If I Knew Then …

If you had a chance to go back to a key moment in your life and change things, would you? Do you have an idea of what moment you would choose to return to?

I guess at my age this thought comes up a lot. It’s a tricky thought experiment. It basically asks if you would gamble what you have earned for a chance at something else. Something better? Maybe. Something different? Probably. What if all you are left with in the end are better memories? Would it still be worth losing your now?

Part of the deal, of course, would be that you keep your memories of your now, and all of the life experiences that brought you to it. That’s really the key to getting a do over. We all want to be able to take the path less travelled, but we don’t want to do it without the knowledge and experience we gained from travelling over it the first time.

I think I have seen about a dozen Christmas movies where the theme of ‘do over’ was used to make the MC appreciate what they have. And in the spirit of It’s a Wonderful Life, the MC gets to change their mind when they are confronted with the different life line. If I were to write such a tale, I don’t think I could let my MC off that easy. Choices have consequences, and once you make one change, there is no way to go back and unmake it (I have also watched enough time paradox movies to burn that twisting horror into my brain).

And while a lot of ‘do over’ stories make you wonder about fate and destiny, in sitting with this idea today, I find myself thinking more about the self. I think that life is less about destiny and more about who we are at our core. If you were to go back, even with all the knowledge you have now, you would still be you — you would still have all your faults, flaws, and weaknesses.

And ultimately, you would still be the person who was created by your first go round. There would be no significant change to your personality because the life events that shaped you would still have happened, so the person you might have been wouldn’t exist. I knew I would find a paradox if I looked hard enough.

So that brings up the question, would your old memories fade? Would you lose yourself in redefining yourself? Would you lose the ability to appreciate the sacrifice of the old you as the new you took over? And would the people in your new life miss the old you they had gotten to know during the transition?

And this is how I end up with so many ideas for new stories, and so little time to get them all written.

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