I have occasionally found myself returning to a daydream in which I get to re-live a large part of my life. I understand that this is actually quite a common fantasy - a selfish Quantum Leap, if you will. The idea would be that all of my current knowledge, experience and personality is somehow (through means mystical, technological, cosmological or what have you) transferred back in time to the brain of my much younger self.
In effect, it is basically just a narrative structure slapped onto a pedestrian desire to have taken missed opportunities, bungled fewer social situations and not bothered exerting time and effort into relationships which were ultimately a giant waste of time. If I was in a position to make such a wish, it would seem better than just vaguely wishing that such-and-such an event had never occurred, because ultimately, what would that achieve? What would I have done instead, in this suddenly incomplete timeline of my life? How would that action change where I am now? Nope...the Selfish Quantum Leap (as it shall now be known) is the superior codswallop for many reasons. Not only do you get to avoid the pitfalls of life, but you get to do so whilst still retaining knowledge of said pitfall, and are thus able to make a much more informed decision regarding alternate pathways through the years. I'm being a bit vague here, so let's indulge in some specificity. My school years would be a good snapshot, because they are awkward and horrible for everyone...
- Age 11: Get caught by my entire maths class, teacher included, pressing my face into the grill of the heater at the back of my classroom, just to see what it feels like. Answer - Incredibly embarrassing. Selfish Quantum Leap Rectification Measure - Don't do that and stop acting on pointless impulses so much.
- Age 13: Get picked on a lot by bullies at school, and fail to respond to their violence because you have been told it that it is better to turn the other cheek, the consequence of which is a couple more years of getting picked on. No biggie, but not exactly fun. Selfish Quantum Leap Rectification Measure - Punch them in their stupid faces. It would be nice to know that getting a detention at school isn't the life-ending event that it was publicised to be.
- Age 16: Spend more time drinking this wonderful new "beer" invention than doing homework, resulting in exam failure and an extended period of self doubt and disappointment. Selfish Quantum Leap Rectification Measure - Less beer, more studying.
- Age 17: Cop off with a munter. Not a failure in itself if you believe that it's what is on the inside that counts, but she was also a horrible person. Selfish Quantum Leap Rectification Measure - Leave party early/Aim higher.
The list could go on, but even thinking of a couple of examples makes me bite my fist and go "Noooo no no no. Why would I do those things?"
A question that springs to mind though, is what WOULDN'T I do if I was to suddenly make a Selfish Quantum Leap? I couldn't go around telling everyone what their future holds, because it might spoil the surprise for them. I could probably make a few wagers on sporting events and whatnot, but I would probably be best to avoid mentioning any major news stories. It seems selfish, but what if I was to mention 9/11? Sure, I could stave off a massive terrorist attack, but a lot of people would be very interested to know how I knew so much about it. I would imagine that waterboards and orange jumpsuits would play a much larger role in my life. That could be one I would have to play carefully.
And what about predetermination? How much of an effect could I really have on things? Would everything end up forcing it's way back to "normal" after a spell anyway? Would it all just be a futile attempt to change my life? Also, what about all of the nice things that have happened just by chance? Would they happen again? Could I force them to happen? I would very much like to think that if I had to live it all again, I would still be able to hook up with the missus. Yes, I could make sure I was at the same party in mid 2006, but would the missus be so interested in a gambling millionaire 50 year old trapped in the body of a 25 year old who has a penchant for knowing the unknowable? Probably not. She would think I was a bit weird and avoid me and then the whole caper would have been for naught.
What a waste of time! Quantum Leaping has made me miserable. I guess I'll just stick to my crushing regrets and try to make better decisions in the future. Heck, at least I seem to make terrible decisions less frequently these days.