photo-lost in your inbox
In high school, I always wanted my friends from other schools to write me letters. A few grudgingly complied, but I wasn't satisfied. I found out about the website livejournal, and found communities. I was very excited to find that other people had the same interest in letter writing. I was also struck by how many other things I had in common with people in different countries. My natural curiosity made the prospect of having a pen pal more alluring. My first pen pal lived in Switzerland. Finding her letter in the mailbox for the first time was incredibly gratifying. Over the years I wrote to a multitude of people from the United States and other countries.
Over the Winter break I decided to count and organize all of the letters I've gotten from over the years. Shockingly I've received 500 letters from 126 pen pals in 17 countries. I'm sure there are countless more that I never received. I've been writing to pen pals since I was 16, and I have grown and learned so much from the experience. Although I've written to so many people, I appreciate each individual's perspectives.
Visiting my pen pal in Switzerland was the first major trip I took on my own. We also traveled to France and Luxembourg. It was wonderful to meet her family, and experience the different landscapes of countries. Photography is one of my main passions, and visiting a new place is always inspiring for me. I have also visited my other pen pals in Japan, Germany, England and New York. This summer I plan to meet pen pals in Europe and explore more countries. Through writing pen pals I have been able to hear about the experience of growing up in a different country; their politics, experience with their families and surroundings. Among the differences I have found many commonalities.
My interests have also grown through my correspondence with pen pals. Trading mix CDs has introduced me to many bands that I now consider favorites. Trading art has also been inspiring. My interest in feminism has been enhanced by writing to pen pals. I became more interested in feminism after finding out about riot grrrl (feminist punk). Pen pals introduced me to riot grrrl bands, and one sent me a binder of Kathleen Hanna's writing. She is a co-creator of the movement, and incredibly influential for me.
Writing letters to pen pals has become part of my identity. The friendships are also portable. I moved from California to Massachusetts for college. It's reassuring that I still have a system of support from my pen pals. regardless of my location. I often fall behind on letters during school, but I'm committed nonetheless. I can't foresee not having a letter to respond to in the future.