‘Are you mad at me?’: The art of handwritten letters
Blog 1 of 8: Toastmasters, handwritten letters never go out of style
As a member and the (former) Vice President of Education of Unity Toastmasters (a community club in Toastmasters International), I chose one of eleven Pathways — “Presentations Mastery” — as a public speaking goal. This is the blog series of eight posts I wrote in one month to complete Level 4.*
“Are you mad at me?”
I remember being asked this twice — and the first time surprised me as much as the next.
This question was first asked in the form of a handwritten letter. The second time it was asked in person.
Behind the ‘madness’
My grandmother was a professional nanny, and I ended up befriending a couple of the girls she babysat. Two of these girls (not related) were ones I was pretty friendly with. I attended the birthday party of one girl, who was around my age. Another girl was a few years younger than me but was so beyond her years that it was no surprise that she became a Harvard graduate.
Although my grandmother passed away on Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday in 1995, I still stayed in touch with the family of the Harvard grad up until my late 20s.
So when I got a letter in the mail saying “Are you mad at me?” I was perplexed. I had no reason to be mad at the girl’s mother. But her reason for asking made sense. I had not sent her a Christmas card, something I’d loyally done for more than a decade.
Then the same question was asked by my godmother when I didn’t send her a birthday card. This was yet another thing I’d been doing for pretty much my entire life.
But in my 20s came the age of technology. I joined Twitter in October 2008, a month before former President Barack Obama won his first term. A Chicago Defender reader suggested that this was the “next big thing after MySpace and Facebook.” I wasn’t convinced, but as a Web Editor, I thought it would help boost younger readers for the Defender. So I joined.
Before social media, I had a massive amount of stationery catered to all of my 50 pen pals, family and friends. Then came Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Google+. Instead of sending handwritten letters and cards, my stationery was abandoned in a file cabinet and ink pens could last months around me.
When milestones become ignored memories
But after both of these women asked “Are you mad at me?” then I realized I wasn’t the only person who enjoyed reaching out to send these handwritten messages. My parents were surprised when I didn’t send Valentine’s Day cards first, or at all.
I think I remembered my older brother’s wedding anniversary quicker than he did. He got married the same year I went to prom, so I had a stunning ice blue prom dress and maroon junior bridesmaid dress. One of his groomsmen ended up being my prom date. Yet, the wedding anniversary cards stopped.
But even though I ditched cards and letters, I didn’t realize I’d developed a reputation for always being the one to remember milestones, big or small. I just did it because I enjoyed it, not to get credit for remembering.
Give credit where credit is due
The funny thing is I had a blast completing this copywriting project because it made me revisit how much I used to annihilate pen ink, how obsessed I was with handwriting as a child and why I loved getting mail more than Charlie Brown.
I’ve slowly but surely taken that part of my reputation back. During my Unity Toastmasters meeting on Jan. 26, I presented several members with ribbons and Icebreakers mints to celebrate them completing their “Icebreakers” speech and various levels of Pathways. (I was surprised to see six visitors attend, even during the biting cold.)
For members who couldn’t make it to accept their ribbons and congratulatory messages, I briefly considered just waiting for them to show up to the next meeting.
But then that question “Are you mad at me?” popped into my head. And I realized this was a new group of people who I could introduce to a part of my reputation they’re unaware of. I was the kid who loved to send handwritten messages on stationery with fancy pens, just to let them know I appreciate them.
So I pulled out my stationery, my pens, my stamps, and my blank greeting cards.
Now, who could possibly be mad at that?
Additional posts from Shamontiel’s eight-part Toastmasters blog series:
This post was originally published on January 26, 2019 on Chicago Now’s “Message from Montie” blog.