Chattering Mind

Chattering Mind

Losing Four Years of Email, All at Once

Deeep breath. Okay, so I just got the word. Four years worth of email correspondence, vanished from my trusty, now untrusty laptop…poof, gone, buh-bye. That’s about 5,000 emails from friends around the world—some of whom I won’t know how to contact otherwise; the flirtatious correspondence between me and my boyfriend when we started dating three years ago; hundreds of article drafts; work emails from other jobs; contracts; applications; pin numbers; passwords; pitches; links; receipts; tips I wrote up for friends on how to survive chemo; my own letters to friends about my own chemo; the sweet note from Evan Handler about my other blog; other work-related celebrity contact info; the day-by-day stuff of post-cancer survival; all of my graduate school correspondence; Kate and Brett and Jason’s baby’s pictures. Gone.


It’s the hard drive. The guy at the Mac fix-it store said hard drives last three to four years. You heard it folks—-three or four years. All those images, files, programs, bookmarks, and beloved data, sitting on a thin and deteriorating net of digital safety. Luckily I had backed up the main files. The book proposal and photos from the last four years of travel, illness, parties, friends, and family. That’s all safe, I think. Just the email, what would have ten years ago been on perfectly saveable, foldable, stackable, storeable paper, is gone.

I keep thinking of the Sex and the City episode when Carrie goes to the Mac doctor (the same place I went, incidentally) to try and revive her data after getting the “sad Mac” face on her computer. She gets furious that people are constantly asking her if she’s backed things up. This is the first she’s heard of backing up, surprised that everyone else seems to know what she didn’t. That’s not my excuse. I knew all about backing up. I’d had my computer three and a half years before I bought an external hard drive and backed things up. But not my email. Who knew? That was on a single file called “database,” buried deep within the filmy Microsoftian layers. A 500-megabite file. Precious to me and only me, represented by a little inch-long icon.


As I walked away from the wonderful tech guy who saved the rest of my unsaved data just now, I said, “Letting go. This is a perfect opportunity to practice the stuff that we write about here.” And so. Partly it is freeing. Before I couldn’t get inside my computer two weeks ago, I owed tons of emails. I only remember a smidgen of what those even are, though they were guilt-inducing enough while I knew they existed. And that’s kind of a relief. Like forced, extreme de-cluttering. And yet. Breathing. It’s just data not a person or an animal or a body part or even a thing. Just pixels. In the form of words, thoughts, love. But I extracted the love already, right? The rest is just digital dust to remember. Oy. Right?

Have you lost anything lately?

–by Valerie Reiss (Amy’s on vacation)

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posted June 15, 2006 at 8:56 pm

Oh, Ms. Amy . . . I hurt for you with this poof of the computer gods. I have at times lost special emails and mourned their disappearance as I treasured their personal meaning to me. Your reminder of living on borrowed bytes of time reminds me to learn how to back up my computer – something I’ve never done for any of the 5 or 6 that have resided with me. – Joie>

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posted June 18, 2006 at 6:18 pm

i do not even know how to backup lol rofl no seriously my boyfriends computer crashed the other day lucky him hes a tech guy and back everything up>

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