Back That Thing Up (Often)

So, as most of you know, I was down one incredibly expensive computer this past week, which made blogging quite difficult. But thankfully, it is now back, shiny and new with a functioning keyboard and battery.

Except for the fact that most of my files are gone.

Yes, somewhere between last May and right now I decided that it would not be a good idea to back up my files so that I could enjoy them at a later date. So, that means old resumes, cover letters, new drafts of an old book, and a few writings are completely gone. A huge price to pay for a new keyboard and battery (plus the astronomical price I actually paid for repairs).

And I can’t lie. The panic set in when I realized it. I couldn’t believe that I had thought my files were safe enough and that I could resist backing up my current progress. Like many millenials, most of my life is on a computer. Pictures, old assignments, senior thesis, music, all on one fallible device. You feel helpless when you find that it is all gone, your presence in the world wiped clean. And then something absolutely selfish crept in, convincing me that my outrage for not keeping a recent backup of precious documents somehow mattered in the great scheme of the universe. People are dying all over the world but me? I have to rewrite my resume. Boo hoo.

Well, you can sense my outrage over my own outrage.

Because it’s incredibly frustrating to lose all of your progress, but it isn’t life threatening. To discuss one of my favorite books of all time, You’re a Badass, Jen Sincero spends time talking about failure and how to cope with it. One of the stories that stuck with me was from a friend of hers. Her friend had worked hard to create her own recording studio, buying all of the equipment out of her own pocket. Only a few days after the construction was complete, the entire studio was engulfed in flames. That’s right, her brand new recording studio gone. Do you know what she did? She didn’t tear her hair out. She didn’t cry over the ashes of her headphones and mixers. She simply built another one, a more state-of-the-art one. And she created mad, sick beats.

And that’s how you need to approach each setback and failure. You should never think that when you are made to start over that you should stop altogether. Just the opposite. You should begin again and try even harder. Me? I’m ready to rewrite the drafts I had (from scratch) because now I don’t have to be hampered by what could have been. I don’t have to edit what’s there. I can start completely over and create something great.

So, do me a favor. Do not view any step back as a failure. See it as a chance to start again, fresher and better each time.

Oh, and back up all of your stuff. Like now. Seriously. Save your future self so much frustration. I’m not kidding. Go.

It’s Totally Okay to Forget Things

Today, I started my morning looking at squirrels.

Ah, yes. It is that time of year when the squirrels make themselves look busy and bury everything they can’t stuff into their little troublesome cheeks into the ground. I watched a particularly robust squirrel take a few bites out of each piece of food he found. Then, like a person out to dinner asking for a doggy bag, he hopped a few feet and immediately buried the morsel. He did this time and time again, digging his small hole, dropping it in. And leaving it.

And that’s the kicker, he just leaves it. I mean, will he ever come back? Will he ever return to his literal root cellar with all of his winter wares inside?

The fact is no. Just no. He isn’t guaranteed to come back. And even if he draws himself a little map, on a little leaf, of all the places he buried his treasures, he still won’t come back. Because by then, he’s forgotten how many holes he has buried. Or what he even buried. Or why he buried those snacks in the first place. Because he’s only a squirrel, and he can’t be expected to remember all of these things. (And neither should you be expected to remember everything, either. But we’re getting to that.)

So, what happens? Does he emotionally berate himself like humans do? Will the squirrel call himself stupid and hit his head against an oak tree until he remembers where his food went? No. He leaves that seed in the ground. And it eventually grows into an oak tree itself. Out of his mistake, something else grows, something else is given a chance to flourish. If he didn’t forget, if he had simply eaten it (like he seems to have eaten everything else in the yard), we wouldn’t have all of the beautiful trees that were planted by accident. He may see it as forgetfulness, but really it is forgiveness, which is always a gift you do not know you can give until you do.

And so, when I watched this little squirrel busily bury his food, but also his memories in a way, I realized that we were very much alike. Or perhaps, I realized that humans needed to be more like squirrels. That is, we need to allow ourselves to forget.

Because we’ve become so consumed with documenting our entire lives. Taking pictures of ourselves, our meals, our surroundings. And of course, sharing them with others, so their memories become our memories. This behavior has become so instinctual that we would put ourselves in danger just to get that perfect picture.

Tonight, I’m here to say that it is okay to forget. More than that, it is okay to not document everything around you. It’s okay to let things wash over you. It’s okay to let things leave. It is okay to forget! Your perception of things is warped anyway. You will never remember things as they truly are. And no picture taken on your phone can help you with that.

In general, I think we’re all spending a lot more time dwelling on things when we should be burying our nuts and forgetting them. Letting them grow into tall trees to shade us or letting them stay buried under a frozen ground. The choice has been, and always will be, yours. However you choose to forget what you must is your own: will you fortify yourself with old pain and memories, or will they become your past?

In the end, we need to remember, ironically, that forgetting is good.

And you need to be able to forgive yourself for forgetting, too. Now, I don’t mean telling yourself it is okay when you forget to pick your child up from school. Yeah, that’s not good.

But if you forget something occasionally, please let yourself off the hook. We are human, after all. Which, I know what you are thinking: humans are smarter than squirrels, we have bigger brains, so we should be able to remember. And maybe that’s true. But maybe something in us wants to forget. Maybe something in us is hardwired to glitch. Maybe something in us wants that oak tree to grow instead.

So, soak in the memories, but also let them flow back out, having been filtered through you. We’re only here for a limited amount of time, and you can’t take any of it with you. All you can do is what the squirrel does: take a few bites, bury it, and move forward.