I went down to Office Services the other day to tell someone that after weeks of meticulously planning a surprise scrapbook, photography portfolio, and family album as a three-part present for my boyfriend’s birthday, I lost my phone, the wallet cover attached to it, and therefore my work ID card.
Office Services is where my workplace provides basic office supplies for the building. Vernon is the woman whom I spoke to. She wore red-rimmed glasses and had curly, cropped hair. She waddled about the office, her hand at her waist to support the slight hunch in her back. She reminded me of a black version of my therapist. Except she wasn’t my therapist and I did not tell her all the details I mentioned. I just said, “I lost my ID card,” and she said, “Well, you’ll need to wait two days for a new one.”
“Can I use a temporary card to get in and out the offices?”
She laughed. “No. Think of it as punishment for losing your card.”
I didn’t say anything back to her out loud, but in my mind, I eked out in my most pathetic, pitiful voice I could mentally muster: Haven’t I been punished enough?
February 6th was the first day I started working at my first real job. A week prior to that, my boyfriend’s sister asked me if I would be interested in helping her make a scrapbook filled with letters and pictures from friends for my boyfriend’s 30th birthday. She wanted to present it to him during his birthday trip to Canada that we were all going on together.
I was touched that she thought to include me in her idea and I was eager to help. My boyfriend had surprised me with a scrapbook before for my own birthday, so I liked having the opportunity to return the favor. His sister and I split the work between who we would contact to contribute to the scrapbook. We got excited. And then, ambitious. “Hey, what if I also make a family album for him? I can fill it up with all his old childhood photos,” she said, and I returned, “And what if I made him a portfolio that showcases his photography? Also! What if I threw a surprise birthday dinner for him?!”
When I told my therapist about our grand scheme, she said that I was “once again,” overdoing everything. She was probably right. My boyfriend would have loved the scrapbook by itself. He didn’t need an additional photography portfolio or even a surprise birthday dinner. Still, there’s some masochistic part of me that believes to prove my love, I have to do everything I possibly can to show it, I have to push my limits. If I don’t, I’ll feel guilty for not willing to make a sacrifice out of my time and efforts.
The early February weeks were thus filled with almost nonstop work as I found myself responsible for consistently bugging people for their contributions, sneaking onto my boyfriend’s computer when he wasn’t looking to pick out photos, going out to meet friends to collect handwritten letters/cards, organizing the surprise party on Facebook, and lying to my boyfriend about my whereabouts and plans, all while adjusting to my new work life. When I wasn’t at my 9-5 job, I was working on the present during lunch breaks and after work. I was exhausted and anxious, worried that somehow this project would fail to come to fruition and all this hard work would be for naught.
Eventually, I did pay the price for all this stress. Physically, I felt tired everyday. Emotionally, I also felt drained and fragile. I cried over dumb things. I cried when my Facebook wasn’t working for a day because I needed it to communicate with people regarding the birthday plans. I also cried when, in the midst of packing for Canada, I suddenly remembered the complicated (but not really) airplane rule about carrying on liquids. Minor things became major and my poor boyfriend was often confused as to why I was so upset.
I’m not saying arranging these birthday plans for my boyfriend was a completely terrible experience. I did have fun with it. But in the days leading up to Canada, leading up to the big reveal, I was definitely spiraling down into some pretty bad moods.
The day I lost my phone in Canada, it was two nights after the sister and I successfully surprised my boyfriend with his three gifts. I remember thinking all that stress was definitely worth it. My boyfriend loved his gifts, the scrapbook most of all. He was shocked that we were able to keep this from him and that all his friends were so willing to contribute. He kept thanking us over and over again all night and we were happy to see him feel so happy and loved.
The day I lost my phone in Canada, it was the morning we were supposed to leave for the airport to go back home. My boyfriend and I wanted to go out and get a quick breakfast. I remember noticing my phone on a table by the door before we went out. I remember thinking that I should take it with me. We walked around outside for about 15 minutes, before I noticed that I didn’t have my phone on me. I felt pretty casual about it. “It’s probably back at the hotel. I guess I didn’t take it with me after all,” I thought to myself. Once we got back though and I saw that the phone was not on the table, I knew that I had lost it instantly. I must have taken it with me outside. I must have let it drop somewhere.
My boyfriend and I retraced our steps outside three times and looked everywhere in our hotel room. I couldn’t call it, couldn’t text it, and couldn’t use the Find My Phone app because I had turned it on airplane mode to avoid using data. I lost not only my phone, but the wallet cover that was attached to it; the monthly MetroCard I spent $116 on; my student ID that I used to get discounts; my credit and debit cards; my work ID that I just got; but most tragically of all, my thousands of pictures from 2016 that, at the time, I thought I never backed up and were lost forever.
I felt devastated. As a 25-year-old, I still have a tendency to think like a child. Instead of accepting the fact that bad things happen sometimes, I felt like this was the most unfair thing that could happen to me, as if some kind of cosmic force had made me lose my phone as some form of punishment. I was very sad for days. I was sad and angry at “the world”for what I felt was a big, “Fuck you,” after weeks of toiling over what I thought was a nice gift that I sacrificed time and effort over. Maybe it was because I was expecting something. After I gave my boyfriend his gift, maybe I expected not only a “thank you” from him, but from the cosmos. I expected to feel good about myself, about making my boyfriend happy. The fact that this good feeling did not last as long as I would have liked, that life did not go the way I had planned, felt like a slap in the face. It was expectations versus reality, and reality really, really shat on my expectations hard.
It’s been a few weeks since our trip to Canada, since we surprised my boyfriend with his gifts, since his additional surprise birthday dinner which I arranged to happen after the trip, and also since I’ve lost my phone. It’s been stressful and kind of annoying. My new work ID took not two days but a whole week to make (“That’s Office Services for ya!” my coworker quipped) and I still don’t have my new debit card I ordered from my bank weeks ago.
But there have been some ups to mitigate these downs. My mom helped me get a new phone. More importantly, she also helped me gain a new perspective about the whole thing. According to her, the trick to feeling better about a bad experience is to attribute blame to something/someone else, like pretending that someone pickpocketed me instead of thinking I lost the item myself. Although I doubt I actually was pickpocketed, it kind of comforted me to think of it that way. And her idea raised a good point. How I felt about this whole thing really depended on how I chose to see things. I could choose to continue seeing this whole thing as a form of damnation and stay sad for a really long time, or I can wake up and realize that losing a phone and surviving without it for a while was not that big of a deal. It sucks, but at least I didn’t actually lose a person I love. Imagine if I lost my boyfriend, my dog, or even my mom in Canada! Now that would a real nightmare. As for losing my 2016 pictures, well, I got really lucky with that. When I got my new phone, I realized that I had saved them all to my Photo Stream after all. High-five, past Eunice!
Anyways, this was a really long story of me complaining about how I didn’t get the “Thank you” from the world that I wanted. In the end, I would like to think this whole experience was kind of a life lesson that I had to learn. It was a reminder that the world does not revolve on “thank you”s, but “grow up”s. Shit happens and no God or Satan or ambiguous cosmic force is out to get me just because. Hell, even if gods and all-powerful beings really do exist, I doubt they would give a shit about me and my daily, first-world life struggles. It was just some bad luck, and it sucked that it happened right after I had completed a particularly stressful project. The next time I travel, I’ll be more wary of holding onto my phone at all times. And even if I lose it again, it will be annoying and inconvenient in many ways, but I’ll still have a life to live and people I love. That’s all that matters.