If I could turn back time …

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I suspect this is a question which has piqued us all at some point:

If you had one turn in a time machine, where would you set the dial?

What a wonderfully indulgent thought, to be given the opportunity to set the record straight, to right that wrong, to write that book. Would you go back to last week to relive that argument with your best friend? Would you go back to your last job? Your first marriage? Back to school? Even back to the crib? Or as far back as the womb?

I’m tempted to say I would go back to being a baby and do everything again. I’d grow up eating healthy food, I’d pass on the deep fried spam fritters and 1/4 pound bags of kali (northern English word for sherbert) that undoubtedly rotted my teeth beyond redemption. I would have continued running, cross country running was my thing, I was good at it as a kid, as a teenager. I found running easier than walking, and I should have exploited that, not neglected it.

I would have been more confident, less shy. I would have asked girls out at school and I wouldn’t have turned down that kind offer from Jane T. in 1981. I was bright and fairly academic, but I wasted my education. Had I applied myself I would have certainly attained better grades and that in turn would have led to better career choices and more money and … and …

So many choices, how far back do I turn the dial? So many choices! However, university was probably my greatest tragedy – 3 years of drinking beer and very little else, probably the single, greatest downturn in my life, certainly the period I look back on with the most regret, and so that seems to be a good place to return to in my time machine.

But wait, I met my wife at University. The Butterfly Effect, borne out of chaos theory, tells us that infinitesimally small changes can have huge longer term effects. Had I not been a beer monster, I may have turned left into the library rather than turn right into the top bar at Essex University. Had I done that I wouldn’t have seen her, I wouldn’t have fallen in love with the girl that rocked my world. We would never have married, and in turn, our children would have never existed, and that’s unthinkable.

If I step into that time machine, whichever point I choose to return to, I risk losing everything I now hold dear. The butterfly effect tells us that anything we do differently during our trip back in time, risks changing everything from thereon in. If I stop eating kali, perhaps I replace it with something else more sinister – I may have nicer teeth on my 2nd attempt, but perhaps I have a more addled brain. If I start running more in my second life, perhaps I end up at a different university, studying a different subject, and most certainly never get to the top bar at Essex University in the spring of ’82, and never actually meet that girl in the green combat trousers.

To imagine, or to wish for a different outcome from our past, is to risk changing everything going forward, including all that one holds dear. I don’t think we can pick and choose, we just act spontaneously and we must therefore live with the consequences of our actions. You pays your money, you takes your choice, and you have to accept all that comes with it.  I might wish I had better teeth and a flatter stomach but would I risk everything for that? To change anything about us is to change ourselves forever, and that has unintended consequences.

On reflection I think I’m OK after all, so I think I’ll pass on the offer of a spin in the time machine, thanks.

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7 thoughts on “If I could turn back time …

  1. Wendy Weir says:

    There are moments I hold so dear that my heart races when I try to recall every nuance. I know I never will, and after a time, inevitably I realize that I don’t need to either. Every amazing experience, every awful moment and everything in between has brought me to here. There are things I wish could be undone (you know, disease, illness. . .), but I don’t think I’d be any smarter or well-informed or wiser than the choices I made and/or were made for me created. I’d be a different me. Maybe better? Maybe not. I loved your post.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. lesley says:

    Mmm. I wouldn’t want to turn back the clock at all. I regret a few things…but they made me who I am. I have enjoyed most of my life. I am very optimistic, so that helps. We have all lived full lives…you have never suffered from the booze years in uni, or your shyness. You have overcome these and become the better person. We can all go over our lives and think….what if…But..do we? No, because life is what you make it…or what you male of it!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Tania says:

    I am who and what I am because of ALL the experiences I had as I’ve reached this point, my motto is never to regret anything – not in an amoral kind of way but you can’t change it and even if you could, would you? Like you, I suspect my answer is no.

    Liked by 1 person

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