Letters: More Than Just Mail

Jaime Coyne

There is something about getting mail that just makes my day better. No, I don’t mean e-mail. While browsing through countless repetitive emails about upcoming events and assignments is a good way to procrastinate from what I should presently be doing, it’s just not the same as receiving a letter, the good old fashioned way.

At a point during my childhood, I had too many pen pals to deal with. That rapidly stopped being a problem, as one by one they suggested corresponding by e-mail instead. Of course, most people — all of my former pen pals included — say ‘let’s e-mail instead’ merely as a polite way to stop communicating all together. You ping pong a few e-mails back and forth, each one shorter than the previous one, until someone never responds to the last e-mail. The phase-out has been coming for so long, that the other person only vaguely realizes it’s even happened, if they notice at all. It probably just as likely could have been them, if their friend had sent one more, even shorter letter.

The fact is that while e-mails are quicker to send and receive, it is rare to have two people consistently correspond with lengthy emails of substance. Receiving a letter gives you a certain warmth, because you know that the sender put time and effort into the endeavor. When was the last time you really thought about an e-mail you were writing, read over what you said, or even tried to spell correctly or capitalize the beginnings of sentences and proper nouns? Did it start in ‘Sup? Nmh.’ and end in ‘Gtg – ttyl’? It’s certainly a strive toward the end of saying actual words altogether, but whether it conveys depth and personality is questionable.

Since I’ve arrived at Colgate, I’ve been sending letters to all my friends who gave me their new addresses. I didn’t expect much of a response, because I know my love of letters is equally balanced with the majority of people’s aversion to writing back. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised to keep finding letters in my mailbox over the last few weeks. I can’t help but smile to see Rachael’s distinctive handwriting, Ellen’s horrendous spelling, and Becca’s envelopes addressed to ‘Miss Jaime’, just as all my birthday cards from her always were. Little personality quirks have a funny way of shining through in letters, and that just doesn’t happen to the same extent in e-mails. There is no way to type in the reminiscent doodles, decorative stickers or excited, darkened exclamation points on a computer.

I don’t really expect too many (or maybe any) of my friends to continue writing to me too far into the year, but as long as they continue to respond to my letters, I will respond to theirs. Maybe they don’t realize it, but it brightens my day. It’s touching to know that someone took the time to think of you, in the midst of their busy life full of new adventures and people. I’ve got a great collage of cards I received mounted on my dorm wall, and looking at it makes me think happily of the people who sent each thing. And while emails are nice distractions, there’s a reason you don’t tend to see them on bedroom walls. They just don’t compare.