An index card and pen rest on my bedside table, and I use them to jot down the to-do’s that jolt me awake just as I’m falling asleep. In the morning, I usually forget that list, then opt to type a few of the day’s tasks on my phone’s Notes app. At various points during the day, a reminder I set up months ago might pop up on my homescreen.
Inevitably, I’ll end up working on things that never even made it onto a list. “Email Jack back” loses out to the dishes in the sink. An impulse to go to Target overrides updating my resume. This happened a couple weeks ago when I decided, somewhat arbitrarily, it was time to buy a new laptop.
It’s the most human of impulses: to opt for the shiny, new machine rather than the boring tasks listed on my agenda. I did actually need a new computer, which replaced the laptop I bought a decade ago after graduating high school. When the Amazon delivery arrived, I moved slowly. I savored the packaging design, broke down the cardboard box, and patiently typed in my information into the onboarding carousel.
I ticked through the customizations, and I noticed this was a chance to start over. No more chaotic, screenshot-filled desktop. I will create folders and place documents, images, and more in orderly files. I’ll sort them alphabetically. I felt liberated as I chose my own settings. The only person I had to ask was myself. Did I want location services to know where I was, or ApplePay to allow transactions powered by my thumbprint, or my Notes app to alert me when others collaborated on our shared notes? My digital tabula rasa. A new beginning.
As I completed my preference settings, the screen opened onto a pristine desktop. Swaths of blue, purple, and white painted a vista of possibility. I let it sit still. I wanted to give it time to load, but I was also delaying the inevitable disruption of this untouched simplicity.
I noticed a notification on my phone. iCloud was creating a seamless connection between my phone and my shiny, new computer. All my texts, notes, and contacts up-to-date no matter which tool I use. My own Jarvis, these devices an extension of me and all I wanted to accomplish.
And that’s when I noticed.
Along the row of Apple programs, waiting, like presents under the tree, I saw the icon for the Reminders app. That beloved and hated app. That repository of all I have done and left undone, but mostly undone. In its top right corner, it bore a small, red circle with a white number ten.
In a moment, I remembered that this was a shiny, new computer, but its user was the same, old me, with lists of at least ten things I haven’t yet accomplished. When I pulled my hands off the keyboard, I noticed a familiar smudge where my palms had been, beads of sweat pooled on the Space Grey aluminum alloy. Welcome to my life, (slightly less) shiny, new computer.