In my nomadic lifestyle of constantly moving from one place to the next, I have met and befriended many wonderful people, and yet I have failed to keep in touch adequately. It makes me cringe when I think of “out of sight, out of mind” because I never thought that would be me; and yet I have fallen victim to it.
These rueful thoughts sprang to mind as I was organizing the closet and found boxes and boxes of letters, cards and photos from the past. For whatever reason, I never threw these away. In our current culture of SMS, tweets and Facebook posts, it’s hard to imagine a time when we used to write letters and send cards to communicate with our family and friends. I can still remember how anxiously I used to check my mailbox every day, hoping for a card or letter from a friend in another city, state or country. Now, I often go days without remembering to check my mail box. When I want to communicate, I either send an email, which has suddenly become synonymous with snail mail in our ‘instant gratification’ culture, or send an ‘instant gratification’ message with Whatsapp, Viber and Skype. Admittedly technology has advanced our ability to communicate effortlessly and instantly, and we are all slaves to it. But what are the costs that we are paying?” For me, the costs are memories, especially as I get older and can’t remember sometimes what I ate the previous day for lunch. Yikes! When did I became so old?
How many times do we reread an email message from a friend? Once? Twice? Never? Email is like a continuous dialogue- no need to look back and reflect because there is just too much filling in the inbox. After I read an email, it’s ‘out of sight and out of mind’ for me. Sometimes, if I read an email on my Iphone, I get so overwhelmed by all the other things grabbing my attention, that I forget to respond until a week or months later when I suddenly wake up in the middle of the night in a panic, thinking, “Did I answer that email from Gene or was I planning to do it but never actually sent it?” I don’t remember that ever happening when communication was relegated to 1) in person; 2) via phone; or 3)via letters and cards.
Looking through my boxes of old cards and letters, I was taken back to those earlier periods in my life: First year at University – cultivating new friends who turn out to be friends for life, having no curfew, having no adult supervision, discovering new things every day; My first solo cross-country journey across the United States – the generous people I met, the friendships I developed, the countless couches I crashed on, the national parks I mountain biked and backpacked through; Months hospitalized in a foreign country recovering from a motorcycle accident – the amazing warmth and curiosity of the staff and the generous love of my friends.
In my box of memories, I found an old letter from my dear friend Loocy, who I met almost 30 years ago at University. She was spending a year abroad in India and we exchanged correspondences the old fashioned way, via long letters, waiting weeks and months for each other’s letters. Sitting on my bedroom floor, reading this newly discovered letter, her words from the past urged me to be better about keeping in touch in the future:
“It is really gonna upset me, if in a couple of years we just send Christmas cards to each other. I still want to know EVERYTHING that is going on in your life. And if twenty years from now you have a shitty day at work, you had better pick up the phone and give me a call, so we can bitch together.”
Fortunately, Loocy and I have managed to keep in touch over the decades of our separate journeys through life. Unfortunately, I have lost touch with many other friends, whose rediscovered letters remind me of wonderful shared times long long ago. Because I only had their physical addresses (we didn’t have email back then), I have lost track of them. They are no longer living where they used to. I often wonder how they are doing, where they are now, whether they think of me as I do of them, and if our paths will ever cross again. I hope so; I would love to see them again!
Maia Banks: Are you still in Portland, Oregon?
Mark Netherland, are you still working and living in Richmond, Virginia?
Julie Cobalt, did you return to Peru, where we met, or are you still somewhere in San Diego? Sue and Obie, are you two still together and journeying through Africa or are you settled back in Charlottesville?