Saturday, May 31, 2008

Liberation from Gmail: An Essay on Memory.

I have a new laptop. It is awesome. I transferred all of my old files and then deleted them from my old laptop, to give to my sister. I also, for the sake of privacy (which I do have), deleted everything in my Outlook 2007 on that old computer. I log into my Real Life Alter Ego account in the Gmail webclient. ALL the emails in my web inbox, and we're taking 3,000 over the last three years, are GONE. I check my Outlook 2007 on my new laptop. The inbox is also empty.

WTF?! How did this happen?! How did a bunch of folders on an Outlook email client on ANOTHER laptop get deleted too?! I thought I had rigged my Gmail to keep a copy in the inbox, even if it is downloaded through an IMAP elsewhere. Damn the IMAP server! POP servers were better, even if duplicative! Where are all of my emails?! Most of the communications were mindless (and there are too many of them) and some where oversharing (so maybe it is good that they were deleted), but still...I kind of feel like a huge archive of my life has been taken away from me. I am sad.

Well, while I'm currently pissed, maybe this is good for me. This is no different than the huge wipeout of years ago, or the huge wipe out of just a few years ago. I keep wanting to hold onto things, or think I do, but I don't miss them when they're gone, and am probably better off without them. The secret about sentimentalists who want to hold onto every love letter from Pretentious College Dude is that we don't actually want to keep those letters. You may want to mock them years later, but you don't want to keep them. Being a sentimental nut and aspiring minimalist means that you actually hope that you don't get more things of emotional significance, because then you have to keep them and carry them with you. Even data, which are so intangible and almost imaginary, must be transferred. Storage space is getting cheaper, but mental space is not. I am glad that I don't have boxes of love letters from old boyfriends to read through and think about, and so maybe it's good that I don't have a gigantic 2 GB of email to keep around either .And even though Gmail had this awesome hook of "never delete an email message again," well, maybe that wasn't a bad idea. If I have something, I tend to re-read it, or think about it, or rely too much on its background existence. It is not good for me to keep things, whether good or bad. I am a creature of the past and enslaved to memory, whether mine or my computer's, and it's hard to move forward. Part of the cleansing of Horrible LL.M Year was deleting every message from the Awful French People.

So, in a way, this is cleansing. This, at least, is my positive spin on the irreversible deletion. I will miss some of the missives from Amber, but fortuitously, most of them are saved in my "Sent" folder when I replied to her (this folder wasn't toggled to my IMAP server!) but almost everything I have from this year, while good, has been intangible and unrecorded. TD is not the emailing type. Ironic, yes. Much like many of the awesome memories, almost everything is unrecorded, and it comports with my theory that sometimes, you don't want to record the good stuff for posterity. Who cares about the posterity? Somethings you should keep to yourself. The good stuff may fade from memory and you may have no proof of it and no ability to relive through pictures and written record, but that's what makes it special. Who among us is not an archivist of our lives, and who among us isn't an archaeologist of fading memories? I used to think that I needed a picture, a letter, some written or pictorial record of the event, or it didn't happen. Now, as I'm trying to lighten up the stuff I carry around literally and figuratively, sigh, I am trying not to need such things.

I'm in the last weekend of visiting my parents, and I have drawers full of bad term papers which I cannot touch, and boxes full of mash notes and hand-made cards from girl friends and crushes/boyfriends from high school to college. I am thinking that I should chuck everything. It's an easy crutch to use your parents' house as physical and emotional storage.

Really, not only do I need a LifeHacker, but also a MindHacker.

I was going to post this poem I wrote back in college, but oh look, I already did.