Saturday, 16 February 2013

The Coming and Going of Snail Mail Friends

As an avid snail mailer I have to deal with the fact that not all pen-friendships last forever. There’s a countless number of reasons why even long-standing contacts break off sometimes. Essentially it’s because people and conditions change. Often it’s just for a permanent lack of time on the one side or the other. Occasionally it’s for more serious reasons like illness, exhaustion or the necessity of cutting costs. Sometimes the initial enthusiasm has waned and the snail mail friends drifted too much apart. In that case it’s likely that expectations have been too great from the beginning.

I’ve been lucky to find many very loyal snail mail friends, and yet, it happens every once in a while that someone bids me farewell. It’s always sad. Despite all I accept the step and try to understand it. In the end you can’t force anybody to be your friend for a whole life and to keep on writing letters, can you? When I lose a pen-friend, I rarely go out looking for a new one. You can replace soulless objects, but it doesn’t work with the living and breathing… at least not for me. If I browse the internet for one or two new snail mail friends, I do it because I feel that it’s time.

To my experience the best way to choose a new pen-friend is to be picky at first and then to let go all expectations. Some people are sending out heaps of empty messages to potential snail mail partners expecting to be received with open arms. Of course, they are disappointed by the meagre response. As for me, I often don’t even reply to those ‘Hi, I’m Jane Doe. Will you be my snail mail friend?’ requests. The other extreme are those who bombard you with very precise demands like ‘Would you please answer this questionnaire first to see if we match’. I reject those, too.

My strategy is to thoroughly read the online profiles of people looking for snail mail friends on www.interpals.net (my favourite site). In general, this gives me an idea of the person behind the lines and it allows me to see if we have enough in common to make a fruitful snail mail exchange somewhat probable. For the rest, I let my intuition guide me since it proved reliable in the past. Everything else remains to be seen with an open mind. Expectations would only ruin the surprise and they could rob me of the pleasure of getting to know someone who is completely different from other people I know.

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