By Skylar Bayer
My first postcard ever is from 1989. It was a green rectangle that lived in the corner of a baby picture of myself hung on my bright yellow wall. I still have no idea why I had a blown up print of my baby-self in my bedroom. Maybe my parents left it there to remind me what I looked like as an infant or help me remember that it was my room. Or maybe help them remember it was my room… Anyway, all I really knew is that the postcard had been there forever and when you looked at it closely, it was actually a waterfall and not just a green rectangle.
This summer I was cleaning out the last of my childhood belongings from my parents’ house as they prepared to sell and came across the green postcard again. I flipped it over, and it’s addressed to three-year-old me, from a friend of my mom who I can’t even remember. It’s from Hawaii, a place I’ll be revisiting this month for an oceanography conference.
This card is one of many, many postcards that I have collected over the years and only 50% of my collection is tacked to my office wall(s) around my desk. (I need more walls). I am in love with postcards. I suspect it all started with the 1987 postcard, but I grew up with the notion that sending mail to people was one of the most important and intimate things you can do.
In an era where no one sends much mail anymore, except unwanted bills, real mail is kind of rare. And sending me postcards is one of the easiest ways of maintaining a friendship with me. I have a postcard addressed to “The Postcard Queen” from a good friend of mine who I haven’t seen in years. But I consider her on the top of my friends list. Want to know why? Because she sends me postcards.
There is something important here, though, that I haven’t mentioned yet. I love receiving postcards just as much as I love sending them. When I travel, I usually have a postcard list of at least 30 people. When I backpacked around Europe, I made sure I sent a card, stamped in Europe, to anyone I was somewhat related to or had bothered giving me an address (ever) that still wanted to hear from me and was breathing. This may sound like a lot of work, but there are a few reasons I do this:
1) It is the best feeling in the world getting an unexpected message from someone across the world. It means that despite everything, someone bothered to think about you for a couple of minutes and send you physical evidence of it that you get to touch with your hands. To be able to do that for someone for under $2-3 is pretty rewarding. And easy. It makes me feel good.
2) I get to share a piece of my trip with someone who might care about me. Although I can’t have them there with me, I can send them a little time capsule of my trip and the time I bothered to think of them.
3) The more postcards I send, the more I receive. Even people who don’t usually send physical mail tell me that they felt really good getting a postcard in the mail. And then they start sending me postcards because they know I love getting postcards. And people who already love getting postcards send me postcards. And then I send more postcards and I’m happy sending and receiving and it just makes me feel… good.
4) And feeling good from getting a piece of mail can actually make a big difference in your day. I have had terrible no good very bad days where I consider moving to Australia but then get a postcard in the mail and thought, hey, my friend thought of me enough to send a postcard. And remember how great that person is and how much I like them. Then I think, with friends like these, life is not so terrible after all.
So, I sit at my desk, plodding away at various sciencey, grad-studenty tasks and I am surrounded with physical evidence of people thinking of me, even for a few minutes. Those postcards have traveled hundreds to thousands of miles and each has their own story. Sometimes when I’m stuck or need a break, I simply stare at my postcards and say, remember my trip to the musée d’Orsay in Paris, or that time Maggie went to New Zealand or when my brother went to China and all I wanted was a postmarked postcard from China, and that’s what he actually gave me as a gift.
It’s a wall of positive thought — positive thoughts about my life, my family, my friends and the world. The pictures and art on the cards have their own story of the photographer or painter or graphic designer or the subject themselves. There are beautiful places on my wall that I want to visit someday or maybe visit again. The messages on the back of each card tells me about my relationship with that person at that time. So really, each card has several different thought rabbit holes to travel down… and traveling down those wandering paths helps me take a different perspective on a science problem or really any problem (like choosing the right car insurance).
The bottom line is, if I ask you to send me a postcard, I’m serious. I. Want. A. Postcard. From. You.*
And that postcard will end up on one of my walls (like I said, I need more walls, I’m working on this), adding to my collage of inspiration drawn from the people and places that have touched me. I’ll even put your postcard up on this blog.
But, if you need some validation that I’m serious, send me your address and I’ll send you a postcard. I’ll even send you one from Hawaii. Seriously.
*e-mail me for mailing address. But you can look up the Darling Marine Center and it will get to me there 🙂