The benefits of having a pen pal

I was 8 years old when I wrote to my first pen pal. It’s been so long that I can’t remember who it was or where she was from. I remember the excitement of writing out a letter, putting a stamp on it, and sending it off. A few months later I would get a letter in return and it felt amazing. There was a connection to someone so far away and yet we could converse and share experiences.

In this digital age, it’s easier than ever to write to our loved ones. Email isn’t even necessary anymore. We all text and receive instant responses. Removing myself from Facebook and living in a different country has made it harder for me to connect. Texting fees and international phone calls are too expensive to look into. So instead I began to email friends.

Let me say it feels as empowering as it did when I was a child. Having a pen pal fills a special place in my heart. Each week we send long letters back and forth. Topics cover all subjects and nothing is off the table. What’s so wonderful about it is that I trust these beautiful people I left back in America. While I thought our friendships could only get so deep… Having them as pen pals takes our relationships to new heights.

Writing is cathartic
I had a journal when I was younger. It was a difficult time of my life and I wrote about everything. The wonderful thing about having a pen pal is that I get to share my excitement and worries with someone else. While a personal journal is a one way street, I can relax knowing that I’m not alone in my experiences. Sometimes it’s difficult to share what’s in my heart. But with my pen pals I get to be as open as I want to be without worrying about being judged. And they too have insecurities and joyous times that I get to read about. It’s a heartwarming journey.

Sharing is caring
When I sit down to type out an email, I always reread what they’ve written. Then I go back and comment on as much as I can while adding in my own experiences. One friend’s father passed away around the time my own dad did. We’ve bonded over the grief and our love of nature, writing, and wanting to find purpose in life. Another shares my passion of reading. We chat about all sorts of things and it’s wonderful to talk someone about books again. Yet another friend can confide her deepest secrets in me, and I know I can trust her with mine. It’s like having a support system with these wonderful ladies and I can’t be happier for that chance to have that.

Catching up on the important issues
Life is a fast moving monster and being away from home doesn’t help. While I’m gone, my friends have grown, added to their families and even experience loss along the way. Since we can write to each other, we can keep caught up without distance to hold us back. I know it will never be the same as being there in person to laugh and to share a meal together but this is a good substitute for now!

Meaningful conversations
Most of the people around me know I speak little Dutch. Because of my language limitations, I don’t share too often. I listen to what has to be said and never contribute my own two cents. By writing these ladies once a week, I get hold onto fulfilling and meaningful conversations. The topics can be simple and easy but in a location where my own voice is quiet… These little talks mean the world to me.

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