2006-09-15

Clean Slate

There are moments in life when I keep on noticing that, no matter how much I try to keep up with whatever I missed while something else momentarily required my undivided attention, there simply is no way I can catch up. That's when a painful and yet eminently elegant solution imposes itself: discard and start on a clean slate.

Today was such a day.

Back a few months ago, when Deviant Art was crawling because of its outdated and blatantly inadequate infrastructure, I had to give up trying to keep up with the latest creations from my favorite Deviants. Recently, having heard that the infrastructure had been overhauled, I went back to have a look. Low and behold, nearly 6000 Deviant Watch notifications were waiting in my inbox! After spending a couple of days trying to catch up, reality dawned onto me: there's simply no way in hell that I can possibly skim through so many images. So, I used DA's nifty tool to delete all Deviant Watch notifications at once. There. Empty. No more deviation to review and therefore no endless white night ahead. Ah! Now, that wasn't so difficult, was it?

Granted, this wasn't so catastrophic. At worst, I missed a couple of truly remarkable works. Anyhow, those Deviants are gonna create yet more magnificent work, so I can rest safely knowing that the best of DA is yet to come. However, there have been other circumstances where the clean slate approach felt infinitely more painful:

Last year, the server which hosted my homepage and mailbox went belly up. Because the friends who own the server had more urgent matters to attend to, resuscitation had to wait for a couple of months. During that time, mail kept on piling up on their delivery host. By the time the server was back online, more than 7000 messages suddenly flooded my inbox. Again, same procedure: first spending nearly a week trying to skim through the From and Subject lines of the index, to attempt locating potentially important messages that needed an urgent though obviously belated response, only to realize that I simply could not make enough time to go through it all. The scary part is that I had been expecting various important messages during the blackout e.g. feedback from job interviews, certification test questions to answer within a specific time, etc. Still, someone can only stay awake for so many days before loosing focus, so I had to make the cruel decision to empty the inbox. Gulp! There. Gone. No more sleepless nights. Cross your fingers and hope you didn't miss any message of crucial importance...

There are yet more circumstances I can think of where the decision of starting on a clean slate imposed itself, despite the fear of perhaps missing out on something cool or important, or of giving up too soon despite clear signs of a dead-end coming. Eight years ago, my decision to relocate to a distant country that offered better career opportunities and a healthier lifestyle was one of those circumstances. What I'm carefully planning over the next few months is an equally important, though noticeably less dramatic step.

Still, I cannot help but wonder if I'm making the right choice?

Starting on a clean slate offers the obvious advantage of getting rid of dead weight. This is clearly a liberating sensation. However, it simultaneously requires letting go of elements that, despite their obsolescence or shortcomings, each contributed something useful at one point or another, which is very painful, because all those elements represent personal or monetary investments that often span several years. Think of retiring your very first computer, leaving your companion of many years or abandoning your homeland. Each element represents a lifetime of blood, sweat and tears, through shared learning experiences, through joy and pain. At the same time as you realize that it is now time to turn the page, you cannot help but remember the good times and yet wonder if you gave up too soon.

They call this perpetual state of reminiscence, growing pains. Ah! That explains it, I guess...

PS: I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the friends who used to host my homepage and mailbox, as well as the one who currently does. I might not often mention it, but rest assured that it's genuinely appreciated. I'd also like to apologize to all the Deviants whose great artwork I missed during the last few months and to anyone whose message got lost in the clean slate that followed the server crash last year.

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