A few holiday updates from former letter writers

I asked former Love Letters letter writers to update us and tell us how they’re doing, just like last year.

Today I offer updates from two recent letter writers, both of whom who reached out to the column after March.

The first is from a letter writer who wanted to check in on an ex because of COVID-19. You can find the original letter here. This is the update:

Dear Meredith,

I’m writing with an update to a letter I wrote to you at the beginning of COVID . My boyfriend and I had just broken up because I moved overseas to work with Doctors Without Borders. With the sudden upheaval of the pandemic only two weeks later, I found myself reaching out to him.

I took your advice to heart, that if I wanted the breakup to stick, I couldn’t make a routine of using him for emotional support. We didn’t go cold turkey right away; there was just too much turmoil in the world and he was the easiest person to talk to. But our communications became more sporadic over the spring, and I actively sought out other friends to check in with. I also started seeing a therapist from back home (remotely), which has helped a great deal for processing events.

When my ex and I did exchange Whatsapp messages, they were so familiar and laden with inside jokes that I found it confusing in the “what are we?” sense. In June, I told him that I was willing to come home early if he still wanted to be in a relationship with me. Otherwise, I would have to stop talking to him completely and remove him from my social media so that I can move on. I would have preferred the former, he opted for the latter (he has always been under great pressure from his family not to date me because I’m not [their religon], and he cited that as the reason. I think they were thrilled when I left). He had previously been wishy-washy about our chances of reconnecting, but I guess four months of COVID gave him the clarity he needed. It was a heartbreaking conversation, but I’m glad I asked him the direct question about our future - even if it took me a few months to get there.

It has been a very lonely time. It’s impossible to meet people (romantically or otherwise) in a new country when my movements, already restricted by security risks, are further limited by COVID measures that have shut down gyms, gatherings, meetings, workshops, etc. I have 15 weeks left in my year-long posting (but who’s counting?), and although I was originally planning to stay in this job at least another year, I’m now going to return home instead. I don’t plan on reaching out to my ex when I return.

Thanks for your support and advice.

The second update is from someone who wrote in to say she was sick of feeling like "one of the dudes." You can read her original letter here. This is her update:

Hi Meredith,

I wrote into your column about feeling like I was always categorized as disinterested or undateable. At the time, I was on a road trip from Utah to New York to get back to school. I had been listening to your podcast on the drive, and was feeling apprehensive about another semester where college wouldn’t live up to my social expectations, especially given the pandemic.

The day after I sent that letter, my financial aid decision finally arrived, and I found out that my tuition was doubling due to a series of unexpected circumstances. The only option that made sense for me was to take the semester off and finish up my classes in one semester in the spring. In the chaos of repacking all my stuff, driving back across the country, and then finding a new place to live and a new job for the semester, I completely forgot about sending that letter. I moved into an apartment in Portland with three other girls, and got a job. I didn’t discover that my letter had been answered until I was browsing the Love Letters site last week.

It was such a bizarre (in a good, exciting way) moment. It was validating to have my problem taken seriously by you and all your commenters. I’m in such a different place than I expected to be when I wrote that letter – an unwitting success, perhaps, as I only hang out with women a.k.a. my three roommates now. Despite my distance from this problem because of my semester off/inability to even attempt dating because of the virus, I found the advice from both you and your commenters very helpful. Mostly the stuff about being willing to talk about what I want. I spend a lot of time waiting for people to come to me when it comes to love. Logically, I know that I can’t expect this of people if I don’t expect it of myself, it’s just a hard thing to internalize and I’m always looking for another way to solve the problem. Also, one commenter said “What’s with all the witty quips? It’s almost like you’re hiding behind amusing banter. Do you even just show people who you are and let the chips fall?” which was painfully spot on.

I was pushed to write to you again today because I just listened to the newest episode of Love Letters, and it hit home in a pretty terrifying way. When you introduced Sarah as a 19 year old college student, I had to stop myself from turning the episode off because some part of me knew exactly which hard truth she was going to bring up. ... Hearing Sarah come to the conclusion that college just isn’t going to live up to the picture of it we awkward kids read about and fantasize about in high school was hard. Perhaps because I don’t want to give up the dream because I don’t know how to go about putting myself out there and I’d much rather blame someone else than try.

I hope that I’ve internalized the fact that I can’t turn college into exactly the thing I thought it was going to be. I have one semester left to enjoy, and so much of what I expected my last semester of college to be has already been thrown out the wayside because of the pandemic anyways. I’m trying to gather up the resolve to be bold with my last days of school, and I’m extremely grateful for the role you and your letters and podcast have played in this.

If you're a former letter writer who wants to tell us what happened, send your update to [email protected] with "update" in the subject line. Grateful for all of you.

Stay safe.

– Meredith