Tuesday, May 08, 2007

definitive breaks with the past

Last night, before I fell asleep, I decided to write in my journal. I used to write almost every day, until I started this blog last year. When I picked up my journal and saw that I hadn't written in it for about a month, I realized that I have replaced journaling with blogging. Thus last night's entry focused on the notion of lost arts, journaling being one of them, letter writing the other.

All my life, I was an avid letter writer. I even had a pen-pal who lived in the suburbs of London since the age of five. When I was a kid, I wrote my cousin in New York once a month about the silly things that little girls write about. In high school, after I had lived abroad for a semester, I used to love writing those foreign addresses, and buying special stamps that my friends in Belgium could save and add to their collections. I sent postcards that I hoped they would save and, in turn, I too have a collection of postcards mailed to me from remote and not so remote places in the world.

In the mid-nineties, I sent my first e-mail. I was living in Mississippi at the time, and my first e-mail buddy was my friend Anthony in Paris. Another teacher at my school showed me how to obtain an e-mail address through the school district, and all of a sudden, I was online. Anthony and I wrote messages to each other all the time. Every morning, I would go into the classroom, turn on a special computer that was connected to this magical stratosphere, and receive words that Anthony had written to me while I was asleep. No need to wait a few weeks for an envelope with a foreign return address and "par avion" stamped on the front. No need to spend lots of money on a short phone call abroad. It was that easy.

Then I discovered Hotmail, and my letter writing days were over. In addition to my European pals, I e-mailed friends from Bangkok to Tehran. My friend Christine from Belgium sent me a joke a day. And then there was spam. Back in the nineties, my e-mails were all composed in paragraph form, using proper grammar, spelling and punctuation. Now when we e-mail each other, it's often one-liners with no capitalizations and abbreviations such as thx!, c u!, and countless others, which I too am guilty of using.

I love e-mailing. I love being in daily contact with people half-way around the globe. I would not have been able to entertain a relationship with Alexei for the last two years if e-mailing didn't exist. But I miss letter writing. I miss receiving something handwritten or even typed in the mailbox that isn't a bill or some kind of advertisement.

I also miss the hours I once spent writing in my journal in cafes and on the Muni (when I lived in SF). I still buy pretty journals. The one I'm using right now has a purple butterfly on the front. But I wonder if my little nieces will ever have the experience of writing a letter by hand, and I wonder how old they will be when they design their first myspace page.

My friend Michael yesterday called attention to generational indicators that represent a definitive break with the past. His post reminded me of what I wrote last night by hand in my journal. And so, let it be on this electronic record, that I feel that the "oh's" have seen the end of letter writing and possibly the end of journaling. And with the permanency of e-mailing and the growing popularity of blogging, I mourn the passing of these fine arts.


Lilia said...

I still keep a journal too -- mostly for my dreams and for thoughts to private to blog about (as if that's possible!). Most of my life, I thought of myself as a "writer" (starting in Jr HS) but I learned to write late on email (~1994). I think it was the prospect of sharing those typed words instantly with someone they were intended for that made it all so exciting. ...Maybe also the boyfriend who I really really liked who started email with me.

Thanks, KT, this is a very interesting post!

KT said...

We never did finish our conversation last night. We'll have to catch up this evening. I think I wrote in my journal the other night that that is the place where I can let it all hang out, so to speak.