I’m a digital pack-rat. I don’t delete anything unless it’s easily replaceable. Movies, mp3s, software…sure. Text documents, artwork, college projects, emails, work related items…that stuff I keep around.
There’s nothing sinister involved. I’m not doing it because I think I could use it against anyone at some point down the line. Most of the time I’m not even consciously saving these relics. Google and Apple do a great job ensuring that I’ll always have a copy of whatever I need whether I like it or not.
No, I have an email inbox of 22,000 because I love reflection. I have AOL instant messages and G-chat conversations from 2003 because I love looking back.
My mom has told me that if the house was ever on fire the first thing she would run to save (assuming her family was outside and safe) would be her extensive photo albums. I can relate. When I was a junior in college my house was broken into and my laptop was stolen. I didn’t give a shit about the computer itself. What broke my heart were the emails and IMs and blogs I’d written that I didn’t have anymore. My thoughts and reflections that I’d taken the time to make note of were gone. They dated back to my junior year in high school. Even worse, they were in the possession of someone who had no business reading them. What was stolen was my version of my mom’s photo albums.
I like photos as much as the next person, but nothing will bring you back as much as the written word will. I thought about that tonight when doing some work. I needed the log-in information for an application I was going to be training an intern on tomorrow. I searched my extensive e-mail inbox for what I needed and in the search results I came upon an email from an ex-girlfriend that was dated back in 2007. I read it and was immediately brought back to where I was when her and I were together. I read it and smiled. I liked the memory so much I found the rest of the emails from her and read on.
I started at the very beginning. I read the awkward tiptoeing around our first hook-up and planning our next scandalous meet. I read the emails in which we talked about our date nights. I even read the most boring and mundane relationshippy stuff you get from couples who have long forgotten how to be interesting.
I kept an eye on the dates. I’d long forgotten when we broke up and lot of the small details, but the words on the screen told the story. Even as awful as some of it is, reading what was going on brings me back like it was yesterday.
God, I was such a fucking asshole.
I wasn’t a dick. Not really. I just didn’t handle the breakup that well. Hell, I was the one who broke up with her. But nothing that happened after the breakup was good and unfortunately I’ve got typed documentation that proves it. Tonight I couldn’t even read what I’d written. It’s brutal.
If I still had my old laptop that was ripped off I’d have some embarrassing discussions from bad breakups past. Is it a theme? Probably.
Putting your every thought in a document is great for reflection. I wouldn’t trade these conversations for anything. But when you look back and see yourself behaving like the antithesis of everything you consider yourself to be, it’s the text version of car-wreck.
And I sorta love it.