“Oh to be young again! I’d do everything differently. I wouldn’t make the same mistakes.”
So often, I’ve heard some version of that lament. In response, I now offer the person my time-travel machine.
This device will take him back twenty, thirty, forty years–to whatever age he wishes to be.
But I’ve not actually used it myself, due to two major restrictions…
First, I couldn’t return merely for a moment or a day. I’d have to stay and live those years all over again.
Second, I can’t take what I’ve learned in the intervening years with me. So, if I travel back to twenty-one, I will lose thirty-nine years of growth. I can’t be physically there and mentally here at the same time.
So our time-traveler would make the same mistakes, because he’d lose all he had learned from making those mistakes. He’d have to go through his painful lessons all over again.
Anyway, as I see it, I can go back in memory whenever I wish. And when I go back in that way, I can return with the understanding I’ve gained–and increase that understanding, while doing so.
And I want to increase that understanding, because to me, this life is all about growth. It’s a belief I’ve chosen–a belief that’s served me well.
This belief motivates me to push upward and onward–to keep putting one foot in front of the other. And I want to feel motivated. To put it simply: “motivated” feels better than “unmotivated”.
But despite this line of reasoning, I’m guessing someone out there might still like to borrow the time machine–perhaps for reasons of health, or because he fears death…
If that person is you, I apologize. The truth is: this device exists only in my imagination. Call it a fabrication, if you wish, but it what does for me is real. Consider:
Growth–inner growth–can’t be measured. For that reason, it can seem so intangible. Doubts may arise regarding my key belief. Am I just trying to spin a bad situation? Did I really gain so much from all those losses?
Did I actually need to make all those mistakes?–mistakes that resulted in bumps and bruises and outright catastrophes!
Those questions are answered when I consider the trade offered by the time machine…
No, I would never want to return to the person I once was. I value my growth too much to go back. That growth came in many ways, but probably most often from making mistakes–making the same mistakes, again and again, until I finally learned. Yes, I needed those catastrophes!
But there’d be no point in repeating the process–I want to make new mistakes: I want new learning, new growth. I say: upward and onward, until death.
(This post was first published June 20, 2012. I went back to it to close some loop holes in my logic. And to prepare the piece for inclusion in a book entitled Searching for My Best Beliefs.)
© 2015:, Michael R. Patton
myth steps: the book