Response Letter to a Friend

Dear Friend,

Greetings! First, thank you for taking the time to handwrite me a letter—to receive a written correspondence nowadays is such a rarity. You could have easily emailed, texted, or instant messaged me, but you opted for the more old-fashioned mode of communication, and I appreciate that. Second, congratulations on your nuptials! I am so happy for you and wish I could attend your wedding, but alas, I will be out of the country on the scheduled day of your ceremony. I apologize for this inopportune situation.

In your letter, you say many kind things about my photographs and travels. I am grateful that you—and other people—find enjoyment in viewing my photographs. And, yes, I have been taking photographs most of my life. Starting in high school, I used to shoot with a 35mm camera. I even have some experience developing my own photographs, both black and white and color. Then as digital cameras became more widespread and affordable, I made the switch over to the new format. When Instagram became available for Android users, I downloaded the app and would periodically post pictures using my phone camera. My dream, when I was in college, was to move out to San Francisco and pursue a BFA in Photography. However, my first son was born shortly after I graduated, and I had more pressing responsibilities that withdrew me from the dreams of my prime. Thankfully, destiny dissuaded me from coupling my BA in English – Creative Writing with an equally useless BFA. 

Regardless, my photography skills have gotten better in the last couple years mostly because living outside of the US and visiting foreign locales has provided me with more interesting subject matter to photograph and share. Moving to Doha has improved my photography skills tremendously because now I have had more impetus to practice my craft—as well as an audience receptive to my output.

In your letter, you mention that the photographs of my travels also trigger a bit of envy in you. I am sorry that this is part of your reaction. Maybe this is more of a byproduct of the social media milieu: as people carefully curate what they share from their lives, we only see the noteworthy things they are up to and not the more mundane matters that fill up the expanses of their lives. I can guarantee there have been many unremarkable moments of my life the past two years! Additionally, you say that my travels have stirred wisps of wanderlust in you which you thought had long settled after you came back from abroad and that you imagine what it would be like to just take off again to teach English in the EFL and trek the world like me—with or without a partner in tow. The way you present your scenario seems a bit binary; I don’t know if this is an either/or choice: settle and marry or travel and be single. I guess, you can marry and see the world.

From my limited experience with long-term relationships, I know that it is important to discuss priorities and compromise whenever reasonable. Each of us has an explicit (and maybe implicit) list of priorities, and in a relationship that list becomes doubled in length. Maybe the two sets of lists overlap seamlessly like a zipper, maybe they are mismatched and need to be debated. But, hopefully your situation is the former and not the latter. Still, if you believe that travelling the world is something you still want to do once you are married, I would encourage you to have that discussion with your partner sooner instead of later. Maybe this item is high on their list as well, maybe it isn’t. However, I believe that there is some place in the world that they would love to visit and experience. (If not, I don’t know what to say.) In addition, I think it is important to discuss travel preferences prior to your marriage because traveling is an expense, and the most harmonious marriages—I believe—are the ones where the majority of financial decisions are made consensually. Maybe you can afford to see the world every year, maybe you can only afford to pay your mortgage and see the world every two or three years. I don’t pretend to know your priorities.

Nevertheless, I don’t want you to be jealous of my travels. My nomad lifestyle leaves a lot to be desired. For one, I am not establishing any roots in the US, and when I need to come back for whatever reasons, what am I come back to? I have no property or substantial retirement plan. I am carefree, adventurous grasshopper now, but what will I be when winter eventually comes for me? Two, my boys are getting older, my nieces are becoming older, my family is becoming older; and I see them all annually. What is the value of passport stamps when you are absent from all your family most of the year?

Long story short: this is one of those grass is greener circumstances. Currently, I’m waiting for my flight to Brazil, and you’re waiting to tie the knot, so let’s be happy for one another. After all, as American critic Richard H. Stoddard once said, “We love in others what we lack ourselves, and would be everything but what we are.”

Again, thank you for thoughtful correspondence, and I wish you the very best on your wedding day. I will send you both a gift and postcard very soon.

Your friend,

Conan

P.S. Attached is a photo that I took of a quieter moment at the onset of my trip to Brazil. I took it while waiting for the train at the La Crosse Amtrak Station. 

 

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