The Great Hard Drive FUBAR of 2016

Hello, and welcome back to the blog.

FUBAR is an acronym. I believe the origin is military. It stands for “F****d Up Beyond All Recognition.”

I don’t tend to use profanity outside of my head. And I’m working on not using it in my head, either. There are some situations, however, that require the expression of negative energies. You know, to get it out of your system. For many people I know, this can be satisfied with a “darn!” or a “crap!” And you can train yourself toget back into the habit of not swearing, if you try. This is something I have been working on for a few years. I am not very good at it.

I would not use the term FUBAR if it did not perfectly describe an incident that happened to me approximately eight months ago. Allow me to relate to you the circumstances which have caused me, then and many times since, to think things not fit for the ears of small children or either of my grandmothers or, really, anybody at all.

I am a writer, and I have a laptop computer. I got this laptop computer in June 2011, as a graduation/birthday present, which was also a necessity since I was to move out of my home in August to begin my first year of college at Brigham Young University, in Utah. It’s a Toshiba Satellite. Pretty good computer, actually. Until this last year, I’ve had very few complaints and those were all fixable by me or my father or, once, my cousin who taught himself how computers work because he’s just that awesome. (Hi, Matt. If you’re reading, thank you for that one time you fixed my laptop. You’re fantastic.)

But you know, it’s a laptop, and it’s 2011. It’s getting a little bit old, as laptops go. It’s reaching the end of its days and I have never been more aware of this than I have since returning home from college in December 2014.

In June, I was just finishing up the last of my coursework. Besides my online classes, I had very few demands on my time and spent most of it writing and playing video games. I’s been doing a LOT of writing. I had a novel that was two-thirds done and about two hundred thousand words long (for comparative information, the average novel is 50,000 words; fantasy is higher but I’m not sure how much higher but I know it’s a lot).

It was a seriously epic novel. My main character was a veteran and a single mother of three children— her husband had passed away due to illness. She’s poor, she’s got kids to feed, and she needs money; so she signs up with the Explorer’s Guild (or whatever I called it) to travel with an expedition to the far north of the country as a security guard. She has nobody to leave her kids with, and the expedition people are nice enough to let her take them along. Her two best friends are also hired as security, and the three of them and the children befriend the rest of the caravan. There’s one man who my main character doesn’t get along with. She sees him as a snob, but she has to admit that he’s very good with her children. The story continues and basically what happens is that she’s given bird wings by a giant bird-spirit-god-thing, and the ability to manipulate fire; but she’s very bad at controlling it so the guy she doesn’t get along with helps take care of her children until she learns how. There’s also a war brewing with the neighboring country and once she knows how to control her fire, she’s promptly recruited, along with her two friends. The children, again, have nowhere to go; so she marries the dude she doesn’t like, out of convenience, and goes off to fight. Throughout the whole, she is slowly coming to realize that, in true Pride and Prejudice fashion, she actually really likes the dude she doesn’t like. (I can’t write a story without a romance. It just doesn’t work.)

It was a cool story, but the point is that I had two hundred thousand words of it written, and it was going to be thirty-nine chapters long. I had plans.

I had several other stories that were getting long, as well. I had about a hundred thousand words of one I have since re-written (much for the better) and completed; and a good fifty thousand of several other stories. I liked all of these stories. They were good. They were fun. I had them completely plotted out by chapter and basic events. I had spreadsheets with character information. I had maps that I had painstakingly made in Microsoft Paint— individual house plans, neighborhoods, cities, countries, worlds. I had designed an entire theology from scratch. I had some text samples for books that the characters read, I had letters they wrote to each other that weren’t included in the stories. I had even gone to a character-creation website— you know, with dress-up games, for little girls, and I’d found some of the less stupid doll designer sites and I’d made visuals of my characters, so that I could better picture them in my head as I wrote. I had so much material.

Key word here being had.

One of my other major hobbies is video games, so I have a Steam account. I mostly have it because I needed Bastion and Stardew Valley in my life, but then I saw that one of my favorite video games that I have never played was on sale. It wasn’t a great sale, as Steam goes; they have games going for like, pennies during the really good ones. But I saw a chance and I bought Ori and the Blind Forest because I love that game and it is beautiful and probably very difficult and I want to play it SO BADLY.

I bought it, and I downloaded it, and it turns out that Ori is meant for computers with a far better graphics card than mine. Anything that moved was covered with a black box— that is, when the game could actually load. My computer was not strong enough to handle the game.

So I researched the issue, because I didn’t want to waste the fifteen-odd dollars I’d spent on this game. I really, really wanted to play it. I still really want to play it. It looks so fun and the artwork is gorgeous. I could go on for hours about it if you let me but I will spare you and just say that my research convinced me that I needed to download better software, or an update, or something.

I went to my drivers menu and looked around for the video graphics card and I tried to update it.

