Journal entry 120210: Identity

I suffered an identity crises. Or worse, I lost my identity. My laptop, where I spend more time in front of than anywhere else except for in front of Cyndi, decided to throw our three-year friendship over the side and refused to acknowledge my presence. It looked me in the face and asked, “Who are you?” Like a lifelong best friend who suddenly and without explanation stopped talking to you and never gave a reason, my laptop simply stopped recognizing me as its owner and assigned a temporary identity to me. It was discouraging, to say the least.

The sad tale actually started about two weeks ago when the internet connection at our house started misbehaving. It would work for a while, then shut off for an hour, then work for several hours, and then shut down for two days. It was a big deal because we have three adult internet users in our house. Tanya uses it to schedule her flights with Southwest Airlines and Cyndi uses it as a fifth-grade teacher and to run her yoga studio. I use it work on websites and publish books and goof around on Facebook. We were lost without our internet connection. We thought about asking our next-door neighbors if we could temporarily jump on their home network but we were afraid that was too much to ask for, nice people though they are.

But Saturday afternoon the AT&T man came to our house with his tool kit, and after some poking and tuning and typing, he discovered the power supply to our 2-Wire router was bad. He replaced it and we were back online. Our global access to information came back and we were happy.

That is, one of us was happy. Cyndi immediately got online and, as you might imagine, she jumped up-and-down with glee. She would’ve hugged the AT&T man except she went right to work on the projects she’d been waiting to finish. Alas, I couldn’t join her. It was at that very moment of victory that my laptop crossed its arms, pouted its silver metallic lips, and refused to acknowledge my existence.

For an introspective like me, personal identity is always a moving target, more of a guideline than a specific definition, but I never expected to be rejected by my computer. It reminded me of a recent long run when the charge in my GPS watch ran out before I was finished running and the watch display went blank. When I looked at it to check my pace and mileage and saw nothing but a white screen, I got wobbly – uncertain - vertigo, which was silly since I knew where I was and knew I was only 1-1/2 miles from home. But for an instant it felt like my entire morning had been pointless, and the 9 miles I’d already run had been for naught. Eventually, after walking through my haze of existential angst, I realized it was silly to think the miles existed in my watch instead of in my legs. The real value of the run hadn’t changed at all, and after I talked myself into feeling better, I limped on home.

So the good news about my pouty computer was that I was pretty sure I hadn’t lost anything creative. I still had files of practice writing, and still had all my essays and journals, and still had my books and all my clever witty insights. I wasn’t sure whether I could recover my emails and contacts, however.

It took me a day, but eventually I caught my breath and realized my life would be all right. Maybe this was even something of a sideways blessing, an opportunity to start anew. I’ve always touted the value of fresh starts, maybe this was my opportunity to bury past emails from the Nigerian National Bank and stale contact information from 1998, and limp on in to the future. Maybe it would turn out to be my time of Jubilee.

But it worked out better than that. My friend-on-a-white-horse, Frank, helped me reestablish my identity and find my data (or, should I say, rebuilt my life). In fact, my computer now works just fine. We aren’t best friends again, yet, but we’re at least good acquaintances. However, Frank warned me that the problems I had experienced were warning shots. My hard disk was doomed to failure, and it probably wouldn’t be long. I restored my profile just enough to do work, but I’ll only go so far with a computer that won’t last. I’ll only show just so much of myself to a short-timer. A computer has to promise to stick with me before learning my full identity.


“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

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