In the Pink: What I’ve Learned From Writing Love Letters

Love letters

Love letters have allowed me to grow my heart, and feel comforted during those times where I feel I have no one else to do so.

A number of weeks ago, I went into Marshalls with a friend and ended up spending money I didn’t have. What else is new, amirightttttt? I used $7 to be exact and ended up subtracting it from my allotted gas money. Wow, you might be thinking. 7 dollars is like two entire gallons of gas and then some if you go to Arco or a similarly cheap station. You must’ve purchased something awesome to be wasting gas money so frivolously.

Yeah! I bought paper.

Specifically, I purchased a bundle of colorful and declarative greeting cards with uplifting and inspiring statements printed on the front sides. They trumpet things like “Your smile lights up the room” and “The world is better with you in it.” At this point, you might now be thinking Giiiiiiiirl, how on earth is that a good purchase? You literally have paper at home and pens and a perfectly functional right hand that could’ve written out those phrases for free.You’re also right.

But here’s the thing, you fiscally responsible creature; I’m writing love letters.

And I need wonderful paper to match.

For the past few months, I have been mailing handwritten letters to my family and friends back home. I moved to San Diego at the end of the summer and am now living the furthest away from my loved ones than I ever have. It’s really only about 100 or so miles, which isn’t a lot to those students who come from the other end of the country or world. I have always been very close to my family and friends, though. We congregate for every holiday, celebrate every birthdays and recognize every little accomplishment with a big dinner out. We have always found excuses to enjoy each other’s company and suddenly, I am not showing up at my sisters’ school functions, or my uncle’s parties and it breaks my heart.

I’ve spent many tearful nights missing my family, and there’s been plenty of times where I’ve come close to packing it all up and leaving this new school without a degree, just so I can be back at home.

I miss being surrounded by people who I love and people who love me.

That’s something I’ve found that no one really talks about when discussing the transition to living at a school away from your friends and family. I went from being surrounded by an unconditional support group to now living among people who honestly don’t care about me. And why would they? They don’t know me. My parents, on the other hand, have adored me since I was a crying alien-looking thing fresh out of the vagina and have loved me every second since. They will love me even when they read that I’ve written the phrase “fresh out of the vagina” which is not how they raised me to speak. Yet, I’m betting they will tell me how proud they are of this post anyhow. I will never find that sort of love anywhere else.

Despite the brutal loneliness that has sucker-punched me in the goddamn face, I can’t quit school. I don’t want to. I’m learning so much and have a hell of a lot more growing to do. But I discovered almost immediately after I moved here that I needed to find a substitute for all that love and affection I’ve become accustomed to. It was taking a serious toll on my mental health to go from a situation of ever-present love to one of indifference and apathy. It’s like The Lumineers sing in that one song: “The opposite of love’s indifference.” I agree, Wesley Shultz, I totally and wholeheartedly agree.

I was in need of some coping tools. And ASAP. Enter love letters.

It took a very long time, but I have discovered that a hand-written love letter is the best conduit of magic. When I began writing said letters, I was skeptical. It felt archaic and a little pretentious. I kept going, though. And after some time, I started to gain some mega spiritual benefits. It’s been so therapeutic and cathartic. I buy the nicest paper, use my very best pens and fold the letters lovingly into crisp envelopes stamped with gorgeous stamps. It’s ceremonial from beginning to end. In these letters, I confess my love to my parents, siblings and friends. I’ve written notes for my cousins and grandparents. Hell, I’ll confess my love to you, too, if you send me your address.

For me, the happiness is in the process. I have shifted my mindset from victim to fortune’s favorite. Instead of focusing on lack, I acknowledge the surplus of love that exists in my life. My goal was once to not feel so far away, but now it’s about expressing my gratitude and affection. It’s nice to tell people I love them. I don’t know what it’s like for them on the other end, but I imagine it’s also nice to hear that you’re loved. I don’t try to create poetry or worry about whether the string of words I’ve chosen fully encapsulate the tenderness in my heart. I just write. I write until my hand cramps and my vision blurs.

