Wednesday, September 29, 2010

On Paper, In Person

Funny how writing so many letters to old friends can make you want to meet some new ones too.

A few weeks ago I wrote to A, a friend I made some eight years ago when we both attended a nonprofit management course at a local university. A was the director of a local Jewish center, and I was relatively new to a position in public affairs for the university health science campus.

A and I got to know each other in brief chats before and after class and during breaks, and when the course was finished we met a few times for breakfast. Writing to him I realized that as I have moved into a different phase in my life -- from working in public relations to a more solitary editing position, with another full-time job at home raising a toddler -- I miss the opportunities I used to have to meet new people.

As time has gone by I don't necessarily remember what we talked about during our breakfasts ... but what I do still remember very well is the experience of meeting someone new and broadening my horizons through shared experience and conversation and connection. If this letter-writing project has taught me (or perhaps more accurately, reminded me of) anything, it's that life is about relationships and the bonds we forge with others ... and the friendship I shared with you serves as a reminder of something I enjoy ... meeting new people from different walks of life and learning from and being inspired by them.

In my nostalgia for days gone by and the connections I made naturally working in public relations, I realized that I can still broaden my horizons even now. Forging new relationships may take a little more effort than it did in my 20s, but it's still possible -- I am aware that I need only be willing to show up in different places than I normally do, and reach out to the people I find there. That simple formula, after all, launched relationships with the dozens of friends whose names are in The Letter Jar -- we crossed paths at the beach as kids, at a church youth group, in a college dorm, at a meeting of a professional association.

I know I could find ways to meet new people once again, and the warm memories of getting to know you serve as an inspiration to do so. Thank you not only for the friendship you gave me at the time but for helping to rekindle a part of myself that has gone needlessly quiet.

I ended my note to A, residing a half dozen states away, as I do so many letters to far-flung friends: I told him I didn't know when our paths might cross again, but, until they do, to take care and God bless.

Turns out those paths will cross sooner than later -- A typed me a letter (he explained, apologetically, that I would be unable to read anything he handwrote) and said he'll be in my area for a conference in just two weeks. I don't know if you call that serendipity, or synchronicity, or what, but I am so glad A's name came out of the jar when it did. I'm looking forward to a chance to go "off paper" and "in person" for a while.

WELL-SCRIPTED: When I started my @theletterjar account on Twitter, I naturally used the #letters hashtag to search for like-minded "tweeps." (The irony of using the epitome of 21st century technology to find enthusiasts of a 19th century pastime is not lost on me.) I was somewhat bombarded at the time with tweets about the movie "Letters to Juliet," which was just hitting the theaters. Tonight I noticed the movie has made it to my Pay Per View -- perhaps it's finally time to indulge in a little "letter as plot device" romantic drama.

No comments: