Keeping In Touch Timelessly

The magic of having a penpal to keep you busy during quarantine.


Zoe Michals

Zoe Michals mailing off a letter to her pen pal.

There’s only so many TikTok’s I can watch, posts I can like and messages I can read. In my pre-quarantine life, everything was always go-go-go. It was rare to be home before 7 p.m. at the absolute earliest. But now, with all of this new free time, I have the opportunity to binge TV shows, browse Instagram or scroll through Twitter as much as I please. This luxury, something I once longed for, can apparently get really boring really fast. Not to mention the staring-at-the-screen-for-too-long induced headaches that accompany it. Ultimately, I’m bored. We’re all bored. And with a restricted sense of freedom during this virus, adapting is key. 

In my life, adaptation has taken its form in writing letters. My friend and I send letters back and forth in order to keep busy and it is a great use of time! Surprisingly, writing a good letter makes an hour feel like a matter of minutes. It’s a great way to kill time and save yourself from staring at a screen all day. 

It’s also a very therapeutic release. You can write your thoughts and feelings into a letter and then send it away and release them. Having a pen pal you trust is amazing as you can just write back and forth about the trivial hardships in your lives and send the negative feelings away with the letter. 

As I have learned, in the mail there’s not much of a sense of time. If you look logically at letter send/receive dates it can be deduced that sending a letter takes about 3-4 days, but I choose not to notice. I adore the timelessness of writing and the way I never fail to be surprised when I get a letter. Opening the mailbox and seeing a brightly decorated envelope from my friend sitting amongst catalogs and bills releases an instant surge of dopamine. My emotions soar as I rush upstairs to open it and join the other world that lays inside. 

Receiving a letter is, in short, magical. It’s a magical new world where nothing matters except for the two writers. It’s a bubble of trust, release and timelessness. 

I can understand where my fascination with letters may seem a little, for lack of a better word, stupid, and I can assure you that I completely agree. I am almost as baffled by how much I enjoy writing letters as I am by the whole process behind writing letters. The notion that this is how people used to regularly communicate is mind-blowing. It’s very impractical for urgent messages, but writing letters makes me feel significantly more in touch with life. 

It feels real. Interactions that take place in the screen world often feel artificial, but not in the letter world. It’s a real and raw place where your emotions are protected by a sealed envelope and the eyes of the receiver.