The notes app on my phone disappeared—and spurred a come-to-Jesus moment

The notes app on my phone disappeared—and spurred a come-to-Jesus moment

The notes app on my phone disappeared—and spurred a come-to-Jesus moment

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I opened the notes app on my phone to find a blank screen. I froze, agape, like you do when you just realize you’ve emailed the wrong person or left your favorite item of clothing in a hotel room miles away.

I had gone to find something I had written about my hometown after a recent visit, a small thought at the time. The app was empty.

Days earlier, Dad had changed a setting on our family iCloud, and the notes disappeared. It was an innocent mistake. But it also left him – a boomer! – Amazing that I hadn’t backed up my phone since February 2020.

For the past three years, and possibly longer, I’ve been using the notes app as an “always with me” diary. There was no order, no folders, no method to the madness.

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It contained everything from Christmas card drafts to an itinerary for a recent trip to Melbourne to the speech I wrote for my best friend’s university graduation on Zoom. There were movie recommendations, books to read and restaurants to try. There would have been drafts of important text messages in there somewhere, right next to a list of rentals I’d inspected and why almost all of them were bad. I wrote down the questions I was asked in my job interview so I could remember what caught my eye. To Dad’s surprise, the app also contained several passwords.

These recorded moments were seemingly insignificant and occasionally important. Yes, there were shopping lists, but there were also sprawling ideas for a book I might write one day, and comments heard as I watched people.

Perhaps most tragically, there were observations of the first year of Covid, when daily life changed completely. When a couple in the supermarket were trying to decide whether to panic buy pasta and tinned tomatoes like everyone else, I wrote down what they said. There were also the good things: kids in dinosaur pajamas eating croissants by the beach early in the morning because their parents weren’t rushing to work, and how nice it was. But I can never go back to exactly what I wrote, or exactly when it was.

Everyone has a time capsule they couldn’t bear to lose, digital or otherwise

Some immediately understood my grief at this loss. A friend pulled out her phone without prompting, opened her notes app and read out a stream of insane thoughts she’d written down, many of which no longer made sense. She compared reading someone back as far as 2017 to reliving the person she used to be. Another friend immediately responded to my panicked texts with words in all caps.

It can be difficult for some to understand the seriousness of the situation. You probably can’t use notes that a lot? How about good old pen and paper? But like Carrie’s laptop dying in Sex and the City, or Amy burning Jo’s manuscript in Little Women, my collection of seemingly insignificant moments amounted to a magnum opus. To anyone who doesn’t, the question “Don’t you back up?” is somehow still annoying.

Whether it’s a generational thing or not, everyone has a time capsule they couldn’t bear to lose, digital or otherwise. We fear losing hard drives that store years of photos (how many backups of backups is it realistic to do?) or travel journals that are irreplaceable.

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This experience has been a stomach-churning moment when it comes to Jesus. After exhausting every avenue to retrieve my lost notes, including downloading questionable iPhone rescue software, I immediately backed everything up, twice. I severed ties with the family iCloud account so that I could have sole control over, and sole responsibility for, any repeat incidents of this nature.

But like finishing a really good book and not wanting to dive right into a new read, I couldn’t face the blank canvas of the app in the days that followed. Almost a week later, I reflexively opened it to jot down a list of things to do this weekend. I don’t need to keep it forever, but I can think of something on the bus to work tomorrow that is worth keeping.

I don’t know how many notes I had or if there were any pearls of wisdom to be found in my streams of consciousness. It won’t take me long to build up a new collection. But pay attention, because I have one piece of advice: Don’t learn the hard way that your to-do lists matter as much as your musings on life’s big moments. Back up your phone!

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