My past is everything I failed to be.
~ Fernando Pessoa
I just finished reading a Jen Lancaster novel called Here I Go Again, in which the main character travels back in time - more than once - to revisit the changes she should have made in order to restore balance in her current life (and the lives of those she impacted). Although the concept of this is certainly not new, and the notion of changing what has happened in the past is not realistic, it is undoubtedly a concept many have pondered. If given the chance to go back in time, and possibly rewrite your future, would you do it...and where would you begin?
Were I able to revisit my past, I would certainly change the simple things like bad haircuts and fashion disasters (perms and denim on denim, for god's sake), and most definitely some of the dating choices I made throughout high school and college. I would travel more, try harder, worry less. I would put more energy into understanding the world around me and less into fear of the unknown. I would be more outgoing, more well rounded, and more secure. Granted, these are all things I could actually apply to myself now...so as simple as it seems to tell myself I would do it differently given the chance, it doesn't go unnoticed that I do have the chance to change if I so desire. Or do I?
I tend to think a lot about the person I wish I were, the things I wish I'd done in my life...but when it boils down to it, aren't we pretty much the sum of our parts, for better or worse? I'd love to be more adventurous and outgoing, but the fact remains that I'm not. I adore the daydream version of myself, and while I can certainly strive to make her a reality, am I fooling myself if I think I can can change who I am at the core?
Going back in time and changing instances that have had no long-lasting impact on who I am today, such as prom night when I fell asleep early and woke up to my date making out with someone else right next to me (if I had stayed awake, he still would have cheated on me eventually) seem wholly unimportant. Larger decisions, such as where to go to college, where to live, where to work....these are the ones that I could see having a more profound impact on where I am today. But in what form? Sure, if I had gone to college in another city, or taken the first job offered to me after graduation, I'd likely be in a different place. But would I be a different person?
The "what ifs" in the world can be paralyzing if left to roam free in our minds. There are millions of permutations that can result from any given decision, and it's much simpler to abide by the notion that every tiny little ripple will not result in a tidal wave...but rather, a lazily flowing current. I have a handful of significant regrets when it comes to the choices I've made...but as they all led me here, how can I question them? If I hadn't taken that job, I wouldn't have met Ray. If I hadn't dumped that idiot of a boyfriend for not supporting my decision to take that job, I wouldn't have been single when I met Ray. If I hadn't met Ray, I wouldn't have Merrill....and so on and so on. The mistakes I made were part of a learning curve, and I will undoubtedly continue to make mistakes as I continue to learn. At the end of the day, it can be overwhelming as hell to try to compartmentalize your past into something neat and tidy, something to be packed up in a box and stored on a shelf with all the other boxes comprising the history of who you are and how you came to be. There aren't enough boxes or shelves to hold the weight of a person.