Sunday, July 28, 2013

If I had it do over

I was thinking of a story idea about a guy who gets a chance to live his life over, maintaining all the knowledge he accumulated during his first life. I put myself in the protagonist’s shoes to see how I felt about it myself. I think a lot of times people find this an attractive idea. I have myself at times. But when you really start to analyze it, as you would need to do if you were going to do a story about it, things don’t seem quite so simple. Every decision we make has multiple and complicated repercussions. There’s no way to change one thing without changing multiple others and one would risk losing the good things in order to get rid of the bad.  

I think, for example, of what I might do differently knowing the exact day my father would die and what I might have been able to do to prevent it. But I can’t even imagine the repercussions in my future had it not happened. I imagine relationships that I spent a lot of time and effort on that went nowhere, and what time and pain I might have saved myself by ending them earlier. But how would my memories and my personality be different if I had done so. Would I be a better man now? Or a worse one?

What about the motorcycle accidents I had! Changing my timing by a bare moment in any of those cases would have saved me a lot of pain. It would have saved me some of the permanent stuff I’m living with. Or would it? Had I not had any of those accidents, perhaps I would have had another that was far worse.

I think about my writing, about what might have happened had I produced the stuff I’ve produced earlier in my life, or what might be if I had decided to pursue a career in writing rather than making the choice that I did, which was to find a good career and job and write on the side. Would I be further along as a writer now? Would I have sold more? Would I be making a living at it?  The thing is, I almost certainly wouldn’t be making as good a living as I have with the choice I did make. Of course, there is no telling. I might have hit the market at just the right time and broken out. Or maybe there wasn’t a market for my work until I found it in later years.

I often wish for a reset button on life. Like you get with video games. You die in a video game and you just reload from the last save. But we don’t have those. And even if we did, would we reload after every “wrong” decision without knowing that, in fact, it was a right decision for what greater things came later. 

Ultimately, I know two things. My first marriage didn’t work our in the end but I have a wonderful son from it. I could not and would not give him up. Two, it was things going wrong in my life that led me to finding Lana. And I could not and would not give her up either.

Guess it’s a good thing we don’t get to live our life over. I wouldn’t want the fear of some pain to make me miss out on what I have now.

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30 comments:

Hutch Dubosque said...

"I often wish for a reset button on life. Like you get with video games. You die in a video game and you just reload from the last save."
Charles, you are not alone in your fantasies about how things "might" have turned out, if I only did_____? I can think back to incidents as a 5-6 year old that, were they to change, my life would most probably be very different from the one I now have. And, I like the one I have now. Does that follow inverse mathematical logic and mean that any other path would be one I didn't like?
You have brought to the surface a thought process that perhaps every human on the planet has had at one time, or another. On this subject alone, I could write volumes...Oh, wait, you're the writer here, so I will leave all this to experts such as yourself. I'll stick to the mundane, everyday trials and tribulations of our wonderful Foreign Policy.

Lana Gramlich said...

You're a sweetie pie, hon.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I always think back to OUR TOWN, that even watching our life is horrible. Trying to change it would be worse.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

All of those events in our past shape us and make us stronger. If we never experience the lows, we'll never experience the highs, either.
And no amount of money or rewards in the world could convince me to redo high school.

Merisi said...

Thank goodness we don't have to decide whether or not we would live our live differently if we could start over again.

There's hope we learn from the past and get the opportunity to apply those lessons every day of our life, to our best abilities.

Merisi said...

Live and life, life and live. ;-)

Aimless Writer said...

As they say; Hindsight's 20/20. I often wish for a do over not because of regrets but because of opportunities ignored.

Ty Johnston said...

To quote Hob Gadling, a Neil Gaiman character who was human made immortal, at 500 years of age: "I've learned from my mistakes, but I've had more time to commit more mistakes."

Richard R. said...

