The Street Where I Live

British by birth, New Yorker by nature.

Why I Sent Myself Postcards For A Year

Books & Words, Careers and WorkingAlexandra king8 Comments
PAUL NEW MAN.jpg

Around this time, five years ago, I was 24, living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and freshly employed in a new job. Sounds good, right? Nope. It was tough. I was figuring out the office culture in a new country (read: very different). The freelance contracts I had were intermittent, unpredictable and my visa depended on them. I was on-and-off dating a very intense and controlling and in hindsight absolutely bat shit mental man. I was desperately in love with New York, but I spent half my time in a state of bliss and half in abject terror. Had I done the right thing by staying? Was this the place I was meant to be in? Was I wasting my time? Why could the man in the bagel shop still not understand a word I said? Was that script I wrote good enough? Shit, it wasn't good enough. My anxiety was through the roof. I cried in a lot of bathrooms. I drank a lot of Margaritas (see above). I also started doing something a little strange. Though I have always kept a diary, on and off, throughout the years, somehow, then, it wasn't enough. One day, as is my want, I bought a postcard, which I found myself absentmindedly scribbling a few lines on. Then, entirely on a whim, I posted it to myself. I was absolutely delighted, two days later, when the card arrived back at my door, like a dependable message in a bottle, boomeranging its way back to its maker. The act of writing, sending and receiving reminded me, somehow, that the best way to deal with the fleeting yet essential business of days is for them to be both, in turn, recorded and discarded into the ether.

I carried on sending myself postcards for a year or so after that. At the time, I realize now, I was a lone satellite, as so many of us are in our early twenties, pottering about in a wildly undulating state of both absolute joy and total confusion, surrounded by people, but desperately lonely. I needed to be looked at with love to remind myself that I was there, some stamp of affirmation that I was a real girl, in a real place. Who would have thought the answer could have been so literal. Each of those postmarks, with their curved sooty lines, willed me on like a wave.

You can see a couple of the first postcards I ever sent to myself in the photos above. I look at them now and they make me laugh. I even feel a bit nostalgic for that littler version of me. I see her now, folded like a praying mantis in the windowsill of that apartment on 75th street, glancing at passersby with the warmth rising off the pavements, bare legged, a postcard at her feet, wondering what will happen next.