Sofia’s Sofa: Snail Mail

Sofia Hara, A&E Editor

I recently received my first letter in the mail from a friend in the Netherlands and the amount of excitement I felt overwhelmed me for the next week. For the first time in a while I was genuinely excited and motivated to complete something. Opening the letter to find recipes, puzzles, and a heartwarming message had put a smile on my face for the remainder of the day. 

To cope with loneliness and quarantine blues, I started to seek out pen pals online. There’s a wide variety of ways to find pen pals, including groups on forums like Facebook and specific websites that match you with someone with similar interests. I decided to use Facebook since I could check user profiles to make sure it was safe. I specifically joined a Women’s Only group that required an application to join in order to ensure I was going to be safe. After talking to a couple of people, I agreed to write to women in Washington, Canada, and the Netherlands. 

Before I started writing my letter, I started to look for inspiration on apps like Pinterest and TikTok. I quickly found out that letter writing is not as simple as mailing a message. Other people would include other things in the envelope like poems, pressed flowers, stickers, playlists, and tea bags. Alongside this, people would decorate their envelope and letter with stamps, doodles, and other various artsy accouterments. Needless to say I was overwhelmed. What if my letter wasn’t aesthetically pleasing enough? I came to the conclusion that it shouldn’t be the decoration or the extras in the envelope that matter; the only true thing of substance should be the letter itself. 

The process of writing a letter is daunting at first. I didn’t know how formal I should be nor how friendly I should be. After all, I was trying to give them a positive first impression. I decided the best way to introduce myself was to be friendly but not too revealing. I would write about my hobbies and interests but not too deeply. 

After the letter was done, I searched through my house for anything that could be included in the letter. In my findings, I found out that my mother used to have a papercraft hobby when I was younger. She showed me her collection of cardstock, stamps, stationery and glitters, all for me to use. I was thrilled to start composing my letter with my new cornucopia of supplies.

In my very first letter I had included a Japanese tea bag called “ochazuke,” Emily Dickinson’s poem, “A Light exists in Spring,” a mini playlist, and some pressed flowers from my backyard. I sealed the envelope with a wax seal and mailed it the next day.

The only downside to having a pen pal is waiting. Personally, I tend to hyper-fixate on hobbies and interests. This means that I spend a large amount of time focusing on the activity to the point where it’s the only thing that I can focus on. However, these bouts of intense focus usually only last a couple of weeks at maximum. With letter writing, I get to focus on composing and mailing the letter, forget about it for a couple of weeks, and rekindle my passion for writing once I receive a letter back. In the end, letter writing is perfect for my motivation. 

I would absolutely recommend letter writing to everyone! I think it is a great way to express yourself and to connect with someone over long distances. My advice is to start writing to someone you know, like a relative or friend, in order to see if having a pen pal is something you enjoy. That way, if you end up not enjoying it, you don’t leave someone across the country hanging. I would also advise making sure you do not give away your address without knowing if the person is legitimate or not. Usually online services and groups have a system to weed out scammers and threatening folk, but you should always double-check. I hope you take the opportunity to rekindle this forgotten practice. Happy writing!