Lockdown Diary: The Do-Over

Last night I had the most incredibly vivid dream. I dreamed that I was 15 again and could do everything right. So I woke up in my parents’ home and revised like mad for my GCSEs instead of winging them, eventually ending up at Cambridge. I hugged my dad a lot more, while I had the chance, knowing that he almost certainly had an undiagnosed personality disorder. I got with my first proper boyfriend, my childhood sweetheart, and was the perfect girlfriend – never unfaithful, no crazy mood swings – meaning we got married and lived happily ever after.

I was the best friend ever to Graham, instead of being loud and annoying, and we started our creative projects early and I became a YouTube star, and I rescued him from the job he never really loved. I didn’t get into television scriptwriting (I never enjoyed it) and focused instead on comedy music videos and writing fiction. I became a huge success, and without ever having to go through experiencing violence during pregnancy or a nervous breakdown.

But, of course, that scenario can never be perfect. There are huge problems. If I woke up in 1995 and knew everything I knew now, I’d know terrible things, like the fact that 9/11 was going to happen. Would I try and stop it? If so, how? If not, would I have blood on my hands? I’d also know about the 2004 tsunami, and countless atrocities. The thought of inadvertently being responsible for stopping horrific things from happening rather spoils my vision of redoing my life. And also, it would be terrifying, getting the chance to do everything right. Having that unnatural, bizarre power and control over your own life.

But the worst thing for me personally would be that Lily would never be born. And as I lay in bed contemplating this scenario, watching her sleep, I thought: no, it’s not worth it. I don’t want to go back (not that I could!). I just want to go forward in the present with my beautiful daughter and see what amazing things she does with her life. Because I can’t imagine ever knowing anyone so bright and funny and kind. I am so incredibly lucky, just as things are.

And it then struck me that, the same way I’d been looking wistfully into the past, wishing I could change things from 25 years ago, was the way that I could, if all else fails, be looking into the past aged 65, wishing I could go back to the age I am now. So that’s the scenario to avert! That’s what I actually have control over. No one ever gets to rewind life, and nor should they, but I’ve learned so much over the past 25 years. I actually like the person I am now, and I love my daughter with all my heart.

There’s no sense in wishing things in the past were different. And if you do wish your life were better, then change things now, in the present. Put things right, while you have the time. That’s all you can do.

This post has been made possible by my awesome Patreon supporters Peter Weilgony, Ricky Steer, Charlie Brooker, Mary and Tim Fowler, Steve Richards, Alan Brookland, Mark Ormandy, Oliver Vass, Keith Bell, John Fleming, Mark Bailey, Rebekah Bennetch, Matthew Sylvester, Brian Engler, Jack Scanlan, Dave Nattriss, MusicalComedyGuide.com, Aragorn Strider, Mark White, Lucy Spencer, Shane Jarvis, Emily Hill and Marcus P Knight.

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5 thoughts on “Lockdown Diary: The Do-Over”

  1. Yup, the past doesn’t exist. Even the 2 seconds when you read that previous sentence. That no longer exists. Only this exact moment exists and how you try to arrange what you want to happen in the future…

  2. If you knew that 9/11 would happen unless you prevented it then you’d drive yourself crazy trying to stop it and failing (because who would believe you?) then spend the rest of your thereafter guilt-ridden life under suspicion, surveillance and probably lock and key.

    If you returned to the past knowing anything about the future that you didn’t know first time round then even just that knowledge would change you and your behaviour and the butterfly effect would ensure that a particular sperm would never meet a particular egg at a particular time and your particular child would never be born – but you could have a different child that you would love just as uniquely, and preventing someone from ever existing is not the same as killing. If it were, by living just one version of our lives we would be all be mass murderers.

    Because of time travel paradoxes you couldn’t return to a previous time with knowledge of the intervening course of events anyway. The only way you could relive the past differently would be in ignorance of what you would lose by doing so – so there would be no grief for lost consequences.

    I’ve wasted most of my life. The best of it and me sprung from seemingly infinitesimally unlikely coincidences of circumstance (though being a Determinist I realise that in every parallel universe all apparent unlikelinesses are just practically incalculable inevitabilities). In other temporal branches I wouldn’t have met and married Jane, which feels unthinkable, but wouldn’t have suffered losing her either. It feels that in most if not all other possible nows I’d never have been as happily in love, but that’s merely subjective because it’s only faithful to the only love of my life that I’ve known. In some alternative nows I would have found an even greater love with someone who didn’t die too young. If I could chose to live the past differently but I chose to stick to the life I’d known instead because it got me to Jane I could be preventing an even greater love that would have been even more deserving of occurrence. Maybe we shouldn’t be too attached to the way things turned out.

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