In Which They Write To Us From Someplace

This is the second in a series. You can find the first part here.

photo by jun hongh

The Other Inbox


The act of writing a letter, or even receiving one in the mail, has become almost obsolete in an age where technology has taken over the majority of our precious time. These last years I found myself being drained from the lack of romanticism in receiving empty e-mails and text messages. I wanted something to hold onto.

In 2011 I started exchanging handwritten letters with strangers online, incubating long distance friendships. The intimate exchange of handwritten letters lets me connect authentically and compassionately with others on a level to which we are no longer accustomed.

Dear M,

I am writing you this letter with both fear and excitement. The pressure to be witty is at its strongest rigor, but yet it’s difficult for me to contain my excitement?!

Currently: sitting with my cat and eating my earthquake emergency supply food in case you wanted to check up on my well-being. It’s near five in the morning and, as usual, I can’t sleep. I’m sure by now you’re awake! Running and being productive as I sit on my ass.



Dear Mama Mia,

I’m sorry I didn’t get to see you over break, I think I need to accept the fact that I live in CT now. I’ve got roots here and it’s hard to come home. Regardless, I hope you had a wonderful Christmas with your family!! I miss you soooo much!

I’m going through a really hard time right now with Adam 😦 Right before Christmas I felt weird about us and felt like we were changing. I hate saying it, but I felt like the more desired one at the beginning and use to try so hard, now I feel like the one who shows all this affection and am constantly waiting for applause. I didn’t want to ruin the holidays, but I finally couldn’t hold it in any longer. We discussed everything and I felt better, but I still felt like he didn’t respect why I was upset.

Recently we got in a little spat that started over a stupid comment, this led to a 5 a.m. argument, which we finally resolved. However, once again there wasn’t really a compromise on his part, just an agree to disagree.

The following day however he asked me via text how I felt about our “discussion.” I basically summed up my feelings about everything.

I’ve been too scared to say it, but I really love him. You know how long it takes me to be comfortable with a guy and I’m really scared. I do want us to work out, but at the same time maybe are are too different and want different things.

I know you just broke up with your boyfriend, and even though it wasn’t your first I know it was really hard for you. But if you could give me some advice I could really use it. I’m scared, and I love him and I’m afraid he doesn’t love me as much I love him. But it’s not that I’m scared to be alone. I’m afraid I won’t find someone who will wait for me to be comfortable with them before starting a relationship. I’m just scared.

Anyways I really hope you are well and feeling better. Good luck next semester! Miss you tons!!!




I got your letter a few days ago, but its taken me some time to respond. I don’t know if it’s been a lot going on or I simply can’t motivate myself or what, but I’m taking some time to write.

This Newtown shooting is horrendous. I can’t imagine the impact it has had on the community. Those poor kids who went through something like that at such a young age. And here comes the old gun control debate. I hope that this time around something will change. I think the bigger issue at hand is mental health, and also, we as a culture should reevaluate our morals and what’s important. There’s a lot of readjustment that needs to be done. With that, I’ll stop writing about it. It’s too heavy of a topic for a grey morning.

I’ve done a lot of Christmas shopping. I usually don’t, but this year I’ve done quite a bit. It’s unfortunate, but shopping for gifts gives me this weird sense of guilt and anxiety. I always feel that fundamentally, our consumer culture has it wrong, but here I am looking for deals on a pair of leather gloves my mom wants. Ugh. I just want it to be over.

Speaking of which, winter is another thing I’d like to be over (even though it hasn’t even started yet). I miss the warmth, green trees, birds, grass, sunshine. I’m really not made for New England.

My two friends from high school and I are going to hike Mt. Monadnock on Friday, “la fin du monde.” I haven’t seen them in a while, and also, hiking is just a good time.

I’m glad to hear that you’ve got an internship out in California. I hope that it goes well for you, and who knows, maybe that will be your foot in the door to a new life out on the West Coast!

I’ll close now. I’m doing my work laundry before my shift today at 11 a.m. Hooray to serving Brown professors lunch!

Your friend,


Dear Mia,

I loved getting your letter in the mail…much more exciting than bills! I used to have many pen pals in college before the internet and email hit the scene.

Where are you from? I don’t think we ever met. Did you ever meet my husband? He has been teaching middle school art for over 15 years, so he knows a lot of people…and many are all grown up now! It makes me feel old 🙂

My kids loved Halloween this year. R is 5 and went as Frankenstein and M is 3 and dressed as a princess doctor. T and I ate a lot of their candy and I suspect we won’t be getting away with that for too many more years before the kiddos notice. Did you do anything fun and exciting for Halloween?

How is the new stove? I enjoy baking. As a matter of fact I am making a spaghetti pie for dinner. Did you make anything special yet? I get most of my recipes from Pinterest. I like to cook whatever my kids will eat, which is not too much right now. R is a pretty good eater, but M is so picky.

What are your plans after graduation? I have my undergraduate in Communications & Performance and Elementary Education. I also have my Master’s in Instructional Technology. I taught for a while, but now I spend time with my two kids and managing our household. I plan to return to work when the kids are a lot older. A job will always be there, but my kids won’t be this young forever!

I am so happy you wrote and had so much fun writing you back. Although, I think my hand is cramping up…I haven’t done this much handwriting since high school! I am happy to do my part to help the post offices. Have a great day!



Mia Nguyen is the features editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Rhode Island. You can find her website here.

Photographs by Jun Hongh.

“A Fistful of Flowers” – Zun Alak (mp3)

“Sunshine Dust” – Zun Alak (mp3)

photo by mia nguyen

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