I smashed my iPhone on the pavement. Accidentally. I was walking across the parking lot, already 7 minutes late for work, juggling a cup of coffee, a sweater, my keys, my phone, and my tote bag, when my phone decided to leap out of my hands to its shattery, concrete grave.
I picked it up, too tired for any emotion, left the tiny bits of glass behind, and clocked in for work.
The touch screen was paralyzed but I could still see the notifications of a missed call or text. I could see them, but I couldn't answer them. Essentially, I reverted back to 1998, in possession of a sleek and mostly useless beeper.
At the Verizon store the next day, as I signed my life away to $30 installments for the next 2 years on a shiny new phone, the clerk said, "You had everything backed up on iCloud, right?"
Well, no, of course I didn't. It was on my list of Technology-Related Things I've Been Meaning To Sit Down and Figure Out (along with how to save radio stations on my car stereo and the 900 software updates on my Macbook.) I hadn't gotten around to it yet.
"No..." I replied.
"Oh, okay," he said. "Well, then you've lost everything."
I laughed at his abrupt response. I'd lost everything. Everything! And yet, what was Everything?
I thought about the things stored on my phone: around a thousand pictures taken over the past few years, which were mostly saved to my computer anyway. My hundreds of Notes: old grocery lists, names of songs, scraps of writing. A ridiculously long contact list that began when I was 13 and grew through high school and college and beyond, mostly people I haven't spoken to in at least five years (and never plan to.)
I did manage to do a backup on my computer last July, and I could restore a lot of my contacts and pictures that way. I could restore some semblance of the life I'd saved to my phone, where if I scrolled back far enough through my pictures, I could see myself tan and smiling and 18 years old, moving into my first college dorm room. I could see the Eiffel Tower and the canals of Amsterdam and the 14-hour train ride from Prague to Berlin. The haircuts and mountains, days by the river, the former pets, the former roommates, the former selves. The many houses I'd lived in and the books I'd read and the beers I'd drunk with friends.
Lately, I've found myself scrolling through these pictures not with warm memory, but with a bitterness of where I've now found myself: back in my college town, working two part-time jobs, struggling to be good to myself, anxious and exhausted and broke. Wanting with every fiber of my being to hop on the next plane to Anywhere But Here, yet rationally knowing this is exactly where I need to be. I carry these mixed emotions around in life and, like a true millennial, in 64gb storage.
I told the clerk about the backup. "Ah! So not all is lost," he said. "You can still get your life back."
Later that day, I was sitting in the hot yellow sand of Texas Beach with two of my closest friends. I glanced over at my new phone, which to everyone's amusement I'd stuck into a zip lock bag because I couldn't afford a real phone case yet. I said, "There is literally nothing on this thing. It's pretty liberating, a blank canvas. I don't even know if I want all of that other stuff back."
"The phone numbers--the people--that you actually need, you'll find," my friend said. "Those things will come. Fuck the rest."
I agreed. It's been a few days and so far I have around 15 contacts in my phone. A few pictures from the river and a video from the warm night we spent on the rooftop of a friend’s downtown apartment, watching the city, our home, sparkle in every direction beneath us.
I never would have deleted everything myself. I would have held on forever, with rationalizations of nostalgia and thoughts of "What if one day I need to call that person."
How little of this actually serves me.
How profoundly important it feels to untether every so often from all the long-lost things and people and expectations and to-do lists.
I needed a shattering sent from the universe.
One in which I didn't even bend down to pick up the pieces, only left them on the hot concrete and walked on, clean-slated, simplified, with a whole lot of space for things to come.
Sarah is an introverted Leo, so it's complicated.