An Open Letter to My Friends Who are Seniors

The title sounds disgustingly like an OdysseyOnline article, and I’m mad at myself for writing it. What happened to revamping your blog as a space for reviewing books/penning letters to your imaginary, future grandson named Aglet? Hmmm, Jo?

Well, I guess I started thinking about open letters and how popular they are, and from there it went to what would write in an open letter, if I ever wrote one, and so now I’m writing one. If you want the short (and musical) gist of what’s about to be written here, go listen to Jim Croce’s “I’ll Have to Say I Love You in a Song.”

I’ll even provide the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E6Vn17S37_Y

The truth is, I hate open letters, and, as much as I sometimes pretend I have no pet peeves, sites like the Odyssey bother me. I’ll click on some article written by some well-meaning sorority girl, and I (a). get mad at myself for having read it and (b). question the sanity of my generation. I question the sanity of me, because I’m the one who clicked on the article in the first place.

They draw me in, somehow, with their relevant topics that scream, hey–that happened to you too the other day, you thought this (or more often, actually: who does that? No one thinks that way:/) 

ugh. This was not supposed to be a rant against the Odyssey/cool trendy websites connected with social media. There’s some stuff on there, I suppose, that people write that is worthwhile, and I would be lying if I denied the appeal of open letters.

On some level, I guess I see the title “Open Letter to…” and instinct kicks in: I click. WHY?

American Heritage Dictionary’s definition looks like this:

open letter

n.

A published letter on a subject of general interest, addressed to a person but intended for general readership.
I think it may be in our nature to want to know what others really think, for one, and an open letter promises to tell us. Granted, it’s not speaking to us, really, but by identifying with the writer’s thoughts, we feel like we’ve expressed something we always yearned to just say, but couldn’t, for one reason or another. We feel in some way satisfied, because here the writer has finally, finally gotten past their fear and just said what she needed to say.
Except she hasn’t, really. Not really. All the writer has done is express her thoughts on a (usually personal) subject–which is a valid thing to do–and make it public. Sort of public.
Posting things to the internet is often a cop-out, a way of sort-of addressing things without having to resolve things in person. That’s what I’ve experienced, anyway. For some writers–say, someone addressing an abusive person–that’s the closest thing to resolution the writer is likely to get, and so in that case, fantastic. Write all the open letters you want.
I’m mainly talking to me, because I’m about to write a letter to dear friends, and I cannot for the life of me manage to tell them, in person, what I want them to know. I just want them to know it, magically. I could write them all individual notes. But that terrifies me. So here’s a solution: how about I write a so-called open letter, where I’m clearly talking to them, but that anyone might read. That way, I can have expressed myself without risking anything. If they read it, they read it, and if they don’t, then at least I tried.
Freshman year, I wrote this:
“I wish people saw the spontaneous part of me. Even though my purpose in coming [to the gazebo] is to be private about such actions, I wish someone I loved would stumble upon me dancing barefoot among the spring beauties. If they found me like that, it would solve my problems of being too shy to dance in their presence. How do you tell someone about a deep aspect to yourself, except by showing them? Simply saying ‘I love dancing barefoot in springtime’ doesn’t effect the powerful joy that inspires the action. Some things shouldn’t be uttered too much—actually saying the sentence makes it feel trite, forced—like you’re trying to impress.”

It rings just as true to me now as it felt then.

So here goes.

Hey (friends),

I love you so much that I can’t tell you I love you. I don’t know how to tell you, cause you’ll think I’m weird and I don’t know—you probably won’t, but it’s in my head that you’ll stop being my friend. So that’s why I don’t say the words, because somehow “Love ya” is easy, but it doesn’t mean “I love you.” So I don’t say either. It’s kind of pathetic. 

I miss you all already. You’re all going off on new, grand adventures and I want to see what happens. I want to see you do incredible things, and not-so-incredible things, and some downright mundane things. I want to be part of everyone’s adventures. I’ve got adventure-envy. 

Please don’t leave me.

Or, if you have to go, which I know you do, make it worth your while. Make your life worth the while, won’t you? Follow God, and love people, and be fearless and intrepid and humble and please love very deeply. And Philippians 2–all of that. Just know that I’m thankful God’s let me be part of your life for a while.

I’m so glad I know you.

There’s my open letter, and now that it’s there, I think how much better it would have been to just say what I wanted to say, in person, to the actual person. What are we so afraid of?

I encourage you, if you’re like me and you’re constantly storing up things (especially kind things) that you wish you could just tell people–I encourage you to consider just telling them. Don’t be afraid to encourage people. Don’t be ashamed of loving people. Love people.

Also, leave comments! If you think I’m too hard on OdysseyOnline or completely wrong about open letters or really whatever, tell me:) As always, thanks for reading.

 

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4 thoughts on “An Open Letter to My Friends Who are Seniors

  1. “…I (a). get mad at myself for having read it and (b). question the sanity of my generation. I question the sanity of me, because I’m the one who clicked on the article in the first place.” <— Thank you for summing up how I feel whenever I read those darn things. And also for writing lovely things. You're awesome, and I'm so glad I know you! 🙂
    -Lauren

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Joanna, reading this made my eyes water. I hope you understand how much that means, because it takes a lot to make that happen. I understand how you feel, it is hard to express things to people in person, but I’ve found that when you do it once it gets easier with each passing time. I encourage you, not to hold in your feelings, but to perhaps share them with others. However, don’t let it become meaningless. Perhaps that’s another reason why it’s hard to express: once you do say it, if you were to say it again would it still mean as much? I thank God for putting such a thoughtful and wise person in my life like you. You’re a great friend!
    -Zach F.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Zach. I think you’re right about one reason people find it hard to say the really important things (or what I see as the important things). They can easily become just another thing to say without putting much thought into it. You don’t have to gush about people constantly to encourage them, but I hate that sometimes it’s fear that keeps people from lifting others up. Thanks for commenting!

      Like

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