2017 marks 20 years since my mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Every Monday, I’ll be posting tales from that time.
Throughout my LDS upbringing, I knew that missionaries could only be contacted by letter. No phone calls (except for Mother’s Day and Christmas), no meetups with traveling friends family unless approved by the mission president. Just letters. And 20 years ago, not everyone had email, so email was also forbidden…not that we had any internet access in the first place.
I had written my fair share of letters over time, as writing missionaries was nearly a competitive sport in the halls of BYU. Even after I left BYU, I still wrote friends on missions. For me, it was a small way I contributed to taking care of missionaries–to remind them that they were loved and worried about and prayed for.
Two weeks into my time at the MTC, I’d received letters from my parents and siblings, but none from my friends. This discouraged me, because even 20 years ago, FOMO existed. Who was engaged? What were classes like? What was going on in the world?!?!? But more than that, it was easy to feel forgotten. Easy to feel like I was replaceable.
I loved the letters from my family, but at that time, I’d been hoping for one letter–The Letter–from a boy I loved so much, I would’ve not gone on my mission had he asked me to stay instead. And 20 years ago today, I got that letter.
I wish I still had it.
This surprises me–I am a packrat extraordinaire (an organized packrat)–to discover I no longer have any letters he wrote my throughout my mission. For those who’ve read my book, maybe this isn’t surprising. It’s not like we ended up getting married.
No, here’s the surprising part: I still have every letter he wrote to me from his mission.
Anyway, the arrival of that letter was such a wave of relief that it got top billing in my journal that day.
I do love the immediacy of emails and texts that govern my current everyday communication. But I miss the intimacy of letters, of seeing someone’s handwriting, handwriting so familiar that at times it feels like the person is in the same room, even when he isn’t.
I should write more letters.