Letters, Memories, and New Writing…NYSEC’s Blog Comes Full Circle

Susannah Devine, February 2022

This guest blog post was written by our web designer Susannah Devine of Devine Design. Upon reading last month’s “Letter to James Baldwin” by Board Member Holly Spinelli, Susannah sent us a quick email recalling a letter-writing assignment she was given while in high school. We loved the idea that one piece of writing inspired a memory of a great learning experience as a student and then a new piece of writing. We asked Susannah if she’d agree to posting it to our blog as an example of the power of letters and writing.

We hope you enjoy it as much as we have.

My 9th grade English teacher had us write letters to ourselves.
Who we were at that moment, what we liked, what we feared.
What we wanted our future selves to know about our high school selves.

We sealed our letter in an envelope and printed our current/ parent’s address on the front.
And added a stamp.

Our teacher promised that in six years, she’d mail the letters to us.

She made good on that promise.

Around Thanksgiving, precisely six years later, my parents told me I had a letter waiting for me.

I had graduated from college and had moved away, but I was home for the holidays.

Opening that envelope was the coolest and the weirdest experience.

My adolescent handwriting in bright purple Flair ink.
Bubbles over the i’s, instead of dots.

The text was bittersweet, mainly about the traumas of the day: boyfriends, being too flat-chested, and too skinny.
Would I fit into the high school scene?
Worrying whether I’d find passion in my work, what my work might be, and more.
Reading it gave me a taste of what being 15 actually felt like.

It was a fantastic assignment.
What a fantastic teacher to make that commitment, too!

I unearthed the envelope and letter a few years ago.
It still brought me back to that time and that place.

PS: a number of years ago, I did get to thank my teacher, Amy Weishaus, of the Pearl River High School English Department, for creating that time/portal/letter project!

Mrs. Weishaus, if you’re reading this, thank you, thank you, thank you.

Susannah Devine

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A Letter to James Baldwin • Holly Spinelli • January 2022
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Writing Out of the Day • Kerry Baird • April 2022

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