Friday, October 30, 2009

Step by Step

Four summers ago, on an afternoon when I was supposed to be studying for the bar exam, I sat down at my computer with an irresistible urge to write a story. I felt overwhelmed, because I knew that I wanted to write a novel, and it felt like an impossibly large task. But I heard the thought “The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step,” and I took a deep breath and started writing.

Four years and a million pages later, I’m glad I didn’t know what writing the novel would require of me, because if I had known, I might not have started. This experience, and others, have taught me that taking the smallest possible step is often the best way for me to proceed, especially if I’m feeling paralyzed. It’s a trick, because often if I take even a tiny step, I build a little momentum, and can then take the next one and the next.

My most recent application of this trick is to my computer angst. The thought of anything technology-related overwhelms me, and my computer issues have recently become urgent and unmanageable. Most pressing at the moment is how unbearably slow my laptop has become, and when I tried to resolve this on my own, I made it worse, then avoided it for three weeks.

But yesterday when I inadvertently parked right by the Mac store I took it as a sign, walked in and made an appointment at the Genius Bar for today, figuring that might give me the push I needed. I hate the Mac store—all sleek, modern, and white with its tantalizing products, and its child employees who want to know things like “What kind of Mac do you have?” and “Which operating system?” I arrived late for my appointment, with a headache, and a teen with Frank Sinatra eyes and a fake Phillies tattoo on his forearm ran some tests, told me my hard drive wasn’t failing, scolded me for not having backed up sooner, and gave me a long list of things to do to resolve the problems. I left muttering to myself something about “kids today.”

After some coffee and some deep breathing, I’ve gained some perspective, and am proud of having taken the first step, which is often the hardest. In this case, I feared what might be asked of me, what it would cost, the stress and difficulty that could ensue, and also, admitting I’m not good at something (the horror!) But as with most things, the reality is better than the horrific possibilities my imagination creates. After thinking about what Old Blue Eyes said, my first step is to buy an external hard drive. That seems manageable. Then I’ll need to backup whatever I want to save from this one laptop. I can handle that. And after accomplishing those things, I’ll need to archive and reinstall the operating system, which sounds scary, but has written instructions, which I can generally follow. Three pretty small steps. I can do that. After I do, I can reevaluate what else, if anything, technological I need to do. Maybe nothing. And if I need to, I can always swallow my pride, go back to the Mac store, and try to resist my impulse to buy yet another overpriced Mac product that I won’t know how to use.

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