In my gmail account, there is a folder called “Personal”. There are 9 threads in the folder going from October 2010 to a few hours ago. Each one represents a cringing episode in my life. Nothing small like a partnership rejection. Always big and have had huge impact on my worldviews, beliefs, or actions. I guess you can call them turning points. But to me, they represent failures and endless nights of thoughts and insomnia.
These failures catalyzed major shifts in how I view certain things. 3 out of the 9 threads are personal emails, i.e. about-to-breakup emails which led to the actual in-person breakups. One thread is a rejection letter from my dream employer at a time when I was seeking a safety net if g.Maarifa were to fail. 4 others are “doubt emails” from people whose views I highly value that told me that I won’t ever succeed with UCMI/ g.Maarifa and why couldn’t I just take a regular job in Corporate America. The last thread is an email of me begging my friend not to commit suicide after he sent me a depressingly crushing poem about ending his life. At that point, he was only responsive via email.
These are certainly not sunny emails to keep. But I do keep them. I read them almost once a month to ground and motivate myself. The breakup and suicide emails remind me how fragile life is and not to take things for granted. They remind me that things can suddenly change without reason and to be prepared for life when it happens. The rejection letter reminds me how much I still need to learn and how far I still need to go. The doubt emails are constant reminder that results will speak for themselves and to know that there are always people who will doubt me. They show me that I have to learn to brush away the naysayers and that I can’t please everyone. They light and rejuvenate the inner fire that propels me to do what I do inspite of what other people think.
Some people say that keeping these emails is psychologically masochist. Most people suppress bad memories, but I embrace them. I think if you use them in the right way- to motivate you, to rekindle the fire in your belly, to ground you- they become a powerful tool that has the ability to carry you to your goals, passed the naysayers and the hurdles along the way.