Try and ignore the (‘wrong-on-so-many-levels’) image of 80s pop icon Cher that is probably fogging your brain right now when you read the title of this post, clad in her barely-there, hooker-style full-piece, draping her cosmetically sculpted physique strategically over a gaggle of camp looking sailors, (good times), and cast your mind to what you would do given the power to become a kind of time traveller, with the ability to pop back in time to make some tweaks to your destiny. (I was just trying to grab your attention with the Cher thing).
Admit it, by the time we reach middle-age we all have a regret box, no matter how new-age and spiritually positive we’ve all been brainwashed to think. Admitting to the existence of a regret box is not about being ‘glass half-empty’, it’s more about finding closure for your cock-ups.
Everyone knows that when hormones and alcohol collide in adolescence the limiting functionality of a still developing brain can sorely impact destiny. And we can make mistakes.
So would you change key areas of your past knowing what you know now in middle age?
I’ve got a few ‘if only I’d….’ missed opportunities of my own, and given the chance, I mightn’t be completely averse to a quick duck and dive, bob and weave through my past.
I would consider my life a successful journey so far, depending on how you measure success of course. I would consider that I’ve been luckier than some, not as lucky as others. My lolly shop full of experiences have been on the whole sweet, with only the odd sour one thrown in.
But would I seriously go back and change the events of my late teens and early twenties, for example? Back to an era that on the one hand was resplendent with fun-filled excess, yet simmering close to the surface were those first strains of responsibility; an underlying question mark of what I was actually going to do with my life. It was the first fork in the road where I had to choose a direction. I wonder if I went back, whether I’d now take the other direction, with hindsight, have the career that alluded me, risk not meeting my soul mate, the father of my children?
I’d be an unwilling competitor in the dating game again, despondently searching for my life partner, when frankly, it was hard enough the first time around. Falling for the wrong types again, having to sift through the wasters, waiting for the phone to ring, knowing what it meant when it didn’t.
I could certainly do my wedding day again, although not because I would do anything different really, (apart from the wedding dress disaster which had to be bought off the rack two weeks prior because my original supplier went bust; a dress that was catwalk fashionably shorter in length than the norm, and in my panic I somehow forgot that I was not catwalk fashionably tall), although this time I would stand and take a moment, to reflect and inhale and really smell the roses of happiness. I would speak to everyone, and I would be prepared (and not sh*t faced) when the old man sprung his wedding gift of MY speech on our guests; and me. I would make sure that the organist knew our version of ‘At The Name Of Jesus’, the one that everyone was expecting to sing but ended up mumbling incoherently.
I would make sure that I stayed in contact with all those friends that came to our wedding, although I suppose that if they were as influential a part of my life now as they were then, I wouldn’t have the time or the privilege of knowing the friends I have today.
I’d certainly skip back more recently and accept my initial gut instinct of our son’s ADHD long before the quacks and counsellors confirmed it, to waste less time searching for reasons and answers, to have more time to find solutions, to find support, to adapt to his needs.
I might even hop back to the birth of our children. I’d have epidurals this time, (obviously), in the knowledge that the back-patting derived from natural childbirth stoicism lasts all of twelve hours. This time I’d be ready to truly embrace the changes that our children’s births signified. The old man would be sober at the entry of our first-born into the world, he would be able to drive me to the hospital and we’d have textbook births like the ones we planned in the naivety of extensive ‘birth plans’. We’d inherently understand what to do with a baby car seat, swaddling, and cracked nipples.
I’d say goodbye to my own mum properly, not spend the rest of my life angry that she left me, forever holding her responsible for that ‘why me?’ feeling of hopelessness that has permeated much of my darker side since. I would ask her what I can do to make her proud, how she would measure my success if she’d been around.
I’d make sure I wasn’t in the kitchen at that party when I had my first Camel cigarette, to eliminate the fear that has pervaded my middle age since I suddenly became aware of my own mortality, about the time my children were born.
I’d choose a dog instead of cats, and not waste so many precious years trying to develop a relationship with animals who clearly have no tolerance for nor interest in human kind.
If I did go back in time, I imagine that my heart would still rule my head and I’d no doubt make the same mistakes all over again.
What would you do differently?