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December 7, 2009

A couple weeks ago I was notified that my University of Washington e-mail account would be confiscated and destroyed as a result of my not having been a UW student for two consecutive quarters. I wanted to write back and be all like “More like two consecutive years,” but the notice came from one of those do-not-reply addresses designed to prevent gratuitous acts of sassback.

I’ve known for a long time that this day was coming, but the foresight didn’t make it any less irritating. The whole situation made me realize that these days people seem totally fine with the fact that every time they leave a department or a job, or Facebook updates itself in a certain way, or a website explodes, they lose huge amounts of correspondence. If, back in 1841, you’d gone into someone’s house, rounded up all the letters he’d (I won’t say “or she’d” because as we all know, women didn’t learn to read or write until 1948) received and all the drafts of the letters he’d sent, and set them on fire, he would have been really fucking pissed off at you. But today, a more technologically modern equivalent of letter-burning happens to all of us all the time, and few people complain. Let’s complain more! Is there something that makes a piece of text inherently more ephemeral because it was sent electronically rather than by Canada Post? I don’t effing think so.

I’ve always looked at my e-mail archives as a journal substitute. I don’t have to keep a diary because I can head to the archives when want to reminisce or pin down a certain sequence of events or reacquaint myself with someone I haven’t talked to in years or compare the perspective I had on a certain situation four years ago to the perspective I have on it now. And I’m pretty sure 2005-09 will always feel like the most important years of my life, so the idea of someone deleting that chunk of historical narrative from the universe isn’t cool with me at all.

In the process of exporting all my monthly archive files into a folder on my hard drive, I did some exploring: not the kind of exploring I did last weekend, but exploring nonetheless. All kinds of good stuff in there. The April 2007 file alone is a gold mine of “great” “writing,” not to mention hilarious depictions of academic life and abnormal psychology. This is my life back then in a nutshell, as narrated to the person I’m technically engaged to after being stood up on my own birthday by the person I was dating in the summer of 2006 and then stopped dating after I got back from finding out about my secret half-sister but who, after sending one angry e-mail in response to my cutting off of the dating portion of the relationship, forgave my ridiculousness and remained, and remains, a friend of mine, on and off:

  • Every alleged friend I meet in this town seems hell bent on fucking with me, or fucking me, or both. I’m done with human beings. Except you, of course. I would never leave my fiance. This is a lifetime commitment and I take it very seriously.

And here’s a glimpse into my award-winning teaching style:

  • The exam information sheet is attached. I forbid you to pay any attention to it today; you should be outside lying around in the sun. But maybe have a look sometime during the weekend. Let me know if there are any questions.

A friend was wondering on Friday night how a person might go about coming across as “friendly yet aggressive.” Maybe the above answers her question. I think that’s exactly the kind of teacher I was, most of the time. Also, sensitive yet unprofessional:

  • The kids have been treated to their first free point question. One guy who I thought disliked me stopped and pointed his response out to me so I could read it right then and there. It was something about the video game “Mortal Kombat.” He had come up with a bioscientific name for one of the lethal moves in the game. Teaching is so rewarding…

I was as professional as a student as I was as an instructor, as the following note to my Homer professor attests:

  • Just to let you know, I’m having some kind of wack job medication reaction and am unhealthy and minimally coherent, so I may not make it to class today.

That’s interesting because nowadays I always spell “wackjob” as one word. I wonder what made me switch. In any event, most of the department’s professors were kind enough to indulge student ridiculousness in almost all of its forms. This captures the essence of classics grad seminars:

  • Everything is sexual innuendo in my Ovid class; we’re reading his love poetry and basically every line contains something that could be (and hence always, always is) read as a double entendre and this causes the classroom comments to degenerate into the same kind of thing. The best one so far has been […]’s remark about how he and some other classmates had been puzzling over a particular line: “We went long and hard about this in the office.” He had no idea what he’d said until everyone started laughing.

I wasn’t in school all the time. A lot of the time I was experiencing mental health treatments, and then I would come home and e-muse about them:

  • The Doctor of Many Cats called me chronically irritable. I want to put that on my resume somewhere. I’m wondering if, on a practical level, “chronically irritable” implies “chronically irritating.” (I never think of good questions until hours after the conversation is over.) And in other mental health clinic news, the non-obnoxious therapist informed me that she would like to “rip [someone whose treatment of me was less than stellar]’s face off.”

I still miss the cat-wealthy psychiatrist and the non-obnoxious (the epithet was invented by my fiance and has been used religiously by both of us from 2006 to the present) therapist. I never even tried to replace either of them after I moved, because there would have been no fucking point. The comparative unawesomeness of the new staff would only have cranked up my chronic irritability.

But whatever was going on in my life, on weekends I could be counted on for a memorable dose of wild, fun, well-written company:

  • I’m going to take various pills and have one drink and write something maybe and go to bed around 9:00.
  • It is Saturday and I am alone, drinking a bitch beer, listening to my iPod, high on Homeric Greek.

Holy shit, Strayer! Slow down on the crazy nightlife! Don’t you care about your academic future at all? And why are you so in love with totally unnecessary swearing?

  • I’m on a shoe spree at the moment. It’s so girly but I have developed a thing about shoes. Not heels or anything effeminate like that; I can’t even walk in those sons of whores.

There are some strangely prophetic moments. In April 2007, I  knew I was leaving Seattle, but hadn’t yet decided where to go. Part of me thought Vancouver, and part of me thought Calgary. The coast vs. familiarity. I chose the latter, but only temporarily; I’ll be living in Vancouver five weeks from now and no one’s surprised.

  • I think I’m almost positive I’ll go to Vancouver. That way if I’m dying to come back after a year of trying to make it in the real world I’ll be closer to here (I’m taking a leave of absence from the department, so I’ll have another year to agonize over everything I’m tossing out the door this summer). I can’t explain it but Calgary just doesn’t feel like the right way to go. I’m sure it would be fine and being around my old friends would have its moments of greatness, but it just doesn’t strike me as the thing to do, for whatever reason. The west side is the best side…

Eeeeeeeenteresting. And I definitely had a good handle on what kind of employment I’d be hired for upon arriving wherever I arrived:

  • The OLD [Oxford Latin Dictionary] is a thing of beauty. It’ll look great on my bookshelf in Vancouver or Calgary or wherever it is I end up. People from my minimum-wage job at the bookstore will come over and be amazed at the glory of my past.

Every day, this kind of solid gold is being consigned to the ether, or to the phlogiston, I don’t know, I’m not a scientist. I think there should be some kind of program or application that saves one’s endangered e-mail archives, converting them to a readable and attractive series of documents. The best I could do was to export my monthly files to WordPad. It just lists all the e-mails one after the other as one long string of text, and anyone who’s seen WordPad knows it looks like something out of a 1992 Computer Literacy class. It’s not great. It’s Hot Dog Stand caliber font. But it’s something. Better than the ether consignment option. Better than some guy coming into my apartment and burning my journals in front of me.

Kate 1, Technology 0. Well, 0.5. WordPad really does fucking suck…

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