“Dear Juliet, I’m writing to you because you’re the only person who can understand how I feel…”
And how could she not? Juliet Capulet suffered at the hands of fate in one of the greatest tales of love and loss in literature, losing both Romeo and her life in an attempt to create a future together. Just as millions have found solace in Shakespeare’s words since the tragedy’s publication, recognizing their own grievances and sadness in Juliet’s, thousands still are finding comfort in the secretaries of Juliet, who answer all the letters addressed to the tragic heroine.
The Juliet Club began in the early 1970s as a cultural group but has now become a gathering of women and men who make it their mission to send a reply to all those who take the time to write and tell their stories. Spending five weeks this summer at their offices in Verona, Italy taught me unforgettable lessons in love by putting myself through others’ experience.
My time spent at the office consisted mainly of retrieving letters from the mailbox in front of Juliet’s house, sorting incoming letters and of course answering the messages. These love letters came in many different forms and in just as many different languages.
How many times had I been sorting letters and read, “Cara Giulietta, querida Julieta, caro Juliet, cher Juliette and liebe Julia?” About 60,000 letters a year find their way to via Galilei 3, Verona, Italy, the main office of the Juliet Club, and about 10,000 of those receive replies.
What struck me about each of the letters was the complete trust and honesty these writers placed in a complete stranger; personal stories and details never shared with even those closest to them had been poured onto a piece of paper that was to travel across the globe. To all these people, Juliet was not just a fictional character set in Shakespeare’s tragedy, but a beacon of hope and understanding, a chance to be heard. She is not a friend nor is she a guru, but simply a confidante, someone who will listen, empathize and maybe even offer some small shred of guidance.
While Juliet cannot tell them what to do or how to do it, she can help them find the strength to move on or the courage to take the leap toward a better future.
I was overwhelmed and awestruck by the troubling tale of a young girl from the United States. She had suffered every loss imaginable, including the loss of her parents and several family members, and still could find her heart skipping a beat at the sight of a boy in her class.
When there seemed to be nothing left, there was still the chance of happiness. This girl had made her life what she wanted it to be, and so many of these kinds of letters changed my perspective on the “doom” of dating at Colgate.
A discussion about love and relationships at Colgate is an article for another day, but if this summer has taught me anything, it’s that maybe I should be more open to love.
In journeying to Italy, I had hoped to figure out love and maybe even find it. While the latter didn’t happen, my idea of love has become a little bit clearer, if not just as mysterious as before.
No one knows why people fall in love with the people that they do, and no one can guess the end results – be it a breakup, a marriage, a loss or nothing.
Love is different for everyone, and while none of them are wrong, none should be regretted. Regret only taints the memories, and every experience can teach us something about
ourselves and the other person.
I may not have found love in Verona, but I did end up finding a few of its secrets with a little help from Juliet.