Postcards Can’t Die, They Kept Me Sane

I’m very sad to read that the postcard industry is dying, even if I am not truly surprised. In the digital age, rooting around for a stamp, writing a note by hand and then waiting 3 days for the recipient to find it between utility bills and pizza menus seems utterly illogical. It’s a shame though, because for a while, seeing my friends’ handwriting on postcards from around the country kept me sane.

When I applied for university, I made a simple error: I didn’t look at a map first. I’d heard of Exeter, knew it was around Devon, somewhere on the coast, and that was enough of a foundation (with the grade expectations) to apply. What I hadn’t realised was that I would be going to university a 4 hour train journey away from home.

I could see on Facebook that my friends were having some amazing parties, tackling fiendish essays and living in picturesque northern cities. They were at most an hour away from each other by train. Even if I could have managed the 4 hour journey back up, with funds low, it was never an option. Instead I had the privilege of seeing lots of parties I couldn’t get to.

When I went home for the first time to meet up again, I was heartbroken. I had clearly made a terrible choice. I was intensely homesick and while I was certainly going to parties, I hadn’t found my feet. I was trying to make friends, but hadn’t yet found anyone who could possibly match the ones I’d left in the North. By January, it was all I could do to force myself back on the train after Christmas having made a deal with myself to stick it out until Easter and hope for the best.

I can’t quite remember when I started to exchange postcards with my friends. I think I just found a few with pretty pictures of Exeter one day, wrote on the back of them and stuck them in the postbox. It was a revelation. My friends wrote back, some more frequently than others – one wrote about 3 a term for a while – telling me about their lives and hopes and ideas. Seeing their handwriting, their choice of University town photo or ‘hello sunshine!’ scrawled on the front and the doodles drawn around the address was all I needed. It showed they were still real.

Of course, I know now that we were all intensely homesick. Social media is a perfect illusion, amplifying our experiences and editing them down to stark singular emotions. A postcard can say a lot more. It offers a blank space to be filled with the thing that is most important right now, not the thing that will look best. It is unfiltered by the impersonal grey font, perfectly placed with a chosen picture.

Their handwriting became important to me as well. I knew instantly who a card was from by the formation of the letters or the inclusion of pictures or stickers. As time wore on, we kept a steady stream of correspondence that made me feel so much closer to them, even from what felt like the very end of England.

I’ve moved back to Manchester now and meet up with my friends regularly. I suppose that there’s no need for me to send postcards anymore but I have to say, I do miss it. And if the postcard really is dying, then I can’t help but feel a sense of loss for the closeness and friendship it helped me maintain across 250 miles. It kept me sane, seeing my friend’s handwriting, but I suppose that’s a dying art now too.

1 thought on “Postcards Can’t Die, They Kept Me Sane”

  1. Post cards are an integral part of any holiday. Even if you don’t send them to anyone, nor manage to mount them in the frames you never get round to buying, they are a fantastic reminder when you discover them a year later.
    Then of course there is the British tradition of the “saucy post card”. In an age of sometimes excessive political correctness they are a throw back to childhood holidays and walks down the front.
    We need to retain this method of keeping in touch and capturing memories. It is tangible and personal and can’t be replicated via Face tube!!

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