A few weeks ago, my external hard drive broke. I suppose I broke my external hard drive is a more accurate way to say it, but I'm still not sure exactly how. Not thinking, I picked up my laptop with the hard drive attached, and the little box swung on its cable. It didn't hit anything, but I suppose the whiplash-like movement of swinging back and forth was too much for it. A few minutes later I noticed a tinny whirring sound and then a clicking, and that's when I started to panic.
Even then, I didn't realize how bad things were until the glib guy behind the counter at the computer store gave me a brochure for a place in California where I could send it, telling me there was a good chance it couldn't be fixed but that if it could be, it would likely cost "in the thousands."
I sat in the parking lot and called the number on the brochure, sure that the computer guy was wrong. But my phone conversation suggested the opposite - clicking means mechanical failure, possible scratching off of data with every click, it has to be opened in a "clean room" to avoid destroying the data on the tiny little discs, and the minimum for the place on the brochure is $700 (with a max of $2700).
I balked, ran to Facebook to ask questions of people who know about these things, started researching online, called friends. No one had a magic solution that sounded any better.
Several people did report good experiences with the Geek Squad at Best Buy, so I decided to try there (with a minimum of $250) rather than jumping straight to the more expensive solution.
You know what they say about getting what you pay for. I got the call a few days ago that they couldn't retrieve the data on the hard drive without sending it to their clean room, with a minimum price tag of $1400. Since I thought that's what they had already been doing these last 2 weeks while I waited anxiously, I asked them to send it back so I can send it to Drive Savers (the place in California), which is what I should have done in the first place.
I feel like a part of me is missing. Or rather, many parts of me. Some I remember, some I don't.
The post I was hashing out, the several stories I'd been revising, the ideas that were just paragraphs of drivel waiting for something more, the photos - thousands and thousands of photos from the last ten years, my entire iPhoto library, our trip to the Grand Canyon, my mom's wedding, our vacation to Guatemala and Costa Rica, the random shots that didn't make it to Instagram, the pictures of flowers and autumn leaves and Jammer and us and nothing and everything.
I can't bring myself to believe that they might be gone forever, that I might not ever have those things back. The thought makes my chest and my stomach tighten into little knots.
I think back over and over again to how I didn't upgrade to the Dropbox pro account where I was storing blog photos when I ran out of space. In my mind, I see the pop-up box telling me my account is full, and I will my former self to take action as if I could turn back time with the strength of my desire.
People lose things everyday. Their keys, their mittens, their wallets, their dogs, their friends, their babies, their husbands, their wives, their parents. A decade of photos and writing is small, infinitesimal really, against the backdrop of real lives, real loss.
And yet that hard drive is filled with my real life, with the life I have been working to make, one filled with words and images, one where I am an artist, a writer, a creator. I feel frozen in the wake of its loss. I don't know how to start again.
I am plagued by a sense that my greatest creativity, my greatest ideas were in those drafts. A self-indulgent fear, I suppose. And yet there it sits, in my chest and in my stomach and in my tear ducts.
I wait. And I write. And I practice beginning again in the hope that I don't actually have to.
p.s. In a moment of what I now consider pure genius, I moved the novel I have been working on since November 2013 to Google Drive. Praise be.