Last August, I wrote a post about reconnecting with my pen pal. I will never forget the feeling I had when I actually found her name on the internet, after years and years of searching. I actually found her through classmates.com, which led me to LinkedIn.com. I despise both of these websites because you have to pay or jump through complicated hoops to connect with someone. When I found her though, I had the indescribable feeling that, at long last, I had finally found her.
She and I continue to send each other letters. Yesterday, she received a letter that I’d sent her and she sent me this text message, “Your handwriting feels like home.” I was so unbelievably touched by that sentence. It is how I have always felt when I got a letter from her.
As a child, I did not receive that many letters. The weekly or monthly letters from my pen pal were like a lifeline to a world outside of my own. They reminded me that someone I had never met, never talked to on the phone, cared about me enough to write me a letter. We exchanged photos, letters, stories, pieces of our selves we could not share with others. We were sisters by different mothers.
As a survivor of sexual abuse, I never really felt at home anywhere. There were places where I felt comfortable, but I never really felt like I fit anywhere. I didn’t fit at home. I didn’t fit at school. I didn’t fit at church, or camp, or college. I could get along with people, and I think people thought I looked like I belonged, but under the surface, I always felt ill at ease.
I never felt that way in my letters to my friend. She did not judge me or treat me differently because I was abused. She never acted like I was a misfit because I didn’t have fancy clothes or the right haircut. She was just my friend. She felt like home, in a world where I did not feel I had a home.
Even separated by a great number of miles, we were better together. We did not tell each other all of our secrets and have learned a lot about each other even since August, but things untold where not help back in fear of the other’s reaction. There were some things we just could not say. We could not risk being found out in a letter. Other people besides the recipient sometimes read letters and there would have been repercussions. Secrets needed to be kept, even from the one I felt closest to.
There are other people in my life with whom I have felt at home. I feel at home with Jeff, wherever we are. I’m not going to name other names for fear of leaving someone out. I think, unknowingly, I was always looking for home, or a sense of it. It was right there, with my pen pal, and even after we lost touch, the connection was never broken. We both wondered about each other and tried to find the other. One day, the internet finally shook lose and I found her; and found she had never forgotten me. In each other, we found a piece of home.
Hunter Patch Adams: “All of life is a coming home. Salesmen, secretaries, coal miners, beekeepers, sword swallowers, all of us. All the restless hearts of the world, all trying to find a way home. It’s hard to describe what I felt like then. Picture yourself walking for days in the driving snow; you don’t even know you’re walking in circles. The heaviness of your legs in the drifts, your shouts disappearing into the wind. How small you can feel, and how far away home can be. ”
Hunter Patch Adams: “Home. The dictionary defines it as both a place of origin and a goal or destination. And the storm? The storm was all in my mind. Or as the poet Dante put it: In the middle of the journey of my life, I found myself in a dark wood, for I had lost the right path. Eventually I would find the right path, but in the most unlikely place.”
~Patch Adams, 1998