The most freakishly terrifying thing happened to me today. I am still reeling from the fact that the universe chose me to play this terrible prank upon- because that is exactly what it is, a prank. Now, for as much as I aspire to stand out and be different, it is at times like this that I am reminded all too painfully of the truth, that I am exactly like everyone else. If I had been extraordinary and unique, I am certain I would have reacted differently to the momentary disaster that came upon me. I suppose it is time to introduce some context.
Last night, I shunned sleep until the earliest rays of sunlight alerted me to the fact that it was actually morning. This was nothing new to me, of course, as a self-professed night owl, and a teenager with an abundance of free time during the summer break. But I was not up late working on my mountain of back-to-school projects, or doing productive research. I was on my phone instead, reading one of those clichéd stories about memory loss. You know the drill: protagonist gets into an accident, wakes up with six years of memory wiped out, realises he or she is married, and the aftermath is predictably traumatic, tragic and frustrating. Now, let it be known this is not one of the many stories which I scoff at, and I have immense sympathy for the suffering protagonist. But the point is, I was reading this story about memory loss, and then, when I thought I really ought to get some sleep, I locked my screen, and drifted off to dreamland.
I woke up a little after noon (no judgement: I’m on vacation) and lazed about, munching on some cereal in milk that was not warm enough, and going back to my bedroom. Shortly after a light lunch, I invited my little sister in for a Teen Wolf marathon, in a desperate quest to enlighten her on how some parts of some shows with unfortunate names are actually quite amazing. Perhaps the reason the incident feels like The Incident is because it happened on such an ordinary day. Regardless, it was startling, and on that note, I should get on with the narrative.
After my sister left my room, I picked up my phone and typed in my password. My phone said it was incorrect, and the word I’d typed in disappeared. I wasn’t too concerned: I’m not always the best at one-handed typing, and this happens more often than I care to admit. I typed it in again, this time making sure to pay attention to the letters. But the same thing happened. I tried again, and again, and again, until I was informed that I had typed in the wrong password five different times, and would have to wait thirty seconds before my next attempt. Well. That certainly hadn’t happened before. I was officially concerned. I could feel a sweat breaking out on my forehead, but forced myself to remain calm. I even forced a laugh at myself to convince myself everything was okay.
I abandoned my reclining position and thought about my password. The same six letters popped into my mind, and I tried it again, but then I realised that I was wrong. That was not my password. It had been at one point, sure, but I had updated it ages ago. I still could not admit to myself that I, of all people, had forgotten my phone’s password. I type that word in at least fifty times a day. I have typed it in at least fifty times a day for about a year. I found it simply inconceivable that I had randomly forgotten my password, at an ordinary time in an extraordinarily ordinary day. But I tried the same word again, and when I found it was incorrect, I had to accept that it was true. I had not consciously thought about the word in a long time, and it had become muscle memory. And today, my muscle memory had left me. I had forgotten the password to my phone. I had lost the key to my life.
Once this thought registered, I experienced a distinct phenomenon known as panic. I have often written characters with anxiety like my own, but I realised that this level of panic was one I had never experienced before. My heartbeat sped up so quickly I did not have a chance to attempt to slow it down, my eyes flew open and I reached an unwanted state of heightened consciousness. The thought that a crucial portion of your memory has been wiped out is actually terribly disorienting. I was experiencing my first major freak-out, very possibly a panic attack, and despite the circumstances, I was impressed by that fact. My sister knocked and asked me a question. I couldn’t very well let anyone know I was panicking, could I? That would obviously lead to me having to disclose the reason for my panic, and I couldn’t tell my little sister that I had forgotten my phone’s password. (Not when she had tried to weasel that information out of me for so long, and I had taunted her mercilessly, dangling the treat in front of her in the form of little hints, only to snatch it away with my patented evil laugh.)
I quickly ran through my list of close friends, and I realised that I had told one, or perhaps two of them my password at one point. I thought to call them, reached for my phone, and then gritted my teeth. Of course. I couldn’t call them. It was fine, I told myself, and took a deep breath which served only to quicken my heartbeat. I charged towards my desk, and pulled out my countless notebooks, knowing without a doubt that I would have a backup plan, a secret hiding place of passwords in case I suffered amnesia.This was me.I planned for things like this all the time. My backup plans had backup plans.
But I could not find my amnesia survival kit in written form. So I reached for my laptop, and as I typed in the password, I scowled, understanding that I remembered every password except for the one which contained my whole life. Even as I was in panic mode, the first lines of this piece of writing presented itself in my head. I opened up a new word document, and started writing about the time I forgot my phone password.I fought the urge to poke my eye out with a pencil. Scowling harder, I scoured my laptop, and found several backup plans for every performance I had ever organised or been in, found entire pages of name suggestions for whatever my once-obsession had been, but not the one thing I needed. Typical.
I made my way downstairs, sipped my tea, thinking it would calm me down (it did not), and soon, I was literally pulling out strands of my hair. I picked up the heavy-enough-to-kill-someone Oxford Dictionary, and, somehow imagining that the password began with the letter ‘r’, I scanned every entry under that letter, knowing my penchant for using random unremarkable words for important passwords, but besides learning a few new obsolete usages, nothing came out of it.
Minutes later, I did the only thing I could do with my phone while I tried to figure out a way to smoothly backup the ocean of data I had neglected to save. I played my music, and it picked up where it left off this morning, and all of a sudden, it came rushing to me. The word, the key to all my secrets, the sustenance of my existence. It came back as easily as it had left me, and I hurriedly wrote it down on several top secret locations after I nearly fell to my knees in relief.
This near death experience has taught me that you literally must not, never ever, take anything for granted. Even something so close to you, something you control, that feels like an extra appendage, can disappear into thin air, and there may not be anything you can do about it, unless you make sure to keep the important things safe. Which means you should always backup. In every sense of the word. But the real moral of the story is that if your body clock gets frustrated enough, you can experience selective amnesia, in the most inconvenient possible way. So sleep well, or this could happen to you. Another possible conclusion is that whatever you’re reading at five in the morning can come back to haunt you the next day. So, also, read wisely.