I admit most of my life has been just fine: I had a very happy childhood, good education (wish I'd studied a littler harder, though), good career. There are only a few things I'd like to un-do. The time I was too drunk to drive but insisted I was okay (DUI ticket, a nasty thing), time I accidentally injured a pet when if I'd been paying more attention it wouldn't have happened. A few things like that, and there aren't many. Just give me three un-dos. I have to choose which ones, and I have to live with any changes that results in...

Travis Cody said...

There's only one thing I would change about my life if I could, and that's the devastating knee injuries I had from football that kept me from getting my scholarship or joining the Marines. I know there's no telling how life would have been different for me, but that's really the only thing in my life I wish had never happened.

I have a great life now with Pam...a terrific job and a home. And I'm at peace with how my dreams and life had to change. But there are still times when I regret that such a significant choice was made for me by injury.

That regret doesn't hang around very long though, because I can turn to Pam and see her smile.

Scott Sheaffer said...

This is a concept that has fascinated me for years, and I've often thought about writing a story about it. One possible problem I think about is timing. You know you remember the broad general things, but do you remember enough detail to be at the right place at the right moment to so that in addition to changing the bad things, you can still keep the good things the same? That's in addition to considerations you mentioned such as if you fix the bad thing, what if it leads to something even worse?

Cloudia said...

P.D. Ouspensky: "The Strange Life of Ivan Osokin
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strange_Life_of_Ivan_Osokin

Check it out, he did write the conceit :-)


ALOHA from Honolulu
Comfort Spiral
~ > < } } ( ° > <3

Cloudia said...

And Lana's right. You are a sweetie pie

sage said...

Good insights--at times I find myself wondering about decisions, but it's a waste of time since I can't go back (but it isn't really a waste because it gives some insight for writing)

Riot Kitty said...

That is an awesomely thoughtful post. Do you read Kurt Vonnegut? If so, do you remember the comments he made in Timequake about people having to relive everything again, and make the same mistakes again, and suffer the same disappointments? I think he was trying to say it's no good going back (and be careful what you wish for.)

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Charles, thanks for an insightful post. I often think on these lines. If I could've relived my life I probably would have changed a few things, mostly education and career, and money-wise. The reason I wouldn't want to go back in time, ever, is my incredible family, my wife and kids, and I wouldn't change that for anything.

Lisa said...

A moving insightful write Charles. There was an Adam Sandler's movie called "Click", I do not remember the details, but the ending was you do not want that clicker in the house (he got it at the Bed Linen and Stuff or something like that store).

the walking man said...

Why not reset the present to have a more predictable future if that is what you want Charles? Order and straight lines are not nature's way. Randomness and vagary are. I would prevent no death, nor accident, would undo no mistake nor take credit for any good. Simply because when all is tallied up it will still come to the same PI

ivan said...

Some good riffs on a vital theme.

If only, if only.

With me the answer seems always supplied by humour, not all of it light.

Seems it's not who you were, what your intentions were, or what the goal was.
Your original intention is constantly affected by something my philosophy prof called a Hegelian triad.
Like a bomber with a load on, there are always fighters nearby to lace you from one direction to another with cannon fire.

You go off on the quest and along the way you meeet a whole bunch of assholes and they can knock you right off track and more often tha not, you become like them.

Smart sometimes turns asshole. And it's not always Smart's fault. He couldn't see the interceptors.

Charles Gramlich said...

Hutch, I definitely think most everyone has given it some thought, particularly in this era of video games. The reset button, the do-over. Perhaps we’d be equally happy, or think we were at least, with many other paths through life. A fascinating question, if a rather moot one.

Lana Gramlich, youse.


patti, there is a movie called “The Butterfly Effect” that kind of dealt with this. A pretty good movie.

Alex, not even if you could do things to change high school? I know what you mean, though. I would generally not want to relive it except for certain experiences. I did have some fun, as I talked about in Days of Beer. :)

Merisi, yes, you’re right. If put in charge of it directly we’d probably really mess it up. I mentioned the movie, The Butterfly Effect earlier. That perhaps illustrated how much we could screw things up that way.



Aimless Writer, yes, there are quite a few things I might have gone after if I’d a chance to do things over, stuff I never found out was possible until years later.

