There’s a level of intimacy associated with letter writing that is lacking in text messages and, heaven forbid, Twitter Direct Messages. I include email as a mode of letter writing, differentiating this method of communication from its digital cousins due to its ability to convey care and thought and connection, similar to putting pen to paper. That said, email will never quite measure up to a handwritten letter, owing to the latter’s ability to express personality through pen or pencil strokes, and its permanence, especially in the age of Inbox Zero. My desire to hang onto correspondence may explain why I have nearly 30,000 messages in my inbox, dating back to my start at Middlebury in the summer of 2002.
Don’t @ me, as the kids say. (See, how ephemeral!)
When I receive a letter here in the editorial offices of the magazine—whether it’s a personal note or a letter for publication, one delivered by the U.S. Postal Service or as a ping in my inbox—I still get a jolt of excitement, the same feeling I had as a kid when I received a letter at camp from my parents.
Here is someone wanting to share their thoughts with me—or with 50,000 people. I value these letters as personal exchanges, but I don’t take them personally, even those that are the most critical of this publication or of my work as an editor. I don’t take them personally because any healthy publication should strive for, rather than stifle, opposing views. And by taking the time and effort to write (and in some cases, affix postage and drop an envelope in the mailbox), you are signaling to me how much you care about what we publish (or don’t publish) in the magazine and, by extension, about Middlebury itself.
I should add that occasionally an envelope reveals a surprise—like the time a reader mailed us the cover of an issue, ripped from its binding, with a bright yellow Post-it note attached, reading, “This is Bullshit.” I didn’t take that one personally, either, but come on . . .
I write about this topic here and now to acknowledge how grateful I am for your attention and your voices. We wouldn’t be the publication we are without them. So please consider this a letter from me to you.
I eagerly await your reply.