I remember in elementary school having a pen-pal. We did it through school, where our entire class was matched up with another class somewhere on the other side of the country, and we’d write letters back and forth. What did we have to talk about in second grade? Our teachers? What fun things we did on the weekend? Were we even old enough to do the “obligatory talk about the weather?” I don’t really remember.
For a while, I kept these letters from my pen-pal. I looked back at them once when I was going through my old school stuff and I had to laugh. I laughed at the childish writing, and the spelling mistakes, and the content. Right now, I don’t even remember the content. I just remember the moment of me sitting in my mom’s basement and reminiscing over this particular relationship.
Today I guess I do the same thing. I talk with a friend on the other side of the country… A friend whom I’ve never met in real life. What do we talk about? Well, I can assure you that we don’t talk about the weather (not as an important point, by any means), and we rarely talk about what we did on the weekend. But, we talk about our deepest thoughts, our insecurities, and our greatest fears. And, we offer each other strength and encouragement when we lack it from anywhere else. The content of our chatter is not the only major difference in this “pen-pal” idea, but also the medium in which it happens.
Technology is interesting that way. 2o years ago, post-mail was the standard way to communicate. Then came email, and that just seemed immensely faster. And then came texting… I can now talk instantly (and with no cost) to someone 1500Km away without delay… at any time of the day or night. I get the message where it needs to go and I get the reply that I count on so desperately (and dependably).
And, you’d wonder why there is so much importance in this one relationship. A relationship that formed over invisible lines of communication, with no real contact aside from that of technology. But maybe it’s that lack of physical connection that really makes it special. To find someone in the blogsphere based solely on networks of similar interests, experience, and ideals. And then to find comfort and reassurance in the written word, because their language matches your language. And then to seek out the identity and the person behind the words. And then to realize that you’re really so similar when it comes down to the stuff that really matters… the stuff that really defines who you are.
That kind of connection, I think, takes years in the “real world.”
And yet, in just weeks you let yourself become vulnerable and realize that you have been caught by the strength of that other person – the strength they didn’t even know they had. And that connection – that strength – is nothing more than a grey bubble that pops up on a phone in the palm of your hand. It’s ethereal, in a way: It’s not tangible yet it carries a heavy weight that matters. It’s texting, but it’s more than that, too.
Maybe I sound crazy. Maybe it’s odd to feel so much connection to a person you’ve never met. But, I really don’t think so. There’s a level of safety that comes with knowing someone from the inside out. You meet them through their thoughts and experiences and you know them more than you would from a handshake or a smile.
All I know is that my 1500Km friend shares my same innermost thoughts and fears and insecurities. She gets me. She *knows* what I feel, and I *know* she knows it too. We know because we are, in many respects, the same.