A few years ago, I wrote an open love letter to my classmates from Soka University of America, or more commonly, SUA, for our alumni newsletter. We called ourselves the “Lucky 7, Class of ’11” because we were the 7th graduating class that graciously exited this wonderful university in May 2011. I went to school with some of the most dynamic, tenacious, bold, courageous and above-all, affectionate global citizens that you can find in the world. There are many incredible people out there but we were like a perfectly curated collection of weirdos who wanted to live, as our mission states, a contributive life. We loved each other to pieces.
Dearest SUA’s Class of 2011,
When we were seniors, I lived in building 305 on the third floor surrounded by Tetsuro, Tyko and Liz. In short, I referred to them as my “vecinos,” Spanish for “neighbors.” Every other week, I noticed that people left them love letters (or those appreciation notes, whatever you want to call them) in front of their doors. They were written on playful Japanese stationery and the letters were always accompanied by candy. I ranted to my vecinos about how popular they were for always having more notes than me in front of their doors. But I was obviously “Riri” (really) jealous. I wanted the love too. That’s why I kept a notepad and a pen pinned on my cork board all year, don’t you remember?
I’m currently on a mission to eliminate clutter and shove all my material possessions into two suitcases before I head out to Southeast Asia in October . I’ve been pulling out neglected boxes of letters, mixed into class readings and going through what I need from what I don’t. What surfaced are all the love letters that you’ve written to me over the years. There was the one you wrote when I was about to drop out of SUA because of financial struggles. You told me how important I was to you and not give up. There was another one wishing me the best before my Cross Country race, telling me to “run Riri (really) fast.” You even wrote me a letter and signed it with “now you have a note in front of your door! :p” Thanks, vecino! But amongst them all, the best are the ones you confessed your love to me.
What I love so much about your love letters is how personal you made them. You didn’t just ask me to come out to the spirit festival or attend those mandatory dorm meetings with a generic copy-and-paste flyer. You didn’t simply say that you miss me when I was away for winter break. You made it all about me. You knew my favorite colors and used that to decorate those letters. You crafted your words in a way that tugs the most tender spot in my heart. You made promises that you kept. You loved how my energy was contagious. And you’ve made me blush too many times, as if that’s possible. Of course, you also left me notes with chocolate or kaki-pea rice snacks.
Whenever you wrote me a love letter, my dear 2011, whether it was left on my doorstep or not, my love for you kept delving deeper. As I clean out the clutter and reread your letters, I’m just taken over with emotions – the same exact ones that I felt when read them for the first time. I remember exactly which ones made me tear up because your love was too much. I remember how my room was arranged and what the weather was like outside. I remember thanking you in the most awkward way possible because I sucked at being sincere. But I really meant all the thanks that I said. In fact, I might have not fully and sincerely expressed the profound appreciation I have for you. I’m making up for it with this letter.
As I begin to pack up my life here in New York with only a few weeks left, I’ve dedicated space in my suitcase for all your love letters because I can’t do without them. And I hope you feel the same about the ones I’ve written to you, including this one. As we continue to exchange letters, I’ll accumulate more and eventually would have to give up my beautiful lace-up boots and my favorite dresses to make room for your letters. After all, I plan on keeping my limit to two suitcases for a while. But as long as our mutual love for each other remains strong, there’s not much else I really need.
Riri[This letter was published in August of 2012. It has been edited from the original version for grammar and for non-SUA readers to be able to follow along. Cheers!]