By Kelly Lin, 17, Wilson HS (Hacienda Heights)
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Kelly liked learning about people's personalities through their handwriting.

I started writing letters when I was really young. I have saved almost every letter I’ve ever received. They are piling up in a box and right now I have 271. The earliest letter says June 21, 2003. That was the summer before fourth grade. Rochelle, an older girl I knew in Chinese language school, handed me my first hand-written letter while walking in the hall one day.

She wrote about how much she liked Harry Potter and as soon as I had a break I wrote back. Even though we talked every day about what happened in Chinese language school, we passed each other three letters a week. After a few weeks, we started writing about more serious topics, like the death of her mom. That made me feel more like her sister than just her friend. I felt like I could tell her anything (or at least write anything to her in a letter). I knew I didn’t want to throw these letters away so, I saved them.

Getting Rochelle’s letters made me feel important, so I started writing to other friends. My best friend, Chelsea, who went to another school, replied and soon we were mailing letters every few days. We stuffed each other’s envelopes with pop star posters from magazines like J-14 and postcards from the places we went to. I created a special signature with fancy cursive letters. 

After three years of letter writing, Chelsea transferred to my middle school and we stopped sending letters. Then for Christmas in seventh grade, I gave one of my best friends, Leina, a spiral notebook. She suggested that we use it to write to each other. I loved that I’d get to write letters again and that they’d be preserved in this notebook.

We each kept the journal for a day and would give it back the next time we saw each other. The first time the boy I had a crush on talked to me, I couldn’t wait to write to Leina. Sharing that out loud would have ruined something so special by making it sound as meaningless as talking about clothes or gossiping about teachers.

All through seventh grade we encouraged each other through our boy problems, friend problems and school problems. While some of my close friends would tell me something cliché like, “It’s OK. It’ll be over soon,” Leina would write something more honest and thoughtful. “What they did was kind of mean. But, you’re stronger than that! Always follow what your heart wants.” 

At the end of the school year, she moved to Japan and I was devastated. One day about a month after she left, I saw a colorful envelope in the mail bin on our kitchen counter. Then I noticed my name written in Leina’s familiar handwriting. I was so overjoyed that instead of using a letter opener, I ripped open the envelope. “Since we haven’t really spoken in a long time, I feel this gap, but I guess we can start filling it in little by little? There’s so much to say I’m not sure where to start!” Reading her letter made me nostalgic for our journal-exchanging days and it reassured me that our friendship didn’t have to change.

I went to the backyard and wrote a long reply to Leina. She had asked lot of questions, like “How is everyone at school?” and “What are the latest trends in the US lately?” I sent my letter the next day. 

Pretty soon, Leina’s letters were quickly being added to my letter collection. We wrote to each other almost every week. “After I came to Japan, I’ve been attached to dancing,” she wrote. “My friends and I come up with our own dance routines and perform it.” 

Emailing just wasn’t the same

By sophomore year, Leina and I were both swamped with extracurricular activities and homework so we stopped writing letters. We would email or Facebook message each other only once every few months. We just said hi and asked how the other was doing. “Fine” was usually our answer. Writing a letter required thinking about what you wanted to say, but communicating electronically took just a few seconds to type a reply.

I missed the times when I wrote until my hand cramped or when the page was filled with white out. Eventually we lost touch. I missed talking to her.

Around April last year, we got a chance to chat online. It was the first time we’d talked in about a year and when I had to go, she said, “We should write letters again!” 

A month later, when I saw a pink-heart-decorated envelope in the bin, I jumped and screamed for joy. She began the letter with: “Things have been pretty crazy around here with all the shaking from the earthquake.” When I had heard about the deadly earthquake and tsunami in Japan, I worried about her family, but in the letter she said she wasn’t in the country when it happened. 

After quickly reading Leina’s letter on my way to my room, I picked out my white and pink stationery, and started writing. The magic of letter writing came back. Because I hadn’t written a letter in about a year and a half, my hands cramped. But that didn’t stop me from replying with four pages in less than an hour. I told her about my busy junior year and how stressed me and my classmates were about college applications.

When I read old letters, they are priceless. I laugh at the times me and my best friend from middle school, Chelsea, wrote in such a childish manner. We would tell each other things like “My dad says we might go to the beach how nice plus fun” or “What fruit do you like?” In a few years, what I am writing now may also seem silly. But that’s what makes rereading them so fun—they show me how much I have grown, and allow me to relive those special moments.