I’m what some may call a traditionalist, or what others might call pretentious. I have an ever growing vinyl collection stacked-up by my bedside, I probably won’t upload a picture to my Instagram unless it has been taken on film, and I have even gone so far as to invest in a typewriter.
Maybe I’m a romantic, or maybe my parents have just over-indulged me, but I can’t help but keep one foot in the 20th century when it comes to my series of ostentatious hobbies.
Along with the many other upsides to quarantine – like becoming an expert at popping anything that even resembles a spot or discovering a lot more people can run 5km than I had previously thought (thank you so much for that one, Instagram) – self-isolation has allowed me to further indulge my pretension to a vexatious degree. Having exhausted most other mediums with my vintage Canon AE-1 and dusty collection of records, I had few roads left to travel down when it came to expanding my Trinity clout.
There was some TikTok-inspired clothing DIY, but having underestimated how long I would be home for at the beginning of quarantine, my meagre stack of garments couldn’t really take the chance at being hacked up and bleached. There was always music production, something apparently everyone can do, but times hadn’t quite hit that level of desperation just yet. I could invest my time in a classic novel like War and Peace, but with no one around to impress as I coyly take it from my tote bag at opportune moments, there really would have been no point to it at all.
Having exhausted my vintage Canon AE-1 and collection of records, I had few roads left to travel down when it came to expanding my Trinity clout
So the happy medium arose – letter-writing.
Letter-writing was a medium of self-expression that I had not ventured into since I conducted a brief penpal exchange with a friend from summer camp at the tender age of eight.
Somewhat wary due to my past trauma of receiving no reply, I saw the exchange of letters like a game of tennis or Kids Club ping-pong – there’s only a point if you get something back. By entrusting someone with a letter, you are trusting them to not leave you sadly staring at the postman from a government-approved distance every morning – a greater demand than most would realise.
But boredom can only go on for so long, so when it reaches its peak, a handwritten letter in the post feels like all your birthdays and Christmases and secondary school non-uniform days all come together at once. Letter-writing has become the cornerstone of my self-quarantined youth. What started as a simple correspondence between one friend and I has multiplied into a series of six or seven different to and fros with various different people, with each exchange of letters bearing a different significance.
In some letters, the trivial pursuits of daily life in isolation are the focal points, with seemingly noteworthy moments like walking past a man in a funny hat or thinking your cat might have said a human word dominating its themes. With others, letters have been dedicated entirely to telling a story from childhood or discussing prominent moments in your life with that person, all with the added charm of being hand-written.
By entrusting someone with a letter, you are trusting them to not leave you staring at the postman from a government-approved distance every morning
What a letter grants you that an email or text does not is the simple pleasure of time. By the time that your recipient has your letter in their hands, the content of it has slipped from your mind slightly, and it suddenly doesn’t seem as daunting that they may be reading your deepest inner thoughts on life, death and the stylistic choices of your neighbours.
In the same way, waiting for a response to something you feel has been heartfelt and introspective means every morning has a possibility of being an exciting one – an opportunity not so easily granted during this period of time.
Letter-writing, like many of my other highfalutin fascinations, will probably never become common social practice again, but it has definitely made a comeback in some small way. With families and friends across the country being forced to keep apart, letters and postcards grant a moment of familiarity and a feeling that maybe,we’re not so far away after all. From the unique stamp to the scrawled handwritten address on the front to the content inside, a letter is the most personal correspondence there is.
When this pandemic has become nothing but a memory, I imagine the first thing I will want to do is write about it – in a personalised, hand-written letter
When we begin to see a return to normality, there are a lot of things I will gladly let go of. I won’t long for nightly video chats or pasta four days a week for dinner or bottles and bottles of hand sanitiser. I won’t look back fondly on queuing in supermarkets or avoiding strangers or soul-crushing 10-minute-long YouTube workouts.
I imagine life outside quarantine will bring a return to doing whatever you want whenever you want to – because we have all come to realise what it’s like to be stripped of the privilege of choice.
Even still, when all the excitement has died down, and this has become nothing but a blurred memory, I imagine the first thing I will want to do is write about it – in a personalised, hand-written letter.