I’m happier for it. I don’t feel so victimized by my loneliness. I feel grateful and joyous and alive. So when you think about it, isn’t 7 dollars worth of gas a small price to pay?

Written by: Monica Vigil

In the Pink: Shake the Booties

Zumba

“In the Pink” is a series about one girl’s search for spiritual, mental, and physical health in a world that values the always grinding mentality. Here, the importance of the phrase “shake the booties” is revealed.

I am about to faint. I can feel moisture accumulating around my neck. Is it sweat? Blood? I can’t even be sure it’s my own.My ankle throbs from a clumsy incident moments ago when I twisted it and almost fell to my doom. Sweat shoots at my eyes like bullets and my glasses are slipping off the bridge of my nose. My heart is pumping so hard I can feel the vibration throughout my entire body with ever boom-Boom… boom-BOom… boom BOOM… My hearing is muffled and I can barely keep my eyes open. My thighs are honest-to-god trembling. I want to cry. I want to quitBut that’s when I hear those words that keep me going: “Shake the booties!”

And just like that, I am reborn.

“Shake the booties! Come on, shake it,” screams Sharon, my five-foot-nothing Zumba instructor.

And man, do I ever. I shake my butt left, right, front, back, up, down, all around. My ankle doesn’t even hurt anymore. This is why I push through the squatting and jumping jacks in the choreography. This is why I allow myself to be tricked into high knees and half-lunges. For the inevitable twerking that Sharon rewards us with.

I started going to Zumba one month ago. If you ever want to hang out Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., I’m unavailable. I’ve got a weekly date with Sharon and 15 other women who are closer to my grandmother’s age than my own. The first day I showed up, I saw the age demographic and panicked. “Am I in the wrong class?”

Pop culture really fed me this idea that Zumba was a bunch of hot, young women dancing like they’re in the club. You know the image, right? Stylish tracksuit with a slicked back ponytail that doesn’t move no matter how much she’s sweating? Well, that’s what I imagined. And that’s why I put off joining for years.

I’ve always liked working up a sweat. Marathon training, volleyball, and cheer conditioning kept me healthy and glowing as a teenager. But my 23-year-old self is slower and more easily exhausted these days. Going up a flight of stairs can kill my entire mood now. Getting up from a cross-legged position involves a lot more grunting than it used to. I knew I had to do something about this. When I completed the L.A. Marathon (26.2 miles, thank you very much) at 12 years old, I saw so many people in their 60’s and 70’s. I was in awe and inspired. I wanted to be their age and still moving my body with that same youthful ease.

I knew I would have to put it in the work now to see the results later. These incredible people I spotted at 10Ks and 15Ks didn’t wake up one day at 65 years old and decide to run marathons. I mean, maybe some of them. I genuinely don’t know. But if I had to guess, I’d say they developed good habits when they were younger. It was while I was huffing and puffing climbing some stairs last month that I said “enough is enough.” Who cares if these hot Zumba girls could move like J-Lo and I cried real tears when I worked out too hard? The only way I’m going to get to music-video-background-dancer level is if I go and allow myself to be a beginner.

So I signed up and showed up. I walked in and there were about four women stretching their arms and legs. I towered over them at a humble 5 feet 7 inches. As more women trickled in, I was surprised. They were the same age as the marathon runners who had been in the back of my mind this past decade. That first class was hard, sweaty and full of so much laughter. These women were so kind and fun. They moved freely to the music and didn’t worry if they missed a step.

Zumba has been a non-negotiable ever since. I go every week to keep my body active and my heart healthy. I expected to get my butt kicked by the 60 minutes of dancing and to struggle with all the squats. What I didn’t expect was for it to keep my spiritual and emotional health in check, too. When I study too much and feel burnt out or neglect getting the right amount of sleep for a week, Zumba has managed to be a very present, mindful one hour where I shake my butt with 15 grandmas.

If you find that thing in your life that makes you feel as happy as I do when I twerk with senior citizens, let me know. Because so far, Sharon yelling “shake the booties” takes the cake.

Written by: Monica Vigil