Imagine that some wish-granting genie has stepped out of your dreams and into your living room, where you’ve been reading about famous and accomplished people while the TV bleats on in the background.
“I’ve come to grant you a wish,” the genie says. “You can go back to any previous point in your life and start again from there. It’s like a ‘system restore’ for your life story. Just tell me how far back to rewind and when to press ‘play'”.
Would you do it? How far back would you go? What would you like to “do over”?
A programme on CBC Radio One asked that question last week, and it really got me thinking. It could be quite an opportunity to go back and get some things right. I mean, here I am in the middle of my life, still working very hard just to make ends meet. I’ve come out of more years than I would like of broken relationships, financial struggle and career drift. Surely I’m a good candidate for a do-over.
Except that as I went backwards through my life, year by year, I couldn’t point to any one point where I could say “Yep, it was all pretty much downhill from there. Let’s go back and play it again and this time, I will make better decisions.” For instance, I spent a bunch of my parents’ and my own money studying a subject (teaching English as a Second Language) that I put to good use for a whole six weeks. Should I go back and change my major? Change my school? While my studies were only marginally important to my career, wouldn’t I be missing out on all the things I did outside of class, which ended up being much more central to the person I’ve become? How would I have met the man who became my husband?
And what about him? We dragged each other through hell for much of the sixteen years that we were together. Together, we were less than the sum of our parts. Except that we produced three incredible sons. If I did anything right in my life, it was having my boys. Some of those same struggles shaped me in important, life-enhancing ways, too.
Nope, if I’m going to press “reboot” anywhere, it is going to have to be right here, right now. I am the result of all my decisions, good and bad. To move backward and wipe some of the record clean would be to negate much of the person that ALL my experiences have turned me into.
On the other hand, the future stretches out before me with not much more than a suggested outline and a number of possible trajectories. This present moment might be the best place to say “OK, reboot”. And from here, given the resources I have on hand and the experience I’ve built up, I can make the decision to approach each fork in the road with as much of a fresh perspective as I can muster. If I can make good use of what the Buddhists call “beginner’s mind”, I stand more of a chance of creating a life that remains full of possibility, hope and change.
Photos by Catherine Novak
Originally posted at synaptici.com June 21, 2009