My computer died 3 weeks ago. I’m not a technological savant, but I know my way around electronics. I did the normal things, attempted a system restore, but even that didn’t pan out, among other things I tried. At the end of the day, I went out a bought a new PC, because my life needs a computer. It was a week before I brought it to a shop to get it looked at, because you know, life things.
In the back of my mind, I knew my computer was down and out for the count, but I always figured the hard drive would be recoverable. The long and short of it was that I received a call from the tech and they said that my hard drive had a catastrophic failure, and that in order for it to have any chance at being salvaged, they’d have to send it back to the hard drive manufacturer, and even then, it might cost upwards of $1500 and there’s no guarantee of recovering any information.
I couldn’t give less of a fuck about my work. Everything that was important was saved elsewhere and was backed up. What I lost though, was about 60 gigs of music, saved up since I was in 8th grade. Almost sixteen years of memories encoded by MP3. Hours and hours of memories that I lost to the digital ether. I know that I can start piecing it back together, that I can attempt to re-create my sonic landscape, but it won’t be the same.
I don’t remember much about music before I was thirteen, because, well, none of us really do. But something about puberty and teenage angst makes us realize that music is transformative. I still remember the songs that we listened to driving down on the bus for our graduation trip from middle school. I remember the first “song” that I had with a girl. I remember the first Boyz II Men song that I discovered after a breakup, I remember what I listened to after a funeral. The mixes that I would make for my friends, more importantly, for the girls that I crushed on. In short, I remember everything that music is supposed to make us remember, and somehow, all of that is gone. I pieced together that collection illegal download by illegal download. The quality was not the greatest, but I had it, and it was mine. It wasn’t streamed, I had it all with me. It was the definitive soundtrack of my life.
The loss of it is palpable. Whenever I was in the apartment, I used to just hit shuffle and have music on in the background. Every once in a while, a song would come on that would transport me to another place and time, and that’s what pains me the most, that I won’t have that so readily available. That music library was my personal time machine, it was a part of my soul and memory, and having that taken away from me wasn’t something that I was ready for.
I wouldn’t say that I’m catatonic, or that I’m in mourning about this, but I am a bit lost on how to go forward. Losing sixteen years of music as a touchstone is disorienting, and as I’m looking to compose the soundtrack for the rest of my life (hopefully with a hard drive backup) I’m actually terrified of forgetting my past. No matter what, I used to have a sonic security blanket to remind myself of who I was and where I’ve been. All of a sudden that’s been taken away from me, and while I’ll never forget those experiences, the details will be hazy. Music made the memories color instead of black-and-white, and I’m genuinely petrified that I will lose that.
16 Years. 60 gigs. 60,000 minutes of music. 41 days worth. Gone.
Tomorrow, we start fresh, for the rest of my life, one note at a time.
Give me my headphones and my heart.