Your local electronics store has just started selling time machines, anywhere doors, and invisibility helmets. You can only afford one. Which of these do you buy, and why?
A time machine, of course. No question.
I’d love to say I would be altruistic and use a time machine for the good of the world: Save the Titanic. Unload the Eastland before she tipped over. Kill Hitler before he gained power. Tell E.L. James to get out of fanfiction and write her own damn book.
You know, the kind of actions that could prevent untold human suffering.
But I’ve read enough Science Fiction to understand that altering the past like that could have terrible consequences. Besides, I think I’ve established here in my blog that I’m basically a pretty selfish person at times, so let’s just accept that I would use a time machine for my own selfish purposes.
I’d go back to Woodland Elementary and pants a little boy named Tripper. Totally humiliate the little bastard and warn him to leave my six-year-old self alone. While there, I might also warn Leroy Butler to stay off the monkey bars in order to avoid shattering his jaw during recess, and I’d have a nice sit-down discussion with my mother about sending me to school in home-made “Stretch-N-Sew” polyester clothes.
I’d go back and tell my high school self to stop worrying about being fat and unpopular and just enjoy herself. I’d tell her to give up the crush on a boy named Bucky, because in thirty years he will still be with the same perky little blonde — who will still be perky and blonde (and much nicer than I ever gave her credit for). I’d point out the skinny, geeky science nerds and hint at all of the wonderful things puberty is going to do for some of them in a few years.
I’d tell her to savor the moments with Dee, Dawn, Aaron, Dale and all the others who are going to be gone too soon.
A time machine would give me a chance to go back and tell my college-aged self that dropping out of college is the stupidest thing she will ever do in her life. I wouldn’t tell her just how many other stupid things she is going to do, but she should know that her future will be a mess if she doesn’t get that degree.
I’d tell the young, starry-eyed bride at my wedding to dance with Dad. It’s just one song, for God’s sake. Not for him; for her. She needs to understand that he is a good man who did the best he could, and that he never stopped loving his daughters. She needs to forgive him, and she needs to realize that he doesn’t have much time left.
I’d tell that same bride to keep a closer watch on her marriage and recognize when things start going bad. Get out sooner, before they hurt each other as much.
On the subject of hurting people, I’d tell myself to name the jerky ex-boyfriend character in Her House Divided “Lester” instead of “Randy.” Trust me on this one. Sorry, Randy.
I’d let the air out of all of the tires of both of our cars on June 21, 2011, so that my kids couldn’t go to Christian Fellowship that night. Better yet, I’d make a call to the Van Buren County Road Commission a week earlier and tell them to cut down a certain half-dead maple tree on County Road 388 before it falls in a storm and hurts someone.
I’d go back and tell Doug Adams to stay off the treadmill and see a cardiologist. Beg Kurt Vonnegut for just one more story. Tell Jim Henson it’s not the flu; go see a doctor.
I’d tell myself to gossip less, laugh more. Say “I love you” as much as possible, even when no one says it back. Tell my sisters I love them, no matter what. Both of them. Read more books from unknown authors. Eat less, exercise more, and don’t lose touch with old friends. Don’t wait for the universe to drop a tree on my head to make me understand that I am loved and I matter to a lot of people.
Of course, if I did all of those things, I wouldn’t have the chance to gain wisdom from the experiences, and my present-day self wouldn’t know what to do with the time machine. Wouldn’t have the advice and warnings to give . . . which means nothing would change. Or everything would change. . .
I think I just understood the theory of a Moebius Strip, but only for a second. Then it was gone and now my head hurts and I suddenly remember why I don’t write Science Fiction.
So let’s just say I would use my time machine to travel back to 1973 so I throw myself at Randolph Mantooth. Then again, I’d be old enough to be his mother then, and I’m not sure I could pull off being a cougar. And now my head hurts again.
Screw the electronics store. I’ll spend my money on Toblerone and Diet Coke.