Losing Identity

At some point yesterday I closed my office door and cried for like a half an hour solid. It wasn’t really about the computer, although that was just one more thing on the list. It was about some things I’m trying to deal with on my own, which have little to do with the computer or anything else. I have joked that I’m having an existential crisis, but I don’t really know if that’s true or not.

I don’t know what’s so different today. I don’t know if I just got some junk out of my system, or what. Maybe the nice weather had something to do with it. Maybe it’s the pink cashmere shell with the satin ribbon tie (FIVE DOLLARS at the J.Crew clearance store) that I’m wearing today. Maybe it’s all of it. Maybe it’s none of it. But whatever the cause was, I kicked some ass today and got some stuff done and got some perspective and I feel much better for it.

Of course, tomorrow this could all change completely, because such is my mood lately. But for now, I feel much better.

So. Let’s go back to this failure-of-technology thing.

I never used to be a gadget geek until recently, mainly because I couldn’t afford gadgets and didn’t care to spend my money that way anyway, and didn’t need them. And then I got a cell phone.

I was very late to the cell phone game — I didn’t get my first until after graduating from college, in late 2001 to be exact. And even then I used it mainly on the road, to let my family know I was on my way or that I had arrived somewhere, or to see what we needed at the grocery store. (At my house, it’s never a question of if someone needs to stop; it’s who is stopping, and what do we need?)

I soon became more attached to the cell phone, though, because free nights and weekends allowed me to keep in touch with friends around the country, and because having a cell phone meant having a private phone line while living with my family. I had that first cell phone from 2001 until February 2004, and during that time I rarely saved numbers on the phone. When I got my second cell phone in Feb ’04, I started using the built-in phone book. So when my phone died last month, I lost all of my numbers.

Side note: If I should have your phone number and haven’t called you for a while, that’s probably why — I lost the number with the dead phone. Email me!

That sucked. Because before I started using the cell phone’s built-in phone book, I would always memorize phone numbers after about the second time I dialed them. And now, I’ve become dependent on my cell phone to remember numbers for me, and that’s no good. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that I’ve been slow to put numbers into the new phone.

The DVD player bugged me only because it was a planned purchase that I spent a lot of money on, and then it died two years later. I went and got one of those super-cheap tiny ones to replace it, because I won’t feel so bad if my $35 DVD player dies after a year or two.

And now the computer. I haven’t touched it since it died on Sunday. I’m kind of ambivalent about what I want to do with it, and I haven’t really had the time to sit down and start working on it. So it sits in its usual place, broken. And inside it somewhere are all the things I have cared about enough to save — mostly music, IMs, and some off-web writing I’ve done.

I’m pretty sure I can let it all go, and that I will decide to do just that and start over. Because, when it really gets down to it, I tend to be okay with throwing stuff away.

I’d be lying if I said this combination of events hasn’t affected me all on its own. The majority of my creativity is expressed in the electronic medium these days. What if I lost it all? What if I lost everything I’d written here since January of 2003? I would be absolutely devastated.

Most of my friends these days are not local, but are scattered around the country. What if I lost all means of contacting them? Between the cell phone and the computer I have lost many of their phone numbers and email addresses, and in the world we live in these days, I don’t collect nearly as many physical addresses as phone numbers and email addresses. I’ve never been good at keeping in touch anyway, but if these people I’ve lost don’t hear from me for a while, will they remember I’m here? Logic says, “of course,” but my recently fragile emotional state says, “maybe not.”

Lots of people have heard the “my computer died” story over the past couple of days, and many of them, here and elsewhere, have suggested that I might feel better if I went and bought something having nothing to do with technology, something deeply satisfying. And I’ve thought about that quite a lot. But I’m not sure what to get.

I want something small, inexpensive — something that isn’t clothing, or food, or makeup — something that will bring me joy for a long time. I have thought about books but don’t know of a really satisfying one to get. I’ve thought about a little plant, because I thought that if I could make a little plant grow, it would make me feel better, but I almost always kill plants. I have a $25 check in my bag from my birthday that hasn’t been deposited yet, so I could use that. I’m just not sure. Any ideas?

