Losing a home is like losing a family member. For as long as I could remember, the house on the corner of Oak Avenue in the suburbs of Central Pennsylvania was my anchor point. Even when I lived on campus, that two-story, 4-bedroom house was my anchor, the place I learned how to walk, where I had tearful arguments, where I spent days hunkered down during blizzards. All these memories meant nothing to the bank. The foreclosure loomed over our heads like gallows. We were losing the house, and there was nothing left to do but search for an apartment and pack up.
We rented a storage unit to make it a little easier. Before long, I had stripped my room to the bare essentials: a bed, my laptop, a table to place my phone, and a closet still filled to the brim. Like peeling off layers, I laboriously stuffed coats, shirts, and other textiles, mostly unused over the years, into extra-large garbage bags. A lot of this I’d send to a charity, I thought to myself, wondering how I accumulated so much over the years. It was terribly dusty. I must have gone through a tissue box from sneezing.
Given enough time, I managed to remove most clothing and began searching boxes I had stashed away in the back corner of the closet. One of the boxes was a metal tin. I rested it on my bed and subsequently cursed myself for not dusting it off first. Now my black blanket had an aura of grey surrounding the tin. I figured I could just wash the blanket and might as well see what was inside the tin.
There was a calculator, two pens, some USB cables, and finally a little black moleskin book on top of a portable hard drive. My intuition hit me hard. I wasn’t sure why yet, but I had to find out what was stored in that portable hard drive. I fired up my laptop and connected the hard drive with a vital urgency. Blood thumped in my wrists. I struggled to orientate the USB cable to the jack. I finally got the hard drive to hum to life with a small indicator light shining blue. A prompt came up on my screen. It was asking for a password. I guessed that little black notebook had the password, thumbed through it, and was surprised that it did. I typed it in, carefully, and clicked enter.
It was .44 of Bitcoin. My hands went numb and my body forgot to breath. Adrenaline flooded my veins, and I knew I couldn’t type… but I needed to know. I used voice-to-search on my phone. I asked, with what I’m sure was an unsteady speech (because my heart was now in my throat), “How much is bitcoin currently worth?”
I ran out to my parents. My body remembered how to breath, but now it sounded like I ran a marathon.
“What’s wrong?” my mother asked.
“I found bitcoin in my things.” I forced these words out.
Her eyebrows folded together. “Is that a bad thing? Is it contagious?”
My father must have understood what I was talking about. He simply asked, “How much do you have?”
I let these words settle in the air. I felt like the vocalization somehow legitimized it.
Granted, $20,000 wasn’t going to solve every problem. I wouldn’t be retiring early or buying a yacht. But $20,000, after losing your home, felt like hitting the jackpot.
I recalled how it happened later. When I was in college, back when a personal computer could mine bitcoin, I had given it a shot. At the time, one bitcoin was worth less than a penny. After giving it some serious time, I got bored of the venture and just stored it away. In 2009, .44 of bitcoin couldn’t even purchase a slice of pizza. Today, it was a miracle—something to pay off debts and put down a deposit on a new home. Now that hard drive and that little black notebook sit in a place of honor in my new bedroom.