Figuring Out When (and How) to Replace Your Real Life 'Hard Drive'

Half asleep, I pressed the power button. The laptop in front of me began to turn on, a series of familiar whizzing and humming noises. And then a grey screen appeared.

I hadn't seen that screen the day before—or the day before that—but there was the usual box prompting me to enter my password. Reassured, I tapped in the combination on numbers and letters and waited for the magic to happen.

Fifteen seconds later the screen was black. The computer had shut down. Huh, what?

I went through this process five or six times on Saturday morning, and a half-dozen more times on Sunday and Monday, before I finally admitted defeat. I didn't know what what was wrong, but I knew it couldn't be good. On Tuesday one of the guys on the tech team at work gave me the terrible news: "Your hard drive is dead."

A few hours later a new laptop arrived at my desk. But I began wondering, what is the human equivalent of hard drive failure? And, at what point do we stop trying to reboot a situation that is obviously broken or corrupt, and accept that we need to start over with something new?

In our lives, no one from a tech department is going to show up and say PSST, homegirl/boy, that relationship/job/habit of yours is broken. It's dysfunctional. It may be humming and whizzing like normal, but—warning—you can't make it work no matter how much effort you put into it.

Hard drives usually give warning signs when they're about to break, but most of us don't recognize them. Similarly, in our real lives, there tend to be clues that cracks have begun to form, signs that all is not as it seems. But we sure do keep ourselves clicking and buzzing as we attempt to convince the people around us that all is well.

I grew up going to AA meetings because my brother was an addict. I learned the Serenity Prayer at those coffee-soaked, smoke-filled gatherings. The Kool and Marlboro cancer sticks burned bright as people asked God to grant them the serenity to accept the things they could not change, the courage to change what they could, and the wisdom to know the difference. At the same time, I knew all too well what went down when the addict didn't change. Sometimes something happened to bring the situation to a head. A hard drive failure of sorts.

In the end, there is no digital backup of our memories, our hearts, or our minds. Yet, what we put into the world, the good and the horrific, endures. No, I don't have any answers. There is plenty in my life that's feels as if it's on the edge of a knife, two hairs away from failure. But there is no replacement hard drive coming for me. I have no choice but to keep on keeping on.

Photo via Flickr.


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