i never delete anything from gmail. every single message i’ve sent or received since i opened my account in april, 2005 is archived and searchable.
scary, but also convenient: being able to search tens of thousands of messages comes in handy more often than i’d have thought. i’ve been able to find travel reservations, usernames and passwords, the chronology of events, even the specific date i went somewhere or did something.
tonight, working on updating my resume, i wanted to find out when i got each of my promotions at my old job. i figured i could just search my gmail for each of my job titles and find the oldest message, assuming i’d sent an excited email to my parents or friends upon receiving each promotion. sure enough, i found those gleeful, timestamped emails! but my search also turned up email threads with ex-boyfriends from the same period as the promotions. and in addition to exciting job news, those threads contained embarrassing, scrambling pleas; painful evidence of flailing relationships; pitiful last-ditch attempts to prevent everything from crumbling. just briefly glancing at them brought awful, visceral feelings from when they were written — knotted stomach, pounding heart, short, quick breaths. such a strong effect, even so many years later.
hidden in my gmail account are reminders of times i don’t look back on too fondly. but still, the nostalgic packrat in me can’t quite bring myself to delete them. maybe on some level, it’s comforting to be able to look back at the dysfunctional ways i communicated with and related to others — to prove i got through it, to show i’m making progress, and to confirm i don’t ever want to go back.
“i held you in the coldest days, i held you in the coldest ways, i never know what to start to pick up and change.” – raa