9:59pm Earlier today I made a vlog about the collection of letters I have from about twenty years ago and then there are postcards & other bits of snail mail as well. I was basically asking, "What should I do with these letters and stuff?" and I've been thinking about it some more since I made the video. See, there was this one time I threw out a box of notes one trades back & forth in school and if I could manage to let go of those treasures - those notes would have been neat to look back on now! - surely I could let go of my old pen pal correspondence, right? It's not that easy though. Or, it is, but once you've burned the letters, they're gone, you know?
Then the thought came to me that I could take photos of the letters and then burn them in a release ceremony or whatever. I could let them go but take some artistic photos of them or fragment pieces? There is one collection within the collection of prolific letters sent to me by someone I knew in high school and into my '20s who I think the letters should be returned to but I haven't done so because one day they might be very enjoyable and comforting to read? I don't know? But what if I did let them all go?
None of the words are mine but they were letters written to me. What do I do with them? After I die, they are certainly to be discarded - or worse. Do I make a decision now of what to do with them or wait it out another 20 years? (Some of these letters go back to the early '90s or so.) I have books on my shelves of printed and published notes, letters, journals, diaries & postcards. Clearly there is an interest in this sort of thing. Do I keep these to create my own curated collection, mining fragments from the letters people sent to me - and do I wait until I am (hopefully) really old to do this?
Do I do the "burning of the letters" that I did with my first love's beautifully handwritten letters (and most all of the photographs from that time period) to not only set me free but them too, in some way? Only, now, with the time and distance between how I felt then and how I feel now, I would look at those letters far differently and possibly would have enjoyed reading them in my later years - to have read that someone was so fiercely romantic (and ridiculous) when I was so much more naive and trusting. At the same time, nothing they wrote can be used against them nor can they be remembered as they were to me, and their own words written to me can no longer fix them in a certain time period of their lives, for them to be known as they were years before - because they are ashes in the wind, literally.
Should I give the same gift to the rest of the people whose letters I kept over the years?
Or is it more respectful to take care of them as I would my own paper journals while I am alive?
What is the difference between saving letters and collecting postcards or the birthday / Christmas / all the other kinds of cards we once used to exchange so frequently through snail mail? Should I learn how to be artsy and make something new of them all, reuse them for some project, curate them for some exhibit - what do I do with it all? It's not an unmanageable collection although I should do some tidying up and better keep them if I don't want them to crumble as the years go by, but other than that, it's not like I have piles of papers that I'm wading through in any of the rooms.
Still, what do I do? From an ethical point of view, is there something I should do? Or do I wait it out until I'm much older and then make some kind of art exhibit that includes my own paper diaries & journals, various photos from over the years, letters & postcards & so forth - some multi-interactive display with vlogs & voice posts that show the many ways one can document their life or have their lives documented. The one sided conversation (letters received) v.s. the way I document my own life. Would this be of any interest someday in the future when we're all digitally exhausted and nostalgic?
I'm curious about what other people have done with their old letters & such if they had (or still have) pen pals. I know that I still have letters I've not replied to but I've felt quite unorganized and uninspired since I lost the use of an actual old writing desk. I'd love to have a space for that sort of thing again. It's not a good excuse to not have written wonderful people back but it is part of why there are a couple of cloth bags in the closet that hold all of my pen pal supplies, unused postcards, what used to be my "backlog of snail mail" that I kept in view that many years ago I would give more time and attention to (and thereby also to those people) and it's a shame that I have lost that groove. I wonder who will be there when I finally write back, if I'm able.
I have no children to pass this stuff on to but of course I've had to think of what happens after I'm gone when it comes to my collection of paper journals & diaries. But what do I do about all the stuff on paper I didn't write? What does anyone do? Leave it for their descendants to sort through and discard? Or, if you're one to have become a published author in your lifetime, perhaps your papers are plundered for profit or sent to historical-minded places? I don't know. I just don't know.
On an unrelated note, I realize that my room book room looks quite cluttered. I've been thinking of doing another pruning / purge of books and things soon. Shuffle some things around. I don't know. Just make it less cluttered. Husband doesn't want me to get rid of anything and says that when we have a house, much of this will be spread out more, as in, either in a larger room or throughout the house (perhaps a few shelves near some comfy chairs in a sitting room and other shelves in a writing space / book room for myself?) and so I get that. But I'm also a fan of going through what one has and letting go of things from time to time. I've done this with so many things over the years that it isn't that difficult for me.
But those files of old letters, they really have me thinking, wondering and worrying a little. I'm not getting rid of any of them anytime soon but I'm wondering what I should do - someday. Should I get to decide?