This month’s pick for my faculty book club had me delving into sci-fi, time travel and alternate timelines. I might have complained a time or two. It’s just not my genre. I am always baffled by how much space it takes up at the bookstore. Who reads this stuff?
My fellow faculty members, that’s who.
Yet, I appreciate that the beauty of a book club is that you read selections you probably would not read on your own, and therefore, you’re better for it. So, I read the book.
The truth is we might have all considered the possibility of time travel in recent weeks. Maybe we aren’t thinking machines or magical portals, but at least in our mind we have contemplated skipping back or forward out of this mess of a 2020.
One of my dearest friends is a forward traveler. Her mind is constantly consumed with worry about the future and things yet to happen. It is a tremendous misuse of her imagination, and she wows me with her creativity.
Perhaps I have enough wherewithal to know that if I traveled forward, I would go insane trying to connect all the dots. I would drown in questions; my motherboard would short out.
Friends once tried to convince me to go see a fortune teller.
“DO YOU EVEN KNOW ME?”
I cannot imagine a more disastrous playground for my monkey mind to inhabit. No, thank you. I’m a handful without knowing what my future self will get herself into.
I am a past traveler. I long for yesteryear, wanting to bring back happier, simpler times. When I see pictures of my children when they were babies and little, I ache for that time that has so quickly slipped away.
Regardless of direction, we all know that time travel is tricky. There is the dilemma of changing story lines - the whole “if I would’ve known then what I know now” predicament. There are tremendous complications and collateral damage that deter readers from believing they can ever dream of altering history.
Another troubling side effect is the fact that we are not unbiased recorders of experience. I misremember many of my memories, whether it is because I have heard a story recounted so many times in different versions, or I have melded the memory into a storyline of my own creation.
The idea of misremembering struck me because self-evaluation has taught me that when I travel to the past I tend to wear rose-colored glasses. I’m a beauty hunter, which enables me to overlook the bad memories and frame them in glossy happiness. I do not tend to remember the pain and hurt. In my mental time travel, I always edit for the better.
This misremembering keeps me traveling backward instead of being present. If I remembered the entire experience, I would realize it was time-sensitive and relevant but also containing the duality of joy and pain. The packaging was different with a newborn in New York City or toddlers in Colorado, but the full gamut of emotions was present. I was not yet cracked open by grief and deep loss, which I think is the wholeness I long for the most in backward travel. There was also an illusion of control when my kids were younger. I held the reins on the environment surrounding them and the influences.
Traveling backwards lets me control the narrative— my take on the storyline. This very control is what I am practicing releasing on a daily basis. What I live in fear of losing is already gone. Time will not stand still, even for a pandemic. Children will grow up, relationships will mature and spaces that once felt like home might no longer be the right fit. Going back is never the answer. I cannot move forward when I’m stuck looking back.
As we begin to consider post-coronavirus life, I want to remember that I cannot return to exactly how it was. And if I am honest and stop misremembering, I will not want to go back to an imperfect scenario. I will want to be better. Wiping clean the etch-a-sketch of my life, I can be here in this moment and choose how I show up for the next chapter (which will hopefully not be sci-fi).