After a meeting I attended last week, I was present at a discussion in which one of the attendees was congratulated on having been awarded a scholarship to finish the advanced degree she’s been working on in the evenings for the past few years. During the discussion, talk turned to her wishing aloud that she had made different decisions in the past, I suppose to the effect that she would have earlier realized whatever reward she feels will now accompany the new piece of paper. Her statement was something to this effect: “If I had it all to do over again, I would have waited to have kids, and would have focused more on my education and on career advancement.”
Another colleague in the mix added that “Yes, I’m sure we’d all do a few things differently, given the chance to go back and do it all again.” As they then both turned to me as if it were my turn to speak on the topic, the following things ran through my head:
- In an episode of Northern Exposure, the orphaned Ed Chegliak was communicating with his spirit guide about whether or not he should confront the man he had deduced was his father who abandoned him at birth, and what he would say to him if he did. Ed’s spirit guide told him that he needed to decide if Time is more like a river into which you could never step into the same water twice, or a wheel onto which you could feasibly step upon some future revolution.
- According to Gibby Haynes, the funny thing about regret is that it is better to regret something you HAVE done than to regret something you HAVEN’T done. If I went back, would I spend more effort on undoing things that I had done, or would I do more things that I didn’t when given the opportunity the first time around?
- If I went back to do stuff over again, would my old self(s) still be there like they were in the movie Primer? Doesn’t it always end badly when people go backward, particularly if they change the past?
- If I went back to do stuff over again, would I know then what I know now? How far back should I go? Can I catch up on what the stocks are doing before I go? If I could go back and change things for me, wouldn’t I have a higher duty to change things for the country or mankind, too? Can we clarify the rules of this game?
- Alan Parsons was prolly right: Time keeps flowing like a river. It’s not a wheel, at least not one that turns on a cycle that we can understand, and the best we can do is try to enjoy ourselves and each other in the time we’ve got to play in the river.
I was going to badly segue this post into another topic about a woman I saw wandering around downtown gesturing enthusiastically and preachin’ it (whatever it was) to some invisible presence(s) that seemed to be following just behind her left shoulder. Instead I am going to use that river metaphor, and try to continue taking many steps into the river, with the hope each time of floating gently down the stream. So far in this first week of my favorite month, I have taken these steps:
- Write my 18YO SWM son’s name on the write-in ballot and vote for him to win a seat in the TN State Senate, and get a new hockey cap to replace the one I threw at a false hat trick last season.
- Eat a killer Italian dinner with 17WfY and my son, followed by a walk through the Botanical Garden at the Cheekwood museum, which was hosting an in-situ exhibit of Dale Chihuly’s indescribable blown glass pieces, installed and dramatically lit within the garden’s various beds and ponds.
- See a killer 3-piece band funk(y?) band, have a Guinness, and talk about hockey, crowds, Grinderman, Norwegian goth rap, and Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs with professional musicians.
- Eat the best fish tacos ever at my favorite restaurant in Nashville between two meetings on a blustery Friday afternoon, while everyone in the restaurant bobbed their heads in time with David Bowie’s awesome multi-tracked singing about being alien.
- Finish another of the best books I have read, and start on its sequel.
- Hike through owl-infested woodland with 17WfY and meet some owls, learning about their asymmetrical ear placement in the process. (A 15-year-old blue jay flirted with 17WfY while we were there, and a barn owl gave her the hairy eyeball.) (I also decided I definitely want a hoot owl, but I don’t think that was the message that the owl sanctuary intended to deliver.)
- Hang out with one of my oldest friends in Nashville with some the most genuinely musical people I have ever met –in their native environment, a smoke-filled bar (that seems to have an antique box with human skulls in it on display).
- Stood for the final fitting of my custom alien/UFO bathrobe my lady friend made for me.
- Sit with my red-dreadlocked Mennonite friend to watch the open rehearsal of a 9-piece Samba band with brief and highly creative interjections from an apparent legend in the field.
- Sit on my porch, drinking Community Coffee’s Between Roast.
I am thankful that I am lucky enough to have these experiences, and that I am able to turn my attentions to the present more than to what ought or oughtn’t have happened in what sequence in the past.