Three weeks, and two thoughts.

This past December, just a few mere hours after I landed back home for my Christmas ‘vacation’, I dropped my iPhone on concrete, cracking about 80% of the screen (except for a near-perfect diagonal, half-triangle shape near the top of the screen). Obviously, I was devastated. But I was also inebriated. So, I guess most of my initial shock was long and far from my regular mental state; my regular response to such an event.

Part of my devesation was formed earlier by two prior events. The first and most important, was that this was the my iPhone – or really any device of any kind – that had been broken since around 2009 or 2010. Secondly, and in a sick twist of irony, I had just finished talking to a friend about how “useless” and “silly” it was to actually use cases for our iPhone’s. Sure, they protect your phone, and in most cases, can improve the asthetic of your phone, but there’s just nothing like holding it naked, wild and free. (As we talked literally just minutes before my drunken drop, they make it to be naked! Why cover it up?)

Clearly, there’s reason for cases, and of course I always knew that, but that night was a solid reminder that inebriated Joel doesn’t always have the best ideas.

In the nick of time, Christmas arrived – and so did my new iPad. The first thing I thought when I opened the box was, “Hey cool, I can finally use something without an ugly screen.” (Then the rest of my “omg it’s an iPad” feelings kicked in.)

The days following Christmas, I used my iPad so much that I left my aging MacBook Pro on the charger. When I finally decided to use the laptop again, I discovered my battery had floated peacefully to the Cloud in its sleep. (By the grace of God, it still works properly whenever I have it charging, so I guess you could call my MacBook something like Lazarus; I dunno, just an idea.)

Amidst all these technological mishaps, I decided it was finally time to put good use to the external hard drive I received for Christmas. It’s a nice one terrabyte in size, which means I won’t be able to fill it to capacity for a long, long, long time. This, in turn, had me scouring through the depths of my saved images, videos, documents and more from around 2012 and beyond.

It’s easy to forget the past — that much became apparent to me within just minutes of starting the hunt. Aside from all the embarassing pictures I had both of myself and friends, the documents from my first semester of college and the thousands of saved iPhone camera roll photos, there was something to be said about all these things stored so far back, yet in front of my face.

First off, there was video from my last day at KAMR in Amarillo, way back in the first week of June 2013. One of the videographers had secretly filmed me editing and doing my job the last few hours of my final shift, and he used some clever tricks to get me to look at the camera when I least expected it. The same footage ended up making the final story of that 10 P.M. Friday night newscast, as a nice goodbye from both the newsroom and, in a sense, the community. I was touched to say the least – and I had also totally forgotten about that.

Just one and a half weeks later on June 18, I moved out of Texas and said goodbye to the life I lived so comfortbaly in.

Then came the screencaps from 2012 and 2013, most of which were nothing but silly, out-of-context conversations and quotes from chats with close friends. Obviously I had forgotten about those as well, and before I knew it, I found myself obsessed with all the memories I pushed away with the help of time and natural progression.

One chat inparticular must have set with me well back then, because on August 28, 2012, I screencapped a Skype conversation with a friend. In it, I ask, “Why would I come to St. Louis,” to which he says, “To get the fuck out of Amarillo”. Looking back, I totally asked that hoping to get a charged, Godspeed-driven, surefire answer to pull me even slightly out of my comfort zone — not because I was opposed to the idea.

In fact, it was just a month and a half later on October 15, 2012 that I not only took my first ever trip by myself, but was also the first time I ever stepped foot in Missouri.

(Also, if you haven’t noticed, I remember dates specifically well most of the time.)

For as long as I’ve been on my own, I’ve both been aware and completely ignored the side of me that invigorates taking on change, no matter how uncomfortable it’s willing to ultimately make me feel. Looking back through all these aged digital relics, I’m transported back to a time where I lived in a perception of always staying the same; of always feeling the desire to do nothing new.

The best thing I can compare all this to is the faux-physical memories certain songs can bring you. As much as I adore the world of story writing, I’m not sure if there’s quite another medium that can compare with music sending you back to the exact moment said song left a mark on you. I’ve mentioned it plenty before, but the first summer I was here, I blasted Radiohead’s The Bends everywhere I went. I blasted it during the happy times, the sad times, and the anger-filled days of losing two of my tires on the same street, weeks apart. Naturally, the first thing I come to think of any and every time I listen to The Bends is going to be the feelings I so naively had way back in 2013. I guess you could say those specific emotions are stuck in time; maybe it’s in my mind’s eye, or maybe it’s just the power it had in the moment.

My point is, these old memories that previously meant nothing more than a quick laugh now have depth. They now have their own history. Even if they had been abandoned for as long as they were, they were only so waiting to be returned.

Now, no matter where I go, no matter who I’m with and no matter how I end up, I will be extra sentimental. This is just a fact of life – well, my life at least – and it’s something that’s both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because I seemingly always unintentionally feel comfortable opening up my heart and mind for new adventures, but it’s a curse because of everything else. If I were like “everyone else” (as I tell myself writing this), I doubt most of what I came across wouldn’t mean much to me. And that’s fine and dandy, but really, wouldn’t I be losing out on all the good times by looking their way and rolling my eyes? Wouldn’t I be throwing the towel in the hamper? That’s totally boring to me, and I’m fully convinced my subconscious is having fun with all this.

It’s the same reason that when I meet someone I like, I really like them. It’s the same reason that when I find a band I love, I really love them. And it’s the same reason that when I find a drive I feel comfortable with, I go all in. When I look back to all these memories from the past, of course I feel nostalgia, embarassment and fond times, but I’m also forced to remember the Joel of a time when I wasn’t even fully happy.

And you know what? That’s okay. Because not everything in my life has to or needs to be perfect to enjoy it for what it is.

The more I think back to my last three years here, the more I spend time wondering the first time I ever believed myself when I said, “I love it here.” I’m sure there are many answers to that question, but the one that will always and forever stick out was when I sat on top of the roof of a now-demolished hospital. Rarely are there times I can’t describe how I felt, but please believe me when I say there wasn’t and will never be a sentence or phrase willing to accurately describe the joy I felt that cold, dreary night in January of 2014.

A night that, somehow, was already two years ago.

It’s like the song that closes out an ambigious movie ending, or the quietness that follows the completion of reading a book; to look back at how far you’ve come, whether it be with fiction or real-life, the ability to honor your past and compare is a blessing unlike none other. These cracked iPhone’s, irrelevant Word documents, .mp4 videos, saved text messages of my closest relationships and (truly) awful music erased from my iTunes collection only bring me one solid message – the one thing I couldn’t fit in for all of 2015 – growing with the bad and relaxing with the good.

I’m soon turning 23, and though I definitely sometimes feel like I’m already 25, here’s to making my relationship with life the best it can be.



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