This month I've been forcing myself to clean out my two oldest online mailboxes. I've kept them going since I opened them back in 2000 and 2004 respectively, and they've always been cluttered. I save a lot of e-mails every week. Some I want to read twice, or put off until I have the time to write a thoughtful answer. Others are documentation of some business deal I forgot to print out. But there are hundreds of old e-mails I've also saved because I don't want to let them go.
One box is finally cleared out; I read through over 300 e-mails dating back to 2007 before finally clicking on each tiny box to mark them as read. One last time I got to see some of the highlights and low points of last eight years of my professional life, business deals and choices, and colleagues who contacted me at various times over the course of my career. The book I could write about Publishing, oy. But I'd rather simply remember the good things and the decent people as I consign all of it to the pro history vault. I do wish all the folks I've met over the years the very best.
I did see some correspondence that proved very hard to mark as read. It consisted of e-mails from people who have since gone onto the next place, and while I've accepted that, feelings for them still linger. Frank, I will always wonder what that first book of yours would have been like to read. Anne, I wish I could have met you and thanked you in person, just once. Monica, I still miss you and your wonderful storytelling. I saved all those e-mails I guess because it helped me to reread them and hear those voices again. Less painful but still pang-filled is a copy of my old blogroll HTML, which I e-mailed to myself in case I accidentally deleted it. Although most of those blogs have vanished, and their writers have been gobbled up by Facebook and Twitter, sometimes it's nice to remember how it used to be back in the early days of blogging (and maybe work on making this year on PBW better.)
It does feel better to finally let go of all these saved messages. Clean-slate good. I can keep moving forward, stop clinging to reminders of the past, and stick with the friends and colleagues who still want to keep in touch. And maybe figure out how to stop hoarding e-mails . . . .