Ah, January 2020. A new year, a fresh start to get back on track and hammer out those goals —
Have you ever felt like you’re on one of those Japanese game shows? You know, the ones where contestants are trying to make it through an obstacle course of rapidly moving mechanical arms that are repeatedly punching them in the head and stomach and trying to push them into the water below?
The last few weeks have been like that for me. Only I wasn’t wearing a helmet and the mechanical arms weren’t covered in foam.
Now I’m not one of those people who fears Friday the 13th, but that was the day in December that this shit storm started.
First my coworkers and I were blindsided by an announcement that came down from corporate that none of us were too happy about. Feelings have only gotten more negative over the last few weeks and I have no idea what to do about it.
This was also the day that I began to feel sick — out of nowhere, it felt like razor blades were lining my throat, and things only got worse from there. I spent the entire weekend in bed, which is precisely where I was sitting when I found out my mom was being admitted to the hospital with pneumonia.
Luckily, they caught it early, so she only had to spend a few days getting IV antibiotics, but with her complicated medical history, these things are always scary. Even once she was home, I wasn’t able to go and see her for a few days because I didn’t want to pass my cold onto her already compromised immune system. So, cue the guilt.
I was feeling well enough a few days later to see Mom on her birthday, but since she was still a bit under the weather, my sister and I postponed our plans to take her on a girl’s night out. I managed to get everything checked off my Christmas list that weekend, and had a halfway decent holiday, but that following Friday, the razor blades were back in my throat again, and I spent yet another several days feeling like absolute crap. My husband also got sick at this point, which essentially ruined our New Year’s celebration.
When I went back to work on January 2nd, I was feeling AWFUL. My manager sent me home around noon, and I headed straight to MedExpress — which was so packed with sick people that there was only one parking spot left in the lot and 2 or 3 chairs in the waiting room. Two and a half hours later, I emerged with a prescription for antibiotics along with a diagnosis of double ear infections PLUS a sinus infection. Lucky me!
I had to go to work the next day because a coworker was still on holiday vacation, and between my illness and the volume of work, I honestly thought I would collapse before 5:00.
The antibiotics were slow to kick in, and although I was feeling slightly human again by Sunday, I was still exhausted. I figured that I’d make the most of said exhaustion and spend all day in bed reading and getting back on track with my writing.
Since I hadn’t written a word since before the holiday craziness and the contraction of the plague, I couldn’t help but feel a little stir of excitement as I booted up my slow, old laptop. I plugged in my adorable penguin-shaped USB . . .
And an error message popped up on the screen. Something about the drive not being formatted.
I unplugged the USB, plugged it back in . . . and got the same message. Again, I took the USB out. I restarted the laptop. Reinserted USB. Same message.
At this point I started to panic. I sent a frantic Facebook message to my IT friend who now lives in Holland, and even from 3,900 miles away I could tell that he wasn’t optimistic.
My husband tried to help by plugging the USB into a Chromebook he got a few months ago. Same error message. He chatted a bit with IT friend in Holland and ran a few DIY programs with the help of YouTube. No luck.
I sat at the dining room table with my head in my hands, tears pouring down my cheeks and thinking about the three novels, multiple short stories, and countless ideas that were on that flash drive. I hadn’t backed up my files in ages — at least a year. The USB was relatively new and I figured I’d have some time before I had to worry about anything going wrong.
Three hours later, we had made no progress, and we had to go to a funeral for a friend’s father, so I dragged myself away from the wretched computer screen and showered and dressed feeling completely numb and even more exhausted than I had before the USB disaster.
By the time my husband and I got home from the funeral, we were both emotionally wracked. Attending a funeral is always difficult, and this one brought back painful memories for J & I about his father’s death. I had also entered the angry phase of grief over my USB, and spent the rest of the night hating myself and convincing myself that the universe was trying to tell me to quit writing because I was wasting mine and everyone else’s time.
The worst part of this whole USB disaster was how dismissive people were. When J wasn’t able to salvage the files with the programs he tried, I posted on Facebook asking if anyone knew of any local computer geek businesses that salvaged files. No one really provided any helpful information in that regard, but there were plenty of comments about how I could just “write everything again.”
Yeah, no shit. Except it took me YEARS to get to this point with those manuscripts. One of them had been rewritten four times over the last sixteen months, and I was almost ready to start querying agents.
I know that people who aren’t artists can’t understand a loss like this, so if any of you out there don’t “get it,” let me try to explain — think of your biggest accomplishment. Maybe it’s your degree, your house, a promotion, or a classic car you rebuilt with your son. Think about all the time, effort, heart, soul, blood, sweat, tears, time, and energy spent on it. Then imagine it’s all gone in a second because of a stupid human error.
I realize that this situation was preventable and it’s 100% my own dumb fault for not backing up my files. I do have “back ups” saved directly on the laptop, and and an old USB, but as I said above, I’d been procrastinating about updating those files because the USB was newer and I never in a million years thought something could go so catastrophically wrong all of a sudden (the thing was fine 24 hours prior).
Lesson learned — do not ever, ever, ever, ever, EVER buy a cheapy USB drive just because it’s a cute looking penguin. If it’s a no name brand for a fraction of the cost of something else, chances are something will go wrong sooner rather than later. I also learned, courtesy J’s IT guy at work, that different flash drives are better suited for different kinds of files. So while this has been incredibly painful to learn, at least it wasn’t a totally useless experience.
As I write this, my husband’s IT guy is running every program scan in the known universe on my precious USB to try to salvage something. If that doesn’t work, he gave us the name of a company that you can mail the USB to, and while they have an excellent reputation, it comes at a very high monetary cost. I figured that I’d have to fork over some dollars to try to remedy this, but the quote we got was about triple my budget.
Before I could get too dejected, though, J surprised me by offering to pay for a good portion of the professional attempted recovery as an early birthday gift. I never in a million years expected him to say this, and I immediately burst into tears. The fact that he is willing to spend so much money to salvage my writing means the world to me. Even though he is not a reader or a writer by any stretch of the imagination, he understands how important this is to me and acknowledges how hard I’ve worked. As any struggling writer knows, having someone that believes in you so wholeheartedly is a rare and invaluable thing. Even if we have to make use of his grand gesture and the recovery company isn’t able to restore any of my files, J’s faith in me makes it that much easier to go back to square one and start all over again.
In the mean time, I’m trying to regroup with all the other things in my life that have fallen by the wayside — my eyebrows look like two obese caterpillars, there are dust bunnies in my house the size of beach balls, it still looks like Christmas threw up in my living and dining room, I haven’t renewed my pool membership or had any physical activity in a month other than coughing and crying, we still have to reschedule Mom’s birthday outing, both of our cars need oil changes and inspections, and at some point I should probably reschedule the multiple therapist appointments I cancelled thanks to the plague.
Not to mention that I’m turning thirty-five at the end of the month and I’m really having struggles with it.
But that’s a whole other blog post . . .