Return to Sender

I used to sit down every day during the school holidays and churn off scores of letters. During school term, letters were often scribbled inside my notebooks during classes – most of these never got around to being sent, but when they were mailed, the recipients would comment on how much time I seemed to spend writing letters compared to actually doing school work.

There is beauty in addressing your thoughts and feelings to another, and I wonder sometimes if that is lost through the instant and constant communication available to us these days. I actually miss the thrill of checking the mailbox to find – I hope! – a letter addressed to me. On occasion, my grandma sends me a letter and I’ve received some lovely postcards from my family, and these are all tucked neatly into a folder. I treasure the written word, especially when it’s addressed to me.

Earlier this year I wrote a letter that not only won a competition but also introduced me to a wonderful community of writers in Singapore shortly after I arrived. They have been a source of inspiration and have kept me sane by keeping me focused on my writing. It was in writing this letter that I was reminded how much I miss writing letters. I send the odd one to my grandparents and I send a barrage of postcards whenever I visit somewhere wonderful, but it’s not the same. They are not the pure expression of thoughts and feelings that I associate with letters.

I missed writing letters, so I started writing them again. None of them are read by the addressee. None of them are sent. Letters have become my therapy.

I write letters to everyone.

I tell them why I worry about them, what I hope for them, and share every other thought and feeling I have that I feel they need to know. When I am frustrated with someone, I write them a letter. When I am seeking inspiration, I write a letter. When I am upset, I write a letter. When someone has made me happy, I write them a letter. I write letters to my family, to my friends, to people I still speak to and to people I don’t. Letters get written to myself when I feel I need a wake-up call. Other times when I am hurting or aching, or when I am bubbling with enthusiasm, I write a letter to the person who has contributed to this feeling or, if no one is the cause, I write a letter to someone who will appreciate knowing this is happening to me, or who might – through the movements of my pen – help me better understand things.

These are letters from my heart. They are letters that are addressed to someone else but are, in truth, letters for me. No one will ever read them.

To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart.

– Phyllis Theroux

Maybe we don’t send letters any more, but I still write them. By not sending my letters, I keep my heart close.

It’s possible I’ve even written a letter for you. But you’ll never know because these are my letters, my soul on a page with your name at the top.


10 comments on “Return to Sender

  1. Lovely post and I couldn’t agree with you more.
    There’s something about writing a letter that no email can replicate, at least I find that so in my experience.

    • Very true. Perhaps it comes from the difference between writing by hand and writing by keys, or perhaps in the time we put into letters over the quick “send it off” mentality behind an email!

  2. I think it’s a very good idea to address letters to oneself. I can imagine the ‘cleansing’ feeling after completing such a missive, and then, coming across it some time latter, being reminded of the message again, like those precious letters we keep from our mothers, or friends …

  3. Wonderful post, Stef. Strange, Cara Olsen wrote only the other day about the gift of a real letter in the post, which immediately reminded me with my dereliction in regards letter writing. Really, I must be among the world’s worst correspondents, but there have been times when the writing of letters has been, in the way a diary can be, cathartic. I think you’ve struck gold there.

    • I had times when letters were spaced across months and years, so don’t be too hard on yourself about being the world’s worst correspondent! But the actual process of writing a letter … cathartic is exactly the right word to describe it.

    • Thank you πŸ™‚ I was lamenting my lack of pen pal this morning, then realised I am my own pen pal … which is simultaneously fun and strange!

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