If I were to open my email right now and sift back through the debris that is my inbox/life, I’m pretty sure somewhere between two months ago and two years ago I would find at least a couple emails—okay, probably more than a couple—that were from people I actually cared about that I read quickly at the time and then said, “When I have some time, I’m going to write a really nice response to this person.”
Which was a very nice sentiment, if I do say so myself. As we all probably know from the receiving end, there’s nothing worse than getting a three word response to an email you actually put some time into. (Whether any of us should actually be crafting emails that read like letters rather than memos is a whole nother story.)
The problem is, the longer it takes to actually craft a response, the greater the guilt and shame that builds up. And that guilt/shame/I-have-no-good-excuse-for-this-delay starts to get in the way of actually writing anything. It’s strange but true, these emails become like inbox cancers, slowly turning what was good will on every side into an awful metastasis of self-hatey run-the-other-direction-should-I-ever-see-them-on-the-street.
And then there’s the other emails I get where I know there’s probably fistfuls of conflict waiting for me. Like the response to an email you sent that said some hard things. (Nothing like an email chain of rage and response to make you want to throw your computer/friends/family out the window.) Or the email from a boss that I would be crazy not to look at and yet I’m too terrified to do so.
We live in a world of instant communication. We can get messages on our PHONES, for God’s sake. And yet looking at the inbox some days, it’s like Louis C.K. says: "Everything’s amazing and nobody’s happy."
Until today, my friends! For April 30th is Email Debt Forgiveness Day, an online Jubliee in which all of us are allowed to respond to any email that we have delaying/hiding from in shame, without apology. We can just send a response as though we got the email yesterday. No further comment needed. Shame begone.
I’m not making this up—though I wish I had, because I’m pretty sure I could light Los Angeles from the guilt that emails like this produce in me. No, this comes from the podcast Reply All, which each week does great stories about our lives and the internet. At the end of their podcast two weeks ago, hosts Alex Goldman and PJ Vogt shared their own horrible online purgatories, and Vogt announced April 30 would henceforth be known as Email Debt Forgiveness Day.
So it’s a real thing. Two guys online with a microphone said so. And it's a good thing to boot. Life is way too short to be worried about emails. (Unless they're from me. SERIOUSLY, WHY HAVEN'T YOU RESPONDED TO MY EMAIL?)
Shame-based lifeforms, go out there today and type your way to freedom. As Pope Francis keeps telling us, mercy is supposed to be our jam. And you have to start somewhere.