This did not work. In fact, it did more than just not work: the resolution decided it did not want to be messed with, and reverted to the basic resolution which caused my laptop to look huge and fuzzy and wide-screen. I could still see everything, but it was horrifically ugly and it just looked wrong.

This problem would have been easily fixable, if I’d just tried to uninstall and reinstall the driver. Really. I have since done the same thing (on accident) and fixed it in about ten minutes, so I know it is possible. But I panicked, because I thought something was seriously wrong, and I did the one thing you should absolutely never, never do without backups or an external hard drive:

I did a system restore.

Those of you who are computer savvy are shaking your heads, saying “SARAH, NO, YOU’RE MAKING MY EARS BLEED.” Well, in my defense, the system restore promised me that all my files would be saved, so I went ahead and did it and hoped to solve the whole problem.

It did not solve the problem. System Restore is a dirty, dirty liar. And all of the writing I had done between about October 2015 and June 2016 was gone.

We tried to get it back, and who knows— maybe it’s still in there, somewhere; but the data is probably hopelessly corrupted by now and I don’t know how to find it even if it is there, which it is not.

The thing is, though… I’d spent eight months of my life with that main character. My prickly, veteran single mother named Araminta (Minty for short) who was invalided out of service due to an injury that left her noticeably scarred, with three very young children (Esralin, Clemont, and Talyona; or Esra, Clem, and Tal) all of them separately adorable. I’d spent eight months with those children, and I’d spent eight months with Sera and Rissa, her best friends. I’d spent eight months with Topher, the mage and caravan cook who argued with Minty but loved her children. I’d just gotten them to be friends. I’d just gotten them awkwardly married so that her children had somewhere to live while she went to war. I was getting to the point where they were almost admitting that they were actually attracted to one another. All of their friends knew it, most of their enemies knew it, and even the queen of the entire freaking country knew it, and I hadn’t gotten to write the end of that story.

And I realized, looking for my story and not finding it among the documents of my computer, that I wasn’t ever going to write it. That story, eight months of working and dreaming and planning, was gone. These characters, as real to me as any people, were gone.

I feel kind of guilty saying this, but it was like what I imagine losing a child must be like. I created these characters. They had parts of me in them. They were mine, and they were beautiful, and I loved them like a mother— that, I do not feel guilty saying.

I had my mother confiscate my medication that week,just in case. I’m the kind of depressive that has occasionally suicidal thoughts, but I can’t bring myself to actually plan or commit to it. (Thank God.) I was just wondering how I was supposed to keep living when my babies had just vanished. They were so real, so vivid. They were people. There were probably seventy-five or so characters, major to minor, and they were all gone.

I dreamed about them. I dreamed that they were angry with me. I dreamed that a wave of darkness swept over the world and that they died alone and forgotten. I dreamed that I forgot them, as my computer forgot the documents they lived in. I dreamed this and I woke up crying.

I still don’t think about them without crying. I’m tearing up writing this.

I’ve managed to re-write and finish one story that was lost with the rest. It wasn’t The Story, but it was A Story, and it was a really, really good story. I’m working on editing it now, and then I’m going to format it appropriately for Tor and Del Rey and submit it. I know I could just self-publish, but I’d like to try the big names first. Just in case.

I’m okay now, mostly. My parents got me a hard drive and everything I do is on it. I make regular backups to both Google Drive and Dropbox— never hurts to be sure, and I’m not losing my children ever again if I can help it.

What a horrifically sad story, right? Aspiring writer loses people who don’t exist and acts like it’s the actual end of the world. (It was an end of multiple worlds.) I don’t like telling people about this because I’m afraid they’ll laugh at me. “That’s not a real problem! There are people out there who lose actual children, and you’re whining about some lost documents? What is wrong with you?”

Love isn’t rational, okay? I can’t justify how my mind prioritizes this. It just does. It hurts me far more to think about this than it does to think about politics, or fractured family relationships, or the deep, dark thoughts that tell me I’m worthless and I should just end it. At least in those things, I have choices. This was not a choice. This was a stupid, reckless mistake that I could have prevented and didn’t.

I have become used to the fact that there are always going to be things I cannot fix. I’d like to, of course. I’d like to make everything okay. I’d like for people not to fight and just be kind to one another. I’d like for the world to prioritize helping people over helping themselves. I’d like for God to reveal His existence so that we could just stop arguing about it and accept some irrefutable proof that He is real. (My apologies to anyone who does not believe in God. I just hate arguing with you about it because I don’t want to hurt you, and I don’t want you to hurt me.)

There are always going to be things I cannot fix. The difficult part is learning to accept that. Eight months and some perspective later, I think I’m beginning to grasp the concept.

If you’re looking forward to seeing this blog in the future, consider following. If you want to see Occasional Pictures of My Face and Food I Have Made, you can follow me on Instagram at hypotheticalelephants. If you want to see me being a Whiny, Immature Human, you can follow me on Twitter at sadINFJwriter.



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