Tag Archives: Letter

Unpublished

I do a lot of writing that no one ever sees. I write a lot of letters. Dear you. From me. Many of these letters remain in my journal but I also have a Google Doc titled, “What Not to Say”. The letters in that document are usually a little more formal, a little more polished. Typing allows me to edit whereas writing by hand sometimes leads me down a rabbit hole to places I didn’t want to visit. But the letters that I actually send or pass on are always handwritten. If it’s important enough to say and give to you, I don’t want to make changes. Sealed in an envelope are my fresh, unedited thoughts. Think about them, if you’d like. They’re for you.

Years ago, when I packed my childhood memories into boxes, I sifted through envelopes full of letters and postcards. I read them, smiling through hasty blinks to keep back tears, reciting lines I’d memorized but forgotten I knew. I smiled at the way that person wrote “and”, the way that person signed their name, the way I still know the handwriting of my family and friends from forever ago.

I wonder which of my letters remain with their recipients.

I wonder about the letters I’ve written that I’ll never send, that no one will ever see. I keep these letters so I have them, but what’s in them worth saving? And if I won’t send them, why save them after all? Is it to have a record of what’s in my heart, a record of what I really wanted you to know? Is it just to give me something to do when I’m filled to the brim with sensations and emotions that I can’t express any other way?

Sometimes I secretly dedicate blog posts to specific people. Sometimes I write knowing a certain someone will see it or hoping it’ll somehow reach them. Once upon a time, a friend got in touch with me months after I’d published something for her. Another time, a friend told me I’d put into words what he couldn’t quite express about our interaction; everything was a little less weird after that.

And then there are the posts that I write but don’t publish, the ones that remain partially edited, often with another friend’s comments in the margins. Sometimes I realize I’m not clearly communicating what I want to say because I don’t quite understand it, either. Sometimes the ideas that come through in these unpublished posts are raw, uncomfortable, and complicated in ways that I’m not quite ready to engage with, at least not in public. And sometimes I’m satisfied having private conversations about my writing and don’t feel the need to take the discussion any further.

I was in elementary school when I started keeping a journal. I was in grade 10 when my English teacher required us to write every week. I was in my early twenties when I started writing every day, and slightly older when I started asking for feedback. Writing is a journey, a process; it’s a way of pausing, slowing down, and finding quiet in my mind and in my surroundings.

Sometimes I write for you, but more often, I write for me. I write because I think better on paper; writing requires me to make sense of my thoughts and ideas, to unravel what seems to be a whole into its discrete parts, to create concepts out of fragments. I write because the act of holding a pen to paper and watching the letters take shape is mesmerizing, soothing. I find myself distracted watching the ink flow and my breathing comes more easily than before.

That’s why I don’t always send the letters. Writing them is often enough.

Sharing my writing is taking a deep breath every time and throwing caution to the winds. Some pieces hit a wall and crash back down to Earth. Others soar, prompting reactions that delight and surprise. And still others come back to me riddled with wounds, criticized and critiqued in ways both constructive and spiteful.

Writing is thinking on paper and sometimes it’s best to keep that to myself. But writing starts conversations and that’s why I share it. Challenging conversations don’t bother me; fraught silence does.

Dear you. From me.

Thank You Note

Eleven months ago, I wrote a note to a crying stranger in a café, assuring her that her troubles would pass and that she was not alone. You can do it, I wrote.

A week later, I needed a kind stranger to write me a note, promising me that I was not alone, that my troubles would pass, that everything would be okay.

More than a few kind strangers entered my life this year; they grew into kind friends.

I’m at my parents’ house in Rochester, enveloped by a quiet joy, a delight at having my family all together. There’s a warm bubble somewhere just above my heart, noticeable despite a slight constriction in my chest. In a few days, I’ll be getting on a plane with my two checked bags, a carry-on bag, and a backpack to move back to Singapore, a place that I love and still call home. I’m not sleeping well, which must mean I’m nervous.

And just like last time and the time before, it’s bittersweet. I think it always will be.

Before I go, I want to thank everyone who has supported me through a year fraught with personal challenges. With their support, I learned a lot about myself, confronted some demons I didn’t know I had, and gained a sense of what I want and what I’m looking for.

So, I want to say thank you.

