Perhaps our computers are indeed smarter than us. When they feel overloaded and maxed out, they simply freeze up and demand to be shut down. Upon rebooting, they feel refreshed, recharged and start over with a clean slate.
Many of us wish we could hit Control-Alt-Delete and shut down to ultimately start over again too. At a minimum, just to check out for a few days to get our head back on straight. But perhaps, on a deeper level, to completely wipe out everything going wrong in our lives with a total do-over. In Nick Hornby’s novel A Long Way Down, four individuals living four very different lifestyles all find themselves on the rooftop of a building on New Year’s Eve. The only common bond this collective group has is that each of them has made a mess of their lives, to the point where they all aspire to literally shut themselves down by jumping off the rooftop. But, as they talk through this common thread they have amongst themselves, they all ultimately opt for a reboot i.e. starting their lives over with a clean slate. For such a morbid subject, the book is truly inspiring and remarkably entertaining.
So, how do we reboot without taking the dramatic challenge of standing on a rooftop? The reality is that life has no rules, no guaranteed roadmap, and we all take detours off the main course. This is the key theme in my debut novel, Noon Moon. Haven’t we all arrived at some point in our lives, whether it be in a relationship, family, career, home, health and simply asked, “how did my life devolve to this current state?” And, if we could simply reboot it with a few simple strokes on the keypad, wouldn’t we hit Control-Alt-Delete to conveniently make it go away and get a fresh start?
Often what sustains us through these difficult times is the knowledge that this last resort option exists. The ability to mix it all up such as moving far away, changing jobs, making a new social circle of friends, etc. The world is much smaller today. Whether it’s fantasy or reality, the potential to tap into that option of rebooting our life allows us to persevere and deal with our current problems. Knowing you have the Control-Alt-Delete buttons within reach of your fingertips can offer comfort. As we deal with one crisis after another, our inner voice can offer comfort by reminding us we can start over. Do we really believe this? Perhaps not, as it depends on the gravity of the situation, but simply having the potential to do so is often powerful enough to keep the wheels from coming off.
But I would argue the smarter solution is to continuously tweak things as we face adverse challenges in our lives, rather than go for the massive overhaul. Keep calling the repair man rather than the dynamite explosives demolition man. When you sense yourself sliding down a slippery slope, the earlier you can catch and remedy it, the sooner you can get back up on our feet. In fact, the major secret to success and happiness in life may just be to never allow yourself to get to the point of where you’re looking for your Control-Alt-Delete buttons. Through self-awareness and creating a culture among friends & family to be open to criticism, we can all avoid the paths that lead to a downward spiral.
So next time your computer locks up and you find yourself cursing at it as it forces you to shut everything down, take a moment to reflect on your own life. Our computers are arguably smarter than us these days, but we may still hold the upper hand in not always needing to take the drastic measure of a total reboot.