Ask a designer what their worst nightmare is and they’ll probably tell you that it’s losing all of their files. If you were wondering why a MacBook is called a book, for a lot of creative people, one’s computer can be a vessel for our subconscious — it’s practically a diary.
When I needed a new computer a few years back, I invested my money in a 15-inch Macbook Pro with all the “extras.” I made sure to update my computer, keep all my files in check, avoid any website or downloads that might give my laptop, also known as Benedict, viruses. I would back up my files incessantly. Until I didn’t.
Obviously, after a year or so I got lazy about it. My hard drive broke during a particularly large update. Because I was so neurotic about backing up my files, I actually lost my external hard drive in the hustle-and-bustle of school and kept forgetting to buy a new one to backup Benedict. I lost all of my files from my associates degree program, as well as several rough drafts of novels I wrote while competing in NaNoWriMo in high school; and some pictures but I was hardly sentimental about those.
My husband took me to see Finding Dory while the Geniuses at the Mac Store were fixing my computer. If you have never seen the animated film, the main theme of it is loss — loss of memory and family. It was the middle of the day in the summer, the air-conditioned theatre was full of children in day camp and me, crying hysterically at everything Dory has lost [and found] while the kids around me were scared of the crying lady with snot coming out of her nose in a continuous stream and Voldemort on the back of her head.
When I got home and restarted Benedict, I looked at the empty screen and was filled with excitement.
I can start over again. This is the Age of Ayala, a new phase in my creative journey. I have nothing holding me down, I can start from scratch. This is a sign from Hashem that anything I made wasn’t as good as what’s to come. My bachelors program is going to be a whole new chapter.
I rocked that year — I did. I remembered to back up my files every other week, the memory of sitting in that movie theatre feeling like I lost two years of my life. I didn’t want to ever feel that way again. But every time I whipped the external hard drive out, or put some files in my Google Drive, I asked myself — did I make something worth saving?
My final semester of school was a dumpster truck fire. I came home every day feeling like I achieved nothing and worked too hard for no results. I would crawl into bed at 11 P.M. and avoid getting up when our alarm went off. It was the first time in my college career I didn’t want to be in class. Looking back, I was definitely depressed. But I also forgot to backup my files- all I wanted was to get out and start again. Ironically, I got straight A’s for the first time in my life that final semester. My work was presented in the senior show, I met some fantastic people and learned a lot about myself and the industry I wanted to enter. All of the things “on paper” that I wanted out of my final semester I achieved, but none of it made me think wow, this is worth saving.
After putting away my cap and gown, hearing my diploma was well on its way, I ignored backing up my files. I didn’t want to look at anything from the past 4-5 months, I wanted to start all over again. The chunk of files sitting on Benedict haunted me, still too scared to actually concretize their existence with a backup. The truth is, I’ve been to scared to create anything really. I felt like I would be in a stronger place now in my design/aesthetic skills than I feel like I am. A part of me felt like I will never be good enough to achieve the type of work I would like to make. I started to feel resigned to the fact that I was never going to have the career I wanted, the clients I wanted, the awards. All of it. I wondered if I should redefine what I would do next- maybe there is something out there that with my set of skills I could still be happy? My mind drew a blank.
And then last week during a particularly large update, my hard drive broke. Again. “Did you do a backup?” asked the employee behind the Genius Bar. “Yeah,” I said, “I did it just a few weeks ago.” Liar you haven’t done it in months.
Why don’t you care, how have you spent five months doing nothing of worth?
When I got home, I started up Benedict again. Blank screen. I uploaded my most recent backup. It was from January, a week before my final semester started.
I grinned. My husband stared at me across the table. I get to start over again. Hashem wants me to know the best has yet to come. I don’t have to look at the least inspired work I’ve ever made anymore. I have the notes, I have my ideas. I can ignore those notes- or not- I can start over again.
Sometimes we have to lose things to make space for new phases of life. Who knows how many hard drives I will bust in my life, have to replace or reboot. Files are just files. A computer is just a machine. What my [admittedly awesome] laptop is capable of isn’t what makes me creative- my mind does. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that.