If you could turn back time, would you?

Would you turn back the clock if you could?

Groundhog Day was on TV the other night. I only caught the end of it (I’ve seen it, um… over and over), but it made me consider what it would be like to re-frame a particular day. To “tweak” it. Perhaps a pivotal day, or perhaps a seemingly ordinary day. But by adjusting an action, a response, speaking up or not – you achieve something different than what actually happened at the time that it occurred.

Groundhog Day. If you could turn back time and tweak a day, would you? It’s an interesting proposition. And if you could turn back the clock and change something, would you dare? Or would you be concerned that you might affect that inexplicable “fabric of time” and impact something else, with undesired repercussions?

Do you recall “The Prime Directive” on Star Trek? Not to interfere with an alien culture even with superior knowledge, or knowledge of the future? Not to mess with time because of the ripple effects? While not precisely the same thing, this concept touches on what is known as Chaos Theory – the sensitivity and interdependence of forces we may not entirely understand as yet. To those who are more poetic, perhaps it is best known as The Butterfly Effect. Of course, I’m looking at its possibilities through the lens of time, which is a little different. Still, I wonder… Monarch butterfly

Life altering personal decisions

There are major decisions in life that we sometimes come to regret. But often, those regrets are intertwined with positives. For example, had I known what I know now about my former spouse, I wouldn’t have married him. But if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have two incredible sons. Then I think – had I anticipated certain events rather than turning a blind eye, I could have approached the end of the marriage very differently, with a better result in many ways. But who’s to say that something else wouldn’t have screwed up?

I think about the car accident three years ago. My son was fine; I still pay the consequences in unhealed injuries. Had we left the house 5 minutes earlier or later, would our lives be entirely different? Better or worse?

At the professional crossroad

What if I had taken the job offer I received in France at 24, when I was working there for a summer, instead of returning to the States to pursue an MBA? No telling what my life would be like – including whether I might be happily living in Paris now. A place I always felt a greater sense of belonging. Then again, what’s to say some tragedy wouldn’t have befallen me there? Or that I simply would’ve grown bored with the work, and missed the opportunities that came with my graduate degree, and the career that eventually led me to meeting the man who fathered my children? And can I even imagine this world without the joy of my boys, and all they have yet to contribute?

Can we ever assume that a “do-over” would set us on the “right” path?

Health and the crystal ball

When I look at smaller, more isolated events – things to do with paying attention to my own health, that’s where I think that possibly, a small adjustment might have made a big difference. More attentiveness to my body’s needs – nutritional for example. Or managing stress at an age when it could’ve made more difference. And, um, hello, flossing?

Since we are never privy to the future, can we really believe that if we could turn back time, we would be happier? Healthier? More prosperous? Less frightened?

  • What would you risk doing over, if you could?
  • Is it a “pivotal day,” or something simpler?

© D A Wolf



  1. says

    While I have regrets – as I am sure we all do, I am not sure I would want a do over. I look back at life and love everything that has happened, everyone that has been in my life. If something as far back as my marriage were to change, I may have missed some of these experiences, relationships. Tweaking a little would be nice but I am learning to come to terms with here and now.

  2. says

    :-) Just a warning…the following is going to be a little weird…..

    I don’t believe in Time. Time is a human created concept so that we can track the rotation of the Earth, our orbit around the sun, and our relative position with everything else in the Universe. The idea of moving through time like it was a road or a map is dangerous, and yet it seems to be pervasive throughout all of humanity. The physical moment is simply the culmination of all of the chemical reactions and physical interactions since the beginning of the Universe. The fact that we have cognizance of this and can direct it is astounding when you think about it. Or you could say that while we can make alterations to our immediate surroundings, we have yet to have any noticeable affect on anything outside of our atmosphere.

    All we have is this moment, and then it is gone. We have the opportunity to reflect and change how we move forward. We can never alter the past, but we can use that knowledge to make a better future. The future is not defined, but your actions right now shape what it will become.

    Even if we wanted to, we can’t do it over…but we have the choice to not to do it over again and again.

  3. says

    I don’t think I’d risk doing it over. Life could be “better,” but it could also be so much worse. Plus I’ve seen too many time travel movies and read too many time travel books, so I can’t divorce the repercussions from the fun fantasy of it.

    From a different perspective, I do try to learn from those “pivotal” mistakes and do it differently the next time. That’s sort of like a do-over, right?