Ty Johnston, that’s certainly true. I’d make just as many, I’m sure, only mostly different ones.

Richard R., there are a few harsh things I said to my son when he was younger that I wish I could take back. We laugh about them now, though, so I guess he has forgiven me. I too wish I’d studied harder, particularly in English in high school. It would have helped my writing.

Travis Cody, something like that does produce such a tremendous change in one’s life. I never had anything like that growing up so I don’t quite know how I would feel. Your life would have definitely been different, though one has to wonder how much of a different person you would be.

Scott Sheaffer, I was thinking about that too. You might think you could win millions betting on the right teams, the right horses etc, but would you really remember enough details to do so? I’m not sure I would. I remember generalities. But familiarity might come into play as you went back through those earlier days and supply some of the details you needed. Check out “The Butterfly Effect” too, for how things could get soundly messed up.

Cloudia, I know that Lana is ALWAYS right.  I’ll check that link out. I know I’ve read some similar tales before And the movie “The Butterfly Effect,” of course, which I’ve been mentioning.

sage, I figure that, in the end, most thoughts aren’t really wasted time. They may not accomplish anything in the physical world but they do something for us internally. I’ve had a lot of fun from the idea of rebooting at least.

Riot Kitty, I read some of Vonnegut’s stuff when I was younger but not for a long time. I don’t think I read that one. Of course, there is the movie, Groundhog Day that deals with this kind of thing too.

Prashant, yes, when you end up with great people around you to love, you wouldn’t want to take any change that would mess that up.

Lisa, oh yes, “Click,” I remember that. One of his better movies, I think. Kind of a lesson on the same issue.

Mark, I spend a lot of time thinking about the present as the pathway to the future. It’s why I do much of the stuff I do. Unfortunately, there’s no predicting in many cases even now what will happen tomorrow. Especially as one gets older.

ivan, One small change could certainly ripple through your life and tear it apart, or perhaps mend it. I did a story called “The Road to Hell,” (is paved with good intentions) once on this kind of subject.

Chris said...

I sometimes wrestle with the BIG decisions I made when I was younger, and the paths I took, but they all lead to things that I cherish now, so I wouldn't change them for the world.

I do have regrets for wasted time. Many of my interests I have now I've had for a long time, but didn't really pursue them. I wish I'd gotten started earlier. But hey, better late than never, right? Still, my 20-something body probably would have adapted quicker to running up and down mountains Skyrim-style than this 40-something old unit does!

Erik Donald France said...

A great topic, indeed, and storyline.

Two things come to mind: 1) Groundhog Day and 2) I think it was a latter day Twilight Zone, or equivalent, having to do with saving a dude's father during WW2 by not having his transport ship sunk by a U-Boat. Dude has his wish, wakes up and he looks around Milwaukee, where he lives, and everytuing is in German, under the 1000 year Reich. One little change changed everything.

Better to "p(l)ay it forward," I suppose.

H&H said...

Well said! I feel the same way, there are certainly some things I would like to take back/do differently, but they helped me get where I am today, so it all worked out pretty good.

Charles Gramlich said...

Chris, yes, I would like to have back some of the wasted time.

Erik, Bradbury's "The Sound of Thunder" is also about a "little thing" changing the future.

Greg, yes, all in all, I can't complain much, though sometimes I do anyway.

Erik Donald France said...

On second thought, the TV story line is really "The Sound of Thunder," but without the T Rex. Plug in transport ship and voila. Pretty similar, indeed.

Charles Gramlich said...

Erik, sounds like it.

Vesper said...

You know what, Charles? I wouldn't like a do over. What I would like would be to stop growing old and live forever... I'm sure I wouldn't get bored. It would put everything in a totally different perspective. That's one of my fantasies. :-)

Charles Gramlich said...

Vesper, I would have liked to have stopped aging back when my legs and back worked better. :)

jodi said...

Charles- don't quote me, but I think there is a movie that follows that theme. Too many possible implications for me to imagine!

Charles Gramlich said...

Jodi, I think you're right. Not sure of its title.