A few of my students have found me on facebook, and I’ve accepted their friend requests. This allows me to follow them when they write on each other’s walls. What do they write on each other’s walls, you ask? They write quotes. The deep stuff from literature class. They quote movies; song lyrics, emotive, but not overly. Angsty? Sometimes. Depends on the artist.
They have facebook. My friends and I in high school? We had old-fashioned pen and paper. I’m not sure when it started specifically, I’m not sure who passed the first note to whom. Yeah, we had a few of the same classes and we even had lunch together, but something special, almost sacred was a part of reading a friend’s handwriting, either in perfectperfect cursive, or slightly erratic. Just slightly.
I had to make sure I finished my homework first. Reading my friends’ notes – letters, actually – and responding to them were my treat for after my homework. I was so much more disciplined back then.
It was typical to pull multiple pages from my backpack and unfold them carefully but quickly. To pore over the condensed writing on the college-ruled lines. Front and back. To start a response. To pause and reread the letter, inspiring as much as possible. The breathing and idea aspects of the word. To write late into the night.
Sometimes we also wrote on actual stationery. I’m still a big fan of nice writing paper. We turned note-writing-and-passing into a craft, an art.
What did we write to each other? Everything. Quotes and song lyrics and how angry we were at our parents or other friends and stories and musings and how scared we were of graduating and it was all brilliant. I don’t mean to boast, but that was our lives, what our pens could produce. It was pithy and imaginative and stimulating and self-indulgent. Above all, it was honest.
We sometimes ended our letters with drawings. About some inside joke or something hilarious that happened in one of our classes. I can see some of those funnies in my mind’s eye right now.
We exchanged letters a few times each week. The frequency varied, though, depending on what was happening. We must have started writing each other sometime junior year. We wrote over the summer and into our senior year. Then something odd happened and we had to take a break from each other for a while.
For the life of me I can’t remember what the hell happened. That’s probably for the best.
The writing continued into college. I even received a couple of mix tapes. As our lives started to take hold onto individual paths, as we fleshed out our identities, the letters tapered, faded.
The friendships, unsurprisingly, did not.
Right now as my facebook status I have some lyrics by Tori Amos. My old high school friends and I sometimes dive into deep, nostalgic dialogue. It’s fun. We occasionally write on each other’s walls. Nothing too profound, but on each other’s walls? It doesn’t have to be.
I hope my students find their pens and paper and let the ink flow. Maybe they already have. There’s nothing like it. Nothing so vulnerable or exploratory or exciting or self-realizing, especially when you’re writing to discover and grow and strengthen friends and loved ones. Nothing will take its place.
Blogging comes close, though.