A man saunters into the booth next to me in a restaurant, sliding a piece of soiled white paper across the table to my trembling hands. All month I've known this was coming, like the fabled menstrual cycles of old. The man's hands were rough, coated with sawdust, and his beard was, well, let's say a tad "worse for the wear." I unfolded the paper and, in very neat, calculated handwriting was written the following charge:
"Write about something you know now that you wish you knew then”
As I looked up from the paper that heralded my writing sentence, I discovered the man was gone.
As I sat in the booth, I whipped out my notepad and set out feverishly scrawling this article (and you should disregard my penmanship as it's not the best even under less stressful situations than these.)
The fact is this: for all of my spunk and wit, I am still twenty-four years of age. I find myself on this site, as in most of my life, as the enfant terrible of the group. This has its advantages (physical stamina and a perpetually positive outlook on humanity) and disadvantages. The epitome of the downside of a lack of years is the following statement that I've heard many times throughout my life: "Wait until you're older, then you'll learn."
Thought my days on this earth have been few, there are still many things I regret in my life. Who among us, even as teenagers, wished we could "turn back time" (to quote a famous song by a gregarious chanteuse, whose name I believe is Cher) and rectify a part of our lives. Like Marty McFly in Back to the Future, we year to be able to bend time and choose our fate. There are a few possible topics of conversation I might choose if I were able to tell myself something then that I know is truth now.
I could say that I wish that I would be able to tell my past self to relax and not take every interaction (or lack thereof) so seriously. Sometimes a smile is just a smile and a frown is just a bitter man who just sat on a tack. If you love someone and they don't love you back, don't sweat it. If a teacher treats you like you're a little ass, it may just mean that they themselves are the ass or, surprise surprise, maybe you were actually acting like an ass! Fretting about the things you can't change in life is one of the most futile ways of self-immolation available to man. I wish I had learned earlier to let things go.
I could say that I wish I could tell my past self to always be myself and never conform to anyone's perfect "vision" of me. In high school, I never went on a date or anything even close to one. It wasn't for lack of trying, as I was actually a little over-excitable cupid who would fall in love with every girl that showed me a glimpse of attention. A girl once, actually, told me she would deign to go on a date with me, with the stipulation that I, and I paraphrase, "get new clothes, get contacts to replace my thick plastic frames, listened to better music that wasn't connected to the classical world, and got a job straight out of high school to support her need to not work." Suffice it to say, after three femtoseconds mulling that one offer, I brusquely turned down her generous offer. If I could visit my past self in my magic time machine, I would tell myself "good job," for that one moment of sticking to my own ideals and remaining my true self.
I could say that I ought to have told myself that if you're having problems, in any aspect of your life, you should know that there is always someone to confide in. Whether it be your parents, your siblings, your friends, your psychiatrist, or your friendly family houseplant, there is always someone in your life who wants to help you. If you're feeling down, as a friend to join you for coffee so you can vent for a bit. As long as it doesn't become a daily thing, your friend will understand and try their best to help you. I'd say to remember that you're never alone, not now and not ever. If I had known that sooner, maybe I wouldn't have ended up in the loony-bin for a week. But, sadly, that's another story for another time, my friends.
My final and definitive answer to this mystery question may seem like a cop-out, but these are my true feelings on the matter. Though the three possibilities I listed previously may seem like incredibly frank and viable options for answering the question of what I know now that I wished I had known back then, none of them are the ones I would choose.
When it comes to brass tacks, my answer to this query is simple and blunt: If I could go back and rewrite my past, I would choose to not tell my past to do anything differently.
Now, you may ask, why do I have to be so obstinant? The answer to that is oddly very easy to answer.
I absolutely adore who I am now, and I can say that without any hyperbole or hesitation. I love myself in every aspect and I would not want to be anyone but who I am now. Changing a few simple things in the past may not be something that would cause my future path to do a ful180-degreeee turn. Homer Simpson, after going back in time and killing the missing link in The Prehistoric Era, uttered these sage words: "I wish I wish I hadn't killed that fish." But, like Homer's fabled fish, If I had chosen a different path than the one I had taken (a hint to last month's prompt, for those of you playing the home game) I could have turned out to be an incredibly different person than I am now.
I often urge people not to dwell on the past, something that's very difficult to do. The past seems so rosy, perfect and nostalgic. But, to say it as bluntly as possible, the past is just that - it is past.
Little Edie Beale (who I have written about previously) once spoke the words that have become a major meditation for me throughout the years: "It's very difficult to keep the line between the past and the present... Do you know what I mean? It's very difficult..."
I firmly believe in, like Lucy and Ricky drawing a line to section off their apartment after an argument, that you should draw that line between the past and present and never erase it. The past is something that can be treasured, but not pined for, It can be something that can be a source of joy, but not a pit of despair. It can be a solace in times of trouble, but not an unattainable standard that will never be touched again.
Live in the moment, "love the one you're with," and adore life to its fullest. This is the one life we have and we must treasure it, neither fretting over the past nor worrying about the future.
I stand on the mountaintop, looking at the horizon and know that I will live, and that's just fine with me.
(Featured image courtesy of 20TH CENTURY FOX)