The high cost of a clean slate

There’s something very appealing about a clean slate. The idea of simply wiping away everything that came before can be really attractive, especially for perfectionists. We’re drawn to the idea of a fresh start. Who hasn’t fantasized, at some particularly stressful moment, of simply picking up, leaving town, finding a new job and starting a new life somewhere else?

What we don’t think much about is what usually precedes a clean slate: a catastrophe.

Generally, in real life, when people actually get a clean slate, it’s because something happened that destroyed everything they had before.

In real life, clean slates are the consolation prize after your house is destroyed in a tornado, your steady job vanishes south of the border, or the person you’d planned on growing old with leaves you for someone a little further away from growing old.

Almost nobody voluntarily gives up everything in exchange for a fresh start. We may think we want to do it, but when faced with loss, we cling. Even loss of things we’d be better off without.

I had a minor “clean slate incident” over the last week. Both my personal cell phone and my personal laptop had total-memory-loss failures.

I was not excited about the possibilities of a clean digital slate. I was mourning the loss of my cherished stuff. Which included the only copies of two short stories, and my work-to-date on my first round of manuscript edits for Bitter Cold.

(Yes, I know. Backup, backup, backup. Rookie mistake. I actually have a Mozy account, but since I’d only gotten the laptop less than a month earlier, I hadn’t installed it and run it yet. My fault entirely.)

During the last week, my regular routine (such as it is) was disrupted. I had to recreate a lot of work. I had to rebuild the digital environments where I do a lot of my work.

It sucked, but in hindsight, it was also kind of awesome. I’m the kind of person who sees a blank sheet of paper as a thrilling invitation.

What about you? Do you have “clean slate” fantasies? Or are you horrified at the idea of leaving anything behind in life?

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