Yahoo’s recycling usernames and it’s forcing me to face my 7th grade inbox

email nostalgiaEveryone remembers their first screenname, but it’s the type of information you don’t tell anyone else (at least until after the fifth date). If you were born after 1985, chances are your screenname (sn, as we called them) captured everything about how childish you were when you first learned the ways of the Internet. Mine was no exception, so it was only logical that after I had created my first email account in the 7th grade, I abandoned it two years later when my high school required us to make a new account just for school-related work.

I ended up using my first email account as a throwaway email to sign up for services I didn’t want constant newsletters from. Some time after college, I bailed on it completely in preference of a Gmail account linked to my .edu address.

So when Yahoo announced that it would begin recycling usernames of accounts that have been inactive for more than a year, I was encouraged to log back into my primordial email to check up on what has happened since. Other than to activate services I used this email to sign up for, I hadn’t gone through the remnants of that account at all. Surely, the contents would feature 90 percent spam, 10 percent memory lane.

There’s an oddly natural age progression in the newsletters I’d signed up for. Things went from Neopets to Groupon to Douglas Elliman real estate listings.

Armed with a bag of Cola gummies to fight the fear of any embarrassing emails, I entered the password – a stupid combination of my and my then-boyfriend’s birthdays – and was granted access. It was like walking through a time machine. Folders organizing my emails as “FriendZ” and “School,” unanswered Yahoo messenger friend requests, 999+ unread messages. My initial guess was right: The account was full of Yelp and Pulsd newsletters, a few offers for penis enlargement pills, “50 percent off tickets to the Museum of the American Gangster,” and a coupon for $2 Jamba Juice smoothies. $2 Jamba Juice sale?? Ugh, wish I’d seen this before it expired.

There’s an oddly natural age progression in the newsletters I’d signed up for. Things went from Neopets to Groupon to Douglas Elliman real estate listings. I continued to push back in time and found old gossips about classmates and teachers. A note from an ex-boyfriend detailed a “bad dream” he had about me getting harassed by some class clown from school. Yikes – that’s a two Cola gummies post. Emails, new and old, say a lot about you, your choices, and how you came to be.

Inbox littered with spam, I switched gears to see the last few emails I had sent. Lo and behold, Natt Garun was a total American teenager. A few emails to MTV in 2005, inquiring about tickets to Total Request Live (which I totally made it to twice, purposely asking to come in December to score Christmas giveaways), some C++ syntax I created and sent to friends to see if it worked for them, and letters to my cousins in Thailand. “I want to be tall. American people are very very tall!” Some things literally never change.

Interestingly, every time I replied to an email, I would delete the thread to save space – making it extremely difficult to gain any context of what I was responding to.

Confused by the mysterious string of emails, I glazed over and noticed there are three unsent emails stuck in my drafts folder. As if my preteen Xanga posts weren’t embarrassing enough, I couldn’t imagine other ramblings I was preparing to send off to the Web.

The oldest email, dated February 18, 2003, was a short notice to my mom’s old boss asking him to keep in touch after she’d left to take another position. Odd, but makes sense since my mom doesn’t write English or use email. The second untitled draft was a copy and paste of an AIM conversation I had with a friend – I was likely trying to send this to another friend to share how hilarious we were. Spoiler alert: We weren’t.

The last, dated July 26, 2003, was an email to my penpal who had moved from New York to Florida. In it were complaints of a typical teen: I was bored of having a summer job, whining that I couldn’t see my then-boyfriend as often, and wishing high school would start so I could enter a new chapter in life. Then, I had described to her of odd pains in my stomach, an “unbalanced spine,” and an upcoming doctor’s appointment that would hopefully figure all this out. Little did I know I would be referring to the day I learned of my pancreatic tumor, winding up in the hospital two weeks later for a massive surgery to remove it. That was the last time I ever wrote my penpal.

In that email, despite the gripes about summer, a childlike optimism prevailed. “I learned to be patient,” I wrote her, describing the pressure of my first job working 12 hours a day at my family’s restaurant. “I want to quit like crazy but I can’t. Strength pulled through and I made it through summer, even if my job took a third of it. It’s OK, summer will come again.”

But the wisdom was not without juvenile tendencies. Again, presented without any context: “If you were still here, we’d go out everyday and do so many stupid things, we’d laugh about it every Xanga entry. BTW [name redacted] needs to stop bothering you. Tell him to watch porn for company and leave you the hell alone.”

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