A truck full of old computer parts is going to the scrapyard tomorrow morning…and I didn’t quite cry, but I definitely felt sad.
Not over everything, of course. A drawer full of ten-year-old access points most certainly wasn’t worth the space it was taking. An XP-era desktop who already lived a second life as a router had no future as anything but a doorstop. A computer chassis intended for a rack mount would have been great to hold onto if I had a rack to put it in, but it’s just taking up space right now. Over a dozen random routers and switches are finally freeing up their shelves. Defective hard disks, decade-old motherboards, a drawer full of unused power and RCA cables are all headed for the dump, and I couldn’t be happier.
It’s the other things that make me sad. More to the point, it’s what they represent.
I’m 35, and the odds are good that I won’t be celebrating my 37th birthday in this apartment. Over the years, I’ve accumulated projects I’ve never gotten to. There’s a touch screen computer that’s a bit slow for regular use, but would be fantastic for a wall-mounted home automation controller. I got rid of every aftermarket car stereo I’d ever owned. Firewire cables were a staple of my college years, as I captured video from mini-DV camcorders. My last two laptops haven’t had FireWire connectors, and I haven’t shot a video on those camcorders in nearly a decade. My first TV tuner card that invoked years of having a custom-built cable box is no longer usable; it found its way in the pile. The first hard drive I added to an HP tower I got on clearance when I worked at Staples to make my first NAS is in that pile. A DVD player I used to play a DVD at a party I DJ’d many years ago went in the pile, causing me to realize that, in all likelihood, I’ll never play a DVD at an event again. The real difficulty, however, is the realization that I’ve got a number of these scrapyard and garbage runs ahead…and they’re not going to get easier.
I figure that by time I move out, I will have to essentially embrace my inner Thanos – half of everything I own will have to be donated, recycled, given away, or thrown out. I can’t take it with me. I’ll probably have to get rid of my custom-made DJ console that got me through many great years. Can I part with the Adobe Premiere keyboard that hasn’t worked on the last five computers I’ve owned, but I still remember the day my mom and dad bought it for me when I was 17? How about the Stanton CD Player, something else I haven’t DJ’d with in years, but was the only piece of DJ equipment my mother ever purchased for me as a gift? Alternatively, do I keep it forever?
I know this is the beginning of me preparing for the next chapter in my life. I’m not ready for it. I know that this is how life works, and I know that trying to pretend that I can hold on to the best of my teens and twenties by keeping clothes I don’t wear and CDs I don’t use is irrational and illogical. I know it’s all “just stuff”, and that “not getting to do everything I wanted to do by now” is just a fact of life, for everyone, at every stage in life…but maybe that’s really the underlying problem: the fact that the next stage in life is a total unknown.
Every time I think about the next stage in life, it scares me…because I have no idea what it is…like, not even a little bit. After grade school, there was college. After college was ‘getting started in a career’. Now…I kinda don’t know how I feel about any of the ‘usual courses’. I don’t want to climb the corporate ladder at some Fortune 500 company, I don’t want to be a parent, I don’t want to move to a different state or country, and I don’t want to save up for a boat. But I also feel poignantly aware that at some point, life is going to happen to me. I won’t be able to wake up and just worry about the computers I have to fix tomorrow. I’ve been telling myself I’m going to practice DJing more, but that keeps not-happening, and even if I put all my free time into my turntables, it’s not a viable career field for me anymore. Defining myself by my career in general isn’t exactly a winning proposition, either.
Clearing out several hundred pounds of scrap is most definitely a step in the right direction. I know it’s good for me. I just have so much trouble being able to deal with being an adult in this context, and it makes me so incredibly scared to have such a total lack of clarity. Emptying my closets just reinforced that reality to me.
But…maybe there’s hope. I’ve done this before. I know I have. The hard drive I threw out today? Its host computer was thrown out years ago, as was the one after that – my first true NAS. I remember getting rid of the Nissan Xterra I had before my current car, and the Volvo before that. I worried that getting a sedan would make it difficult to transport my DJ gear, and while there were one or two logistical issues, the 160,000 miles I’ve driven in it have saved me so much in gas, the car paid for itself. I said goodbye to some old friends. I said hello to some new ones. I said goodbye to a very good boss. I said hello to another very good boss. Today, I said goodbye to some old computer components, and one day, I’ll be saying goodbye to this apartment.
This…this must be how faith is built: having no idea where I will be spending my 37th birthday, or how, or with whom…but believing that I will be in a place I call home, and with people I care about. Because really, when I get down to it, I realize that my mental image of an epic 37th birthday for me doesn’t involve me being surrounded by antiquated hard disks or car stereos.