To the friend who sat with me for hours to find an apartment, figure out the next steps, and forced me to literally get up, get dressed, and get out;

to the friend who let me be sad and supplied me with wine and cheese to help the sadness go down a little easier;

to the friend who held me when “New York City” by The Chainsmokers filled the LA Convention Center;

to everyone who told me to talk to a therapist and to my roommate who gave me the last push in that direction;

to the therapist who let me talk and assured me that that I’m doing okay at this thing called life and that I’m allowed to listen to myself;

to the friends who called on Skype and over the phone to remind me that they may be far away, but they’re here;

to the colleagues who put a smile on my face every single day, made me look forward to coming to work, became my friends and confidants, taught me about resilience and overcoming adversity, and gave me the safest, most nurturing place to be when I had nowhere else to go;

to the students whose questions pushed me to rethink schools, education, and my plans for the future;

to the UES carpool squad who became my reason for getting out of bed nearly every day for the first few months of school and for friendship, political solidarity, and Starbucks Fridays;

to my sister and brother who checked in on me, came to visit, and reminded me that my “built-in friends” are really never going anywhere;

to my parents who showed me the world;

thank you.

Thank you all so much.

Love,

Rebecca Michelle

 

An Open Letter to New York City: Part II

Dear New York City,

When it’s a sunny day and I’m sitting outside in a park, it’s hard to hate you. And the truth is, it’s hard to hate you at all now that I’ve been here long enough. You’ve taken me in and somehow made yourself a home in me. You’re in the feet that have traversed your streets, the legs that have climbed the stairs of your subways, the chest that has felt the vibrations of your buses, trains, and street music, the hands that have opened countless doors, the eyes that have seen people from all walks of life, and the mind that decided to give you a chance.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t know that we’re best friends. Some days, I think you’re shunning me altogether. Those are the days where I can’t find what I’m looking for, when I take a wrong turn, when I miss the early Metro-North train, when I have to go to three grocery stores and the streetcar man to find one item. Those are the days when no one looks up, no one smiles, and no one seems to care whether the people around them are there at all.

Those are the days, New York, when you tire me.

But more often, now that I’ve met you where you are, more often you’re a delight. Your sights, sounds, smells, and tastes tickle the senses in ways both good and bad but always alive. You’re demanding because your offers never end. There’s culture, food, and experience on literally every block. You’re always awake, always ready, always open to take in the next weary traveler. But you’re tough, too. You don’t give in without a fight and I’ve certainly never seen you give up.

New York people have stories and you feature prominently in all of them. New York people are here for a reason, hustling for a reason, and all attribute their actions to the energy, drive, and culture that you’ve cultivated. You create spaces for people who don’t have patience for you, waiting just outside until they peek out. For them, for me, you have quiet little cafés, parks and river paths, libraries and independent bookstores. You reserve places for the people who are afraid to find them on their own. And when they’re ready, you open the doors to everything else that is out there, the glitz, glamour, grittiness, and attitude of the greatest city in the world.

And of course, you have community neighborhoods that all feel different. That’s my favorite part about you – you take all these people, you watch as they split themselves into group after group, and you let them develop into a patchwork of lives, a quilt of everything that makes you who you are. You cross rivers. You encompass islands. You’re connected by bridges and tunnels, by the people who cross them and by the people whose lives are crossed by them. You’re a story of who we are and how we got here. You’re a story of the people who flock to you and will continue to come.

Without a doubt, you’ve changed me. You’ve made me more curious about people but less likely to voice my curiosity. You’ve made me warier but more willing to test the waters. Because of you, I’m more confident but much quieter. I’ve asked more questions, read more books, found more answers, wiped away more tears. You’ve forced me to embody resilience, to learn from experience, to solve problems I never expected to have. You’ve taught me to ask for help and to accept it when it comes. You showed me people who struggle and promised a path forward. I followed you and found it.

Once upon a time, you scared me a little. You were too big, too loud, and too fast. You were full of people who knew you and loved you. I didn’t know you. I didn’t love you. Some days, all I want is to love you. Other days, I catch myself doing just that. I’m ready to say goodbye to you only because you’ve left me wanting more. You’re not going anywhere and I’m sure I’ll be back one day. There’s no place like you, New York City, and I’m grateful I’ve had a chance to call you my home. See you soon.

Love always,

Rebecca Michelle

IMG_0610

PS You can read my first open letter to NYC here.