Skip to content

Cleaning out my Google Drive dug up treasure

Anytime I switch over to my Gmail tab—I keep one pinned in my browser—there’s a big warning sign about how I’m running out of storage. I don’t much feel like paying Google for more space, as my current line of work doesn’t require anything of the sort. In order to make that warning go away, I started sorting through old emails and documents stored on my drive.

The experience stirred up nostalgia, and in some cases, unwanted nostalgia. I’ve had my Gmail account since 2004 and started forwarding my university email there in 2006 while I was studying in Spain. In effect, I have most emails for the last 18 years. In addition, I’ve got Google Docs dating back to 2010 when I was in grad school. I’m not sure what happened in the interim, but there’s plenty there. Here are a few highlights of what I deemed as worth having in digital archives over the last 18 years.

Elementary school standardized test scores

This file is from 2014 and was named img.PDF, so it lay dormant for years. I can’t figure where it came from. My best guess is I got hold of my permanent record at my high school when I visited my 10th/12th grade Spanish teacher in the Spring of that year. He was my favorite high school teacher and a huge influence on my life. I was hung up on standardized tests at that time, along with what their scores meant and translating that to some definition of whether I lived up to my potential. I’ve mostly graduated from caring about such matters, but my fuzzy memory tells me I asked the front office if they had a copy of my permanent record and if I could see it. They obliged, but this was all it contained. Thank god.

Cover letters and edit tests from dozens of jobs

Looking back on close to 15 years of applications, cover letters and edit tests for various editorial jobs, I see how much I was hustling to raise the ceiling on my career. I spent a lot of time in my twenties and early thirties frustrated. So often, I’d be a finalist and not get the job. It’s no consolation to hear that you’re impressive—just not impressive enough. At the same time, I’m not sure if that’s worse than applying for a job and either never hearing anything back or being ghosted at some point during the process.

Among the records, I see memos I wrote for Al Jazeera America, Quartz and The Week, to name a few. One edit test had four sections, timed, and I had 6 hours to complete and send back via email on a Saturday. I remember vividly having to camp out in my bedroom on a day off to do that.

Texts with a girl I dated

I was hung up on this girl about 8 years ago, and to prevent myself from trying to figure out where things went wrong, I deleted the conversation from my phone so I’d stop looking at it. Of course, for fear of somehow deleting an experience from my life, I exported the conversation and buried it in my Google Drive before deleting entirely. I found that conversation today. I didn’t read the entire thing, but it really is something to observe the text messages from a relationship, however brief, as an archeological artifact. She was smitten with me and I did a terrible job of keeping things light. My insecurities did a lot of the talking there, but it’s not my fault or hers. Most relationships don’t work out. I Googled her to see what I could find. She seems to be doing well, and doing what she’d set out to do professionally. It felt good seeing that.

A photo from my friends’ wedding in 2013

Two of my closest friends got married in 2013 and I was lucky enough to be in their wedding party. In the course of their wedding photos, they took one with a few friends from grad school. It’s a great photo and still feels warm any time I look at it.

Central Park field permits

Back in 2013/14, I took up the mantle for Northwestern’s alumni softball team. I played in 2012, but our captain didn’t renew our membership or apply for permit space the following season. About 20 people were disappointed, including me, so I took it upon myself to schedule a slate of away games, and the following season, to schedule a full home-away season. Needless to say, it was thankless work, between getting the permits from the city, scheduling with other schools, and then scrounging up 10 players every week from a roster of 20 people. I probably spent 3 hours a week emailing and texting teammates to make sure we wouldn’t forfeit each week. In the end, we won one game in two seasons. I told the team I wasn’t going to be captain the following season well in advance.

Odds on another friend’s wedding

Along with two friends, I created a spreadsheet of bets with odds about the location, people and details around my good friend’s wedding back in 2016. I forgot this document existed and spent about 15 minutes reading the whole thing. It brought me to tears more than once. It’s nothing more than 50 lines of inside jokes, but that’s all it needed to be.

Madrid tour guide instructions

Back in 2007, when I was teaching English in Madrid, I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. To some degree, I’m still doing that. But at the time, I tried tested a bunch of jobs to see what stuck: I wrote for a magazine, taught private classes, and tried out being a tour guide on free walking tours. This led me to discover a nine-page walking tour guide of Madrid written by the guy who owned the agency. I couldn’t guess his name; all I recall is he lived close to La Latina and was from Argentina. The tour was a free walking tour, and the only way I’d make money was through tips. I tagged along for one and about 20 people showed up. Each tour lasted 3 hours. At the end, the tour guide asked for tips. I want to say the owner took something like 30 percent of the tips. Maybe it was 50 percent. Whatever it was, I decided that it wasn’t a good deal, and I didn’t want to spend my time begging for tips from tourists. But I still have this guide.

A ticket to Iceland I never used

Back in 2017, I took a new job as a contractor at a magazine. It was the first time I’d ever worked as a contractor somewhere. It was eye opening. In effect, I was treated as staff, but was paid hourly, not salary, and felt like a second-class citizen. It wasn’t the last time I’d take a contractor job, but there were certainly growing pains. Given that the role was a lateral move from a compensation standpoint, I hadn’t factored in what taking 10 days off from work would mean for me. It meant missing out on about $1,500 of work. The funny thing is, that’s not a titanic amount of money. Lots of people earn far less, and lots of people earn far more. But for where I was, at that time, $1,500 went a long way. In fact, it was the difference between a trip to Iceland making sense or not from a financial perspective. I ended up canceling the trip and got about half the ticket refunded. I’ve still not been to Iceland.

Countless ‘Untitled documents’

I take this as a metaphor. There are no fewer than 25 documents named “Untitled” in my Google Drive, and for each that I click on, I could probably save myself a click by assuming that it’s either not worth clicking altogether or irrelevant to the point that it’d already have a name if I cared before.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *