We used to wait

Now our lives are changing fast, now our lives are changing fast
Hope that something pure can last, hope that something pure can last
We used to wait, we used to wait, we used to wait
- Arcade Fire, We used to wait

For the last year I've been decluttering ruthlessly, sentimentality out the window in search of a simpler life.  I thought I had been through all of it until one weekend my mother presented me with two plastic tubs from the attic.  One full of books.  The other full of letters.  Piles and piles of letters.

When I sorted through the letters, it raised so many emotions. It is odd to know that I have lived on the cusp of a societal and technological revolution.  It hardly seems revolutionary now, but looking back I can see it.

I've had one foot in both worlds.  Growing up all I knew were letters and the telephone.  I didn't touch a browser until I used Netscape in college. Now, I have a blog, all sorts of social networking accounts and  communicate mostly via email.

When I was a teenager, cell phones were practically non-existent. People paid premium for long distance and the internet wasn't around either. So letters... letters were the way we communicated, words hand-written on paper, slipped in an envelope and mailed.  Friends I met at summer camp, pen pals, boys who might have liked me or who I might have liked.  We wrote letters.  Lots and lots of letters.  The letters in this photo are probably only a tenth of the letters I once had.  Just the sight of them fills me with bittersweet emotions, memories, childhood, gone.

I'm a huge fan of Arcade Fire, and their album The Suburbs (so pleased it won the Grammy)! It feels as if it perfectly captures my generation, looking back to a slower time that is long gone now.  Does every generation feel this way?

When I heard the story behind the song "We used to wait" - about the lead singer as a teen one summer having a long distance correspondence with a girl he had a crush on, waiting, desperately, eagerly for a letter to come from her - the feeling of resonance was intense.  I remember what it was like to wait for letters to arrive.  I don't know if the generation that follows me will ever know what that's like.

There's something about that emptiness, that slowness, that boredom of youth that I miss.  My life feels so full now - full of ideas, thoughts, goals, chores. Sometimes I want time, space for something wild and unexpected to emerge from my imagination.

Maybe it's time to go off the grid and live like savages for awhile.  :-)


  1. I correspond by letter with a couple of friends in Fort Worth and it's such a treat to find a handwritten note in the mailbox. An e-mail just isn't the same.

    Did you keep any of the letters?

  2. Oh I know just what you mean. I've been decluttering too, but I'm yet to go through all my sentimental stuff like personal letters ... I used to love writing and receiving them (and still do of course). But the world is a far different place now, things are always busy and there's never enough time any more.

    I miss some of that emptiness and boredom of youth too ... space is something to yearn for.

    PS. I love Arcade Fire too.

  3. I feel so caught between those two time periods too. I moved around a lot as a kid, so I kept in touch with old friends with letters, and I'd write to them on my Lisa Frank stationery and include a few stickers.

    Phone calls were rare, meant only for special occasions like birthdays. Even by my senior year of high school, when a lot of us kids had cell phones, a person's house was still the first number we tried. And my 2 years of photography (how I miss it!) were spent in the dark room in silence, staring at bins of liquid and waiting for an image to slowly appear.

    I miss the waiting sometimes. I think we value the things we wait for in a different way than those we get instantly. And I can't imagine stumbling across an old file of emails and getting the same reaction as I would from a box of handwritten letters.