“Every one of us is losing something precious to us. Lost opportunities, lost possibilities, feelings we can never get back again. That’s part of what it means to be alive.”
― Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore
Last September, I dropped my external hard drive! Yes, I dropped it and probably lost everything on it and YES it had most of my life in it or so it seems!
Funny thing is that about 15 years ago, most of us might not have heard of external drives or USB drives. Phones were just devices we used to make and receive calls. Its loss didn’t mean much. Since then, we have relied so much more on technology. It has become a vital part of our everyday living. We start to panic if we dropped a phone or lost a USB drive. Many of us have experienced tremendous stress after seeing the blue / black screen of death.
Although the loss of phones and data storage devices is very common nowadays, we still haven’t acknowledged the understandable deep feelings of loss that followed. We also have a difficult time showing sympathy towards those who are suffering the loss. Even with our experiences, we still view these devices as simple objects rather than objects that carry data we are attached to. For me, the data was photos of family and friends, my entire digital music library, ideas and projects I had been working on or plan to work on, a lot of documents related to my work…etc.
When I told people that my external drive broke, the response I got can be divided into three groups with the first two being the highest response: “why didn’t you back it up?”, “oh it can’t be retrieved”, and very few words of sympathy.
While I tried to fix my external drive, feelings of anxiety and depression were also escalating. At first, I was in denial that my external drive was broken and that the information might not be retrievable. I bargained with God to please save the data. I felt anger when my pleas didn’t go through and I was angry at myself for not backing up the info especially that I knew full well that something like this might happen. I also fell into a depression and my level of anxiety started escalating. I lost concentration, withdrew myself and started showing physical symptoms of illness. At times, I felt crippled and lost. My drive was my trusted navigation system I can count. Isn’t this exactly what we go through when we lose a person dear to us?
Interestingly, the feelings that I had correlated with 4 out of the 5 stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. Note: not everyone might go these stages and they are in no particular order. Although the 5 Stages of Grief is mostly associated with death, it does cover any form of loss we might go through including divorce and loss of a job.
It was only in January 2020 that I started accepting my loss and allowed myself to start over again. It’s still not easy but I understood that I needed to allow myself to grieve and to forgive myself for causing my pain.
Here are a few reminders for all of us working with technology-related devices:
If you haven’t backed up the data: DO THIS RIGHT AWAY! how or what you back up is left to your discretion. Prioritize it.
If you are procrastinating the backup: ask yourself why you are procrastinating and what do the files mean to you. For me, many of these files represented work I have done to please other people. While I was proud of these achievements, they were also a reminder that I wasn’t prioritizing my dreams and goals.
If you have already lost information and are still having a lot of emotions and thoughts about it: give it the energy and time it deserves. Allow yourself to feel sad even if those around you don’t understand. It might be helpful for you to reach out and talk to someone or seek the help of a professional.
If you know someone who has lost any storing devices: be gentle with them. Give them room to talk about it. avoid using “should haves”, words of discouragements, or give advice.