Comments 12

  • “Infinite Jest” by David Foster Wallace. It is the book that changed me. The book that convinced me that I need to write to keep living. And it’s really long, so it stretches that reading dollar about as far as it can go and looks quite impressive on the bookshelf.

  • One thought is to get a small fruit tree to plant in the yard. Dwarf varieties fruit very quickly, though are not as long lasting. An absolutely neat orchard nursery is in Afton Va, not too far from you, called Edible Landscapes that has apple trees in 1 gallon containers for $25. The disease resistant varieties will be hardier. And they have dozens of other types of fruit
    http://www.eat-it.com/ (yeah, the name is a tad flippant)

    We have 2 semi-dwarf apple trees and 1 dwarf Asian pear tree (3 gallon, fruited first year, gives about 30 pears/yr). I chose the apples for popularity (Fuji, Golden Delicious), though they are not as disease resistant. They were hit hard the second year, which made them eventually fruit two years behind schedule.

    There’s something about a family fruit tree, even if you don’t get a lot of fruit from it.

  • wow. i like the fruit tree idea.

    i was going to say, take a class. if you lived here it would in end…at old town school:

    http://www.oldtownschool.org/

    and the reason why is because it is so fulfilling to be doing musical things again (he says after skipping class tonight), but things with a history, a tradition. and people always rationalize away that music class, that writing class, that ____ class, because they are usually more than $25.

    but i think it’s worth stretching your budget for the scheduled creativity.

  • “it would in end…”?

    i dont know what i means either.

    ah, typos.

  • A Nina Simone CD and a lucky Bamboo plant (requires very little maintenance).

  • I would also consider purchasing a signature hat. One that you would wear like 98% of the time. And in like 10 years, people will see you and say “There goes Lorie in her signature hat.”

  • Yeah, “Infinite Jest” – it’s not bound to break down (the author certainly couldn’t do it) and there’s no way you’re gonna lose that sucker.

    A Family Fruit Tree: that’s the phrase I’m going to use now when I tell people about my relatives.

    You could spend some time in the back yard playing music

    CD – kinda requires the techcrap to be working and we know where that can lead.

    If you’re set on spending money you realize it doesn’t have to be on yourself. I think the larger disappointment of the gadget failures was they were all yours. That is, I take it you’d be less flustered over a busted ATM.
    I don’t know if the answer right now is to get more stuff (of course, you’re the only one who’ll know what’s right for you, chica).
    You could put the money toward something that you’ve wanted to do for someone else but couldn’t afford outright. (and add to the $25 until you can…)
    You could contribute the money to some cause though that might not be as satisfying.
    You could buy a couple of cds you really love and send them to a rehab center for the recently blinded or kid’s rehab.
    You could take someone out to lunch that you’d really like one-on-one time with.
    You could drop by your old elementary school and give it to a teacher in $1 bills, advising him/her that each could serve as a reward each time a child did something outstanding – provided that only one dollar went to each child and every child got one.
    …Or, you could just burn the check, naked and caked with mud, over a small fire and scream YOU HAVE NO POWER OVER MEEE MATERIAL WORLD*!!!

    /no, that’s not crazy. Declaring that the natural word has no power over you, that’s crazy. ;o)

  • How about a goldfish? Or a beta?

  • $25 will adopt you a monkey or flamingo or hedgehog at the Dallas Zoo.

  • sorry. i meant to add to that: that is, if you were in dallas.

  • Thank you Lauren, no note nesc.

  • This *might* be a bit outside of the $25 range, but the first thing that came to mind was a teddy bear or dwarf hamster. I miss having one and want to get another but I’m scared of what the cats might try to do to it.

    On second thought, maybe it’s not a great idea after all. I would go with the goldfish/beta idea. :)

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