When I think back to so many experiences of my life, I wish I could go back and start them over, knowing what I know now.
If I could do it over, I would work harder, spend more time being happy, appreciate the parts that I now miss so dearly.
I would complain less and capitalize more. I would value relationships I built, and provide more value to the people I love. I would focus less on myself and more on the bigger picture.
If I could go back to my first year of structured improv classes, the couple years of writing and performing on a sketch comedy show, my year studying Arabic, and the one after studying my religion, the year and a half I was president of a youth organization I grew up in, the two years of community college I did during high school…
So many experiences creep up on you as daunting opportunities. And even the ones you take advantage of, you never fully take advantage of, because you don’t know which parts will be of most value to you. What you end up missing, surprises you.
And although we think, I’ll miss this, that, or the other…it turns out that you end up missing that, this, and another.
It’s not the glory of performing and being recognized for your writing…it’s the dumb conversations you had every week with your friends trying to put together a show that would you make you all laugh.
It’s not the mind-blowing insights into linguistics or sitting at the feet of famous YouTube scholars that excited you as much as making up Arabic grammar puns and sitting in your classmates’ sparse apartment talking about life around a tray of brownies.
It’s not what you think it’s gonna be. But to realize that, you have to go through the experience first.
Once you learn what was important about it, though, you’ve gained what you were supposed to out of that experience. That’s why we don’t go back, despite wanting to so badly.
There’s a movie called About Time which I’m going to spoil the ending for. Basically a man can time travel, and it’s an ability that runs in his family.
At the end of the movie, the main character realizes the best use of time travel, as told to him by his father…which is not to use it for personal gain or to correct our mistakes.
His father tells him his “Secret Formula For Happiness:”
I highly recommend watching the video, as it visually brings home this next point.
Part 1 of the 2-part plan is that I should just get on with ordinary life, living it day by day, like anyone else.
But then came Part 2 of Dad’s plan. He told me to live every day again, almost exactly the same, the first time with all the tensions and worries that stop us noticing how sweet the world can be, but the second time, noticing.
Now, we can’t time travel.
But what’s interesting about the end of this movie is that he stops time traveling…
He realizes that he doesn’t have to know what’s going to happen in order to approach the day appreciating each little part of it. He can go through life like any of us, but having learned the lesson that time travel isn’t necessary to love our experiences in the moment we experience them.
We may want do-overs, but the truth is, we don’t need them.
We just need to think of each day, each person, and each experience as something we might just miss…and so, really appreciate in the moment that it happens.