Postcrossing, conversation exchange, and the joy of human connection

Do you all know about Postcrossing? It’s a website where you sign up to send postcards to random people around the world (and then receive some in return, of course!). Over the year or so that I’ve been a member, it’s become a valued tool in my self-care arsenal.

There’s something really life-affirming about sending mail to a stranger. I may not have anything at all in common with them; if we met in person, perhaps we’d even get into an argument over politics or something. But we send each other cards anyway. We wish each other well. Maybe we try to find the perfect postcard based on their profile or we buy pretty stamps or stickers. That little human connection, based on nothing more than signing up for the same website, somehow feels quite profound.

Of course, if I get someone who speaks a language I’m studying or have studied, it can be fun to write to them in that language. But the overwhelming pleasure for me is in the connection to people (that, and some of the truly amazing postcards I’ve received).

Sometimes doing conversation exchange feels like that too. A couple of the people I speak with seem to have things in common with me; with others, we mostly stick to safe, sanitized topics (still perfectly useful for language-learning, of course). But the bottom line is, we’re both trying to learn a language, we’re both putting in the time to speak to each other of our own volition, and we’re both wishing each other success and good luck. And we’re both helping each other to do that.

Okay, sure, each side of a conversation exchange has a vested interest in the other person feeling that it’s gone well, so that the exchange can continue. But still, it’s got a bit of that Postcrossing feel for me, that simple goodwill towards another person, just because.

Like I’ve said before, with mental illness, connections to other people may feel impossible or absent. Or they may feel like a burden or a danger (I’m a drain, I harm everyone that gets close to me, etc.). A postcard from a stranger, or a few minutes speaking to someone who maybe is or isn’t a stranger (to one degree or another), can provide some uncomplicated connection. And a reminder that, despite depression, I can still feel interested in things, I can still have small bright moments in my life, I still deserve other people’s good thoughts. The power of that can’t be overestimated!

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