The other day I was working on a large project on my laptop when I received the error message of doom:
“There is not enough free disk space to perform this action.”
I’ve had my beloved Mac since 2010. It’s been through a lot of love, falls, cat pawing, crumbs between the keys, and my dog’s attempts to lick up the crumbs.
Copyright: bloomua / 123RF Stock Photo
It also has seven years of memories stored on it. And I’m a bit of a memories hoarder.
So when I viewed the storage information for my laptop and discovered I had over 170 gigabytes of photos and videos stored, I wasn’t surprised. But I knew it was time to go through all those items and clear out things I didn’t need. I figured I would weed out the photos and videos that don’t hold too much sentimental value to free up space for my project.
Two hours later, I had freed up 50 gigabytes of computer storage, and I felt like I had traveled through a portal across time and space.
Seeing the series of photos and videos in direct chronological order through a span of seven years affected me much more than seeing any one photo or video in isolation. Suddenly I felt like I was still living in San Diego, even though it’s been five years since my husband, Daniel, and I moved to the Bay Area. I felt like I was watching an emotionally captivating documentary—except it was about my own life.
Have you ever had one of those Twilight Zone moments when your life doesn’t feel quite real? Like you’ve stepped through a portal into a completely different reality? I had one of those sci-fi moments as I cleaned out memories from my computer.
As I reflected on the minutiae of the past seven years, I became aware of seasons along the way when I lived my life while not really being present to it. Then time passed, and it’s as though entire periods never existed in my memory, except for the fact that they’re documented and right in front of me.
When I got this laptop in 2010, I was midway through a four-year graduate program. So many things happened during those four years, yet I hardly remember them. It seems as though there is a huge empty space between college and my post-graduate work. Seeing photos from grad school forced me to confront the reality that those four years did exist and are full of very real memories. Seeing myself in videos and listening to how I spoke made me realize how different I am now and helped me appreciate the parts of me that have been constant until today.
There were also photos and videos that were painful to revisit, of happy times with long-lost friends and loved ones. Some relationships simply floated away due to circumstances; others became estranged due to a falling out or direct conflict. I deleted some of those images, but I kept a few for fear that I could unintentionally “delete” those memories too.
The hard memories are still very real parts of my story and have shaped me into who I am today. I don’t want to permanently delete them from my memory.
When I finally clicked the Empty Trash button and heard the strangely satisfying sound of papers crumpling, a series of disjointed thoughts tumbled through my mind in rapid succession:
A lot happened in seven years!
That was a really hard time. How did I even make it?
But maybe it wasn’t so bad.
There was so much I could have done better. But it really could have been worse.
Actually, I think I did a pretty good job.
But I had no idea what I was doing.
The culmination of all these thoughts was a powerful sense of gratitude. I thought, Wow, there is so much more going on in life than I can ever keep track of, and yet I’m still here and I’m still okay.
After emptying the trash on my laptop, I took a deep breath and stepped back through the portal to return to this side of reality. After those two hours, I marveled at how God has helped me navigate through all my unknowns, and continues to do so today.
I’m grateful that God can keep track of all my strengths and weaknesses; my areas of confidence, insecurity, and my blind spots; and the unknowns of the future so I can live without the anxiety of trying to keep track of all everything on my own. God is helping me find my way through it all.
Marie Fang has attended The River since 2012. Before moving to the Bay Area, Marie was involved in InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and at Coast Vineyard Church in San Diego. She is a licensed clinical psychologist and works part-time at Christian practices in San Francisco and San Jose.
Marie and her husband, Daniel, have been married since 2009. Marie is passionate about learning to love those who are frequently unloved and guiding others in their journey of developing a healthy sense of identity.