I love movies about time travel, not the sci-fi unrealistic ones, but the “real” ones where people travel back to change something important. My new favourite is About Time (Netflix) where the protagonist goes back to correct those moments in life we all wish we could erase: times of being a bumbling idiot, saying the wrong thing, not saying what you really should have said or wanted to say, especially not telling people you love them, letting great opportunities slip by because of fear, laziness, or missing the boat for whatever reason.
Hence my obsession with time travel. I wish I could go back and correct a few things. I would go back to university and study English, no matter who said I’d never be able to get a job being an artsy fartsy. I’d definitely go back and NOT lose it on my father’s old girlfriend when she asked me what I planned on doing with my life (I was twenty something, had just finished backpacking and was jobless).
I have a friend who says regrets are useless. I agree but it doesn’t stop me from wishing that I had the power (or the time machine) to go back and tweak a few things. In the movie About Time, the protagonist realizes that after marriage and children, he doesn’t need to go back as often as he once did. He got some advice from his father, also a time traveller, for happiness. Live each day over again, one more time, the second time without all the fear and tension of the first time. Those days he lived again were better: he laughed more, hugged people, noticed and smiled at all the people who served him coffee and lunch instead of giving them the perfunctory nod. As time went by, he felt the need to live only once, living as if life was a gift and loving every minute of his glorious journey.
It’s unfortunate for me that it took four kids for me to realize that the softer approach is sometimes better. Perhaps it’s because it’s my last child but I’m lighter, smile more, laugh more, tell more jokes, and I don’t have these unrealistic expectations. I remember staring grimly down at my firstborn during her swim classes. Poor thing must’ve thought life was a series of tests.
Until my time machine is built, I can’t go back. I can do what the guy in the movie did: I can try to live each day as a gift, releasing the tension I carry around with me as I navigate mornings, rush to work, cope with sickness and disappointments. I can certainly smile at all the people I come in contact with (that’s easy enough to do), small talk and compliments wouldn’t hurt either. Worrying about money is pointless. Hugging is therapy. Back rubs and storytelling are comforting. Making others feel good is a lot nicer than being grumpy, moody and selfishly consumed by my own problems which half the time aren’t problems at all. Until my time machine is built, I’ve got one chance and one chance only. I’ve got to get it right the first time around.