolent and spoiled I felt after listening to her talk about her life. She never actively made me feel that way, no, this was a compare-and-contrast I did on my own. I thought things were hard with school and having to go into the Army for college money, but her personal anecdotes blew me out of the water and I think that's when I started to learn to shut up about my petty gripes.

But anyway... I love writing letters. Not so you'd know: I've dropped the ball on a number of conversations. A friend in Madison, WI had to hammer away at me to get me to write back, and once I did we had a flourishing exchange, it was great, but why did it take so much effort for me to get in the habit of something I tell myself I love to do?
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