Project Letters

In October, a friend asked me what I'd planned to do for my 50th birthday. At that point, I hadn't given it a ton of thought but I did know this: I wanted to somehow show my gratitude for people who have shaped how I see the world and/or for how they show up in the world leaving me inspired and better for knowing/meeting them.

And so I decided I would write 50 letters before I was 50.

It was a lofty goal because writing letters if done well, takes time.

I set about making my list, thereby taking a trip down memory lane which found me all the way back in elementary and Sunday school.

I ended up going through each decade of my life. I have moved five times and held twice that many jobs. I have always noticed people. It's just who I am. I am naturally curious about what makes people tick and anyone who goes the extra mile or has gone a bit out of their way, not just for me, but for a cause or someone else is someone I tend to remember. And so all of these things combined made it not that hard to come up with well over 50 people and the list grew. In fact, I have the determined I will not really be done. Why should I end showing my gratitude, my observation of a job well done, a moment of inspiration, or even just a simple communication that says 'I see you.'

But this was never about numbers. It was about just taking a bit of time to mark the fact that I have not made it to this decade without a little help and whole lot of inspiration from my family and people I've only met online and people I spent an intense amount of time within the trenches of work or parenting or school or some combination of the three.

I think my favorite thing about this whole experience is what I call "the pause". When I am writing a note by hand, I have to think carefully before I write. It's very different from just throwing words down as fast as I can on my keyboard. I like that pause, the thinking before crafting the words. And I like how it takes me back to the person and for just a bit, I am with them again. I like seeing a person in my mind and trying hard to express what I see in them with words.

I might be a bit weird and I am pretty ok with that.

The unexpected joy of this experience has been the little notes and pieces of mail I have received in return. To have someone say, "Thank you! You made my day!" was the icing on my 50th birthday cake.

The truth is I had no idea how selfish of a project this was. It has been me who has benefited the most by simply recognizing people who have shown up on my path who had something to teach me simply by being themselves. Each time I see this, it is me who grows a little bit braver in getting closer to the person I want to be.

It was never supposed to be about me, and yet again, I was wrong.