During the year the world ended for our generation (I am of course speaking of 2020: The Year of the COVID), I decided to get into the lost art of letter writing. This amazing method of connection was ignited in me after listening to an episode of one of my favourite podcasts, Ear Hustle. The show is broadcast out of San Quentin State Prison and each instalment artfully covers a different subject of prison life; it is very well produced and highly recommended. The prison community is one of the only remaining in the world who still use letter writing as their primary form of connection with loved ones on the outside.
I wrote a bunch of letters initially, mostly to close friends, and the handful of them that loved the idea got into a pen-palling groove with me. I had one friend, Caitlin, who initiated and sent me a letter first! This was exciting to me, as Caitlin is one of my most unique and interesting friends and she always inspires me in unexpected ways, this being no exception. In her letter, she had included a ‘deep conversation starter question’ which she had picked at random from a ‘Communication Toolkit’ she’d purchased while travelling. She answered the question herself, then invited me to do the same. I loved this so much and it sparked what is now the pattern with all my pen-pals; instead of talking about how each other’s lives are going (which we generally do via our regular forms of communication anyway), we ask each other these deep questions, and also answer them ourselves. By doing this, both parties are reflecting on their life’s experiences and sharing them with someone else; the best way I know how to create authentic connections between people.
I told my friend Emma about this idea and the next time she visited, she arrived with a game in her hand – ‘We’re Not Really Strangers.’ Its tagline: ‘Come Curious, Leave Connected.’ She had ordered it online a while back and when she saw how enamoured I was by an idea with such a similar premise to the game, she thought I might appreciate playing it. She was right. Essentially it is a taking of turns in asking the other player questions, ranging from fairly innocuous to surprisingly confronting and deep. I bought it for myself that same night and when it arrived in the mail there was a note inside from the creator, “I have found there are 2 ways to play this game: 1. Play Safe. 2. Play to Grow. The second is how you win.”
On this page, we are inspired by this game. We ask a deep question, we reflect, and we respond. We come curious, and leave connected. I will answer and I invite you to answer too. I would love to hear what you discover.