    • BigLittleWolf says

      I generally think that, too, Kelly… “things could be so much worse.” And yes, we learn from those mistakes, and hopefully don’t make them again. No groundhogs required.

  4. says

    I try not to have too many regrets; just acceptance that what happened happened, you know? There have been of course been moments of looking back and asking, “what if?” but the more often I ask, the more I become at peace with the past.

  5. says

    Nah, where would I start? If I knew then what I know now I’d tell the 20 year old me not to get married, but then I wouldn’t have my 3 oldest kids. And I would tell 33 year-old me that LO’s father was a douchebag and to RUN! Well, I did but only after getting pregnant and as a result, had my fourth child. If only I could erase their fathers from my life and still have my kids!

    There are many things I wish were different but at the same time I’m kinda happy with WHO I am now and I am a product of all my past experiences.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      It is interesting that all the single moms mention kids. We may have gone through ups and downs (and more), but we recognize that our kids are the treasure. I wonder if those who’ve been through divorce but don’t have kids feel the same.

  6. says

    Over the years I’ve played the “what if” game. What if I’d gone to a different college; what if I’d not married my ex; what if I’d chosen a different career…
    But ultimately I like myself. And these are the kids I’m supposed to have, so the marriage had to be. I do like the concept of alternate universes, where maybe I never married (or married happily), traveled the world, became that actress or doctor. Fun to think about. But I’m glad I’m here.
    Intriguing post.

  7. says

    My what ifs generally have to do with career choices.

    What if I had pursued the masters in Family Science immediately following graduation? What if I had applied to that masters in therapy program that I was interested in? What if I had continued with a degree in education, rather than changing to something less time consuming?

    These questions usually bring up one ending: I most likely would not have had my two children. I do not regret them. I do not regret the timing.

    But, I still find myself playing that game–yearning to go back to school. I think I will, eventually. Right now, though? I am where I need to be.

  8. says

    Such a ripe topic to explore.

    Have you seen the movie Sliding Doors? It explores two very different outcomes that result from a young woman either making or missing a subway train. After seeing the movie, I spent weeks thinking through a few “what if?” moments in my life, but got so bogged down by the different permutations that I gave up. (Like Amber, most of mine are career-related.)

    • BigLittleWolf says

      Love, love, love that movie, yes. It was wonderfully executed, and when I saw the film, I remember thinking that it brought to life something I’d pondered for many years. How a life can change course, dramatically, in a moment. Something as simple as missing a train, or making it, just as the doors close. And we can’t ever know what lies ahead.

  9. says

    I would have married my first girlfriend post-divorce. (I actually wanted to, but things fell apart, and we both figured moving on would be better. In hindsight, I wish we’d stayed together.)

  10. says

    I’m a firm believer in “everything happens for a reason” so I don’t think I would do anything over in my life…though of course there are things I wish never happened, but at the same time, if they hadn’t, I wouldn’t be who I am today.

  11. says

    Intellectually I love the whole idea of time travel. It’s fascinating to ponder all the possible effects of “tweaking” little things here and there. If I could really do it I wouldn’t do it. I think we are the end result of our experiences, good and bad and I wouldn’t want to change a thing!

  12. says

    One of my favorite quotes come to mind:

    The important thing is this: to be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become. – Charles Du Bos

    I have done just this and have never looked back.

  13. says

    I always come back to my non-existent book. It goes like this: if I hadn’t been raised by immigrants who were completely unambitious for their offspring, they would’ve pushed me to go to a good college and would’ve PAID for it (huh!). Then I would’ve gotten a PhD – which I would really like to have – in Literature and would long since be published.

    I like to think that, in that scenario, if my husband too had been raised by more ambitious parents, he would’ve more fully realized his ambitions, and we might have met in a grad program somewhere. Instead? Here we sit, middle class, flooring store owners, in Phoenix.

  14. says

    I would go back in time and stop myself from torturing Kelly M in seventh grade just because she was the only person more pathetic than I was. I often wish on the first star of the evening that wherever she is, she is happy and beautiful and has forgiven me.

    Other than that, I’m okay with things.

  15. says

    I love that movie—to me it’s about karma and learning that getting it right in the here and now is what frees us from fear and desire, from regret and yearning, from the futility of escape and even of “getting what we want.” “Groundhog’s Day” is like American Buddhism with Bill Murray as a sort of proto-Big LeBowski, a reluctant Siddhartha who goes back and forth across the river of small town ennui until he finally becomes the river crossing guy.

    And Bill Murray in “Zombieland”–inspired.


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