Eight years ago I uprooted my life and moved halfway around the world to South Korea, at the time I had no idea how drastically this decision would change my life and I'm forever grateful I made the leap. Living in a foreign country, of course, comes with many challenges, but it also opens your eyes to a new world, culture, foods and ways of life. Throughout my time abroad there was always one constant that grounded me, and that was the occasional letters I would find in my mailbox, sent with love from my Grandmother halfway around the world. While the words on the page were not always exciting, often updates of family back home or a report of her daily activities, they always brought a smile to my face, taking me, at least for a moment, back to her dining room, cheerful smile and warm embrace.
Maybe this habit, that my Grandmother never gave up, is what sparked in me a curiosity and love for the written word, carrying on the tradition and often writing notes to friends and family, near and far. I recall the moment one of my Korean co-workers commented on the recent card I had received, "That's so special your Grandmother writes you letters, I've never received something from my Grandmother because she can not read". This moment struck me, having always read books, played school and learned alongside my Grandmother, I never imagined a life without the ability to do so. Korea has developed so quickly in recent years, it's easy to forget the struggles and limitations that faced many citizens only a few generations ago.
This year, with my Grandmothers letters coming less frequently, and social media demanding more and more of my attention, I decided to make a change. As the New Year approached and I thought about all of the amazing people I've met in my last 10 years of living and traveling abroad, I made a commitment to be more connected and present with those individuals. I sent out a request for addresses, stocked up on cute stationary and stickers (always in high supply here in Korea) and began writing. While my main intent was to connect with the friends and family I was often so far away from, I realized too, that the act of sitting down and putting pen to paper was a meditative and rewarding act of self-care. Taking a moment to think about each individual without their social media updates, profile pictures and Instagram stories staring back at me, allowed me to think about them in my own light, my reflection of them, not what some screen wants me to see.
Since beginning my own journey back into the lost art of letter writing, I craved to share this experience with others. So often we're expected to reply to e-mails, text messages, direct messages and other forms of contact instantly. We don't leave ourselves room to think and breath before hitting "reply". I'm guilty, as much as the next person, of firing off a text without taking a moment to think if the words even matter, or how they will impact the recipient. When I sit down to write a letter though, I take that time, compose myself and relay words with meaning, at least I hope the reader feels the same. After sending my first set of letters I experienced an odd feeling, I too was so used to the instant response, that I found myself wondering why I had not yet heard back from my friends, only to realize their reply was likely still in transit. Those feelings have shifted and I now wait with anticipation and excitement for the day their words come back to me.
I've been called an old soul and I wouldn't argue with that, maybe it's the reason I've found joy in the written world. I also believe though that I'm not alone. I feel that the more connected we've become through technology, apps and social media, the less connected our personal relationships have developed. It's my hope that by sharing the experience of the written word with others, we can build deeper connections, learn about each other and spend some time with ourselves as well. It is for these reasons that I've started the "Write Me a Letter" project and I hope you'll consider joining me. Let's put pen to paper and build the connections so many of us seem to be missing.
Stephanie (Write Me a Letter Founder)