If you could go back in time, where would you go? What would you do?
Think about that for a minute. Map it out in your mind, and let the emotions of the imaginary trip take over.
Did you choose to revisit a moment in your life? Did you make a change? Tell yourself a secret from the future? Say something important to someone? Not say something?
For many people, the answer to this famous time travel question is some variant of a do-over. You know the ones—go/not go down a certain path; find winning lottery numbers and play them; make gigantic bets on sports teams; tell someone they are loved; stop tragedy from happening.
And, that’s natural.
In fact, if I could go back in time I might have the urge to do something similar. Oh, the things I would tell my younger self. The relationships I wouldn’t have wasted time building. And, the heartache I would have avoided.
It’s an instinct to want to fix what we deem to be mistakes. So if you chose to go back and alter the timeline of your life, you’re among the majority.
But, I’ve begun to wonder why more people wouldn’t choose to go back in time just to be there.
For example, I would love to see what it was like to live in the glamorous 1920s. Or, sit in the audience of an Elvis concert. Or, simply watch my grandmother care for her children.
Why is it that few people choose to respond to this time travel question with the desire to relive a positive memory?
It’s a strange instinct—when faced with the far fetched possibility of going back in time—to want to fix your past. We are inclined to relive negative memories or self-perceived mistakes. But, what about those good moments?
If you could go back in time and simply BE, where would you go? You can’t make any changes. You can’t speak to your former self, or anyone else. No ripple effect. No timeline holes.
Would you relive the day you met your spouse? What about the birth of your children? The moment you found out about a pregnancy? Your graduation?
I would go back to my wedding day.
The last time I was surrounded by family—smiling, and hopeful. I wouldn’t tell myself anything (though “honey, slow down, enjoy this moment…the things you’re stressing over won’t matter a year from now…this is the last time you’re allowed to be naïve” would be so tempting).
Instead, I would look at the audience and study the faces of those I love so dearly. I would try to forever memorialize the little things, the minutia we often forget—the smell of incoming spring rain, the taste of the red velvet cake I barely got to eat, the sound of laughter and music and camera flashes, the feeling of warmth.
I would go back to the hospital when my baby was born.
It’s not a day I would particularly like to relive. But, with a laundry list of things I wish I could change, I would be still and soak it in. The fear, pain, agony—all of it. Just to relive that moment when my son was first placed in my arms.
It may be natural to want to change our past, right our wrongs, stop heartbreak, and express our feelings. But, chances are time travel isn’t going to happen in our lifetime. So, we can’t do those things. Yet, we can relive (even if only in our minds) those moments that shaped us and inspired us.
I encourage you to take a moment to relive your favorite moments—whatever they may be in your life. It may bring you the warm fuzzy feeling you need on a stressful day. It may help you focus on your life’s blessings instead of its flaws.
And next time someone asks you that million dollar question—”If you could go back in time, what would you do?“—I hope you’ll say: