I’m washing my hands, and I’ve got time travel on my mind. I just finished a video game this week, Life is Strange, that has me pondering the cause and effect of all my life choices. The title follows the story of Max Caulfield who discovers that she possesses the ability to rewind and alter time, in favor of her own decisions and will. The game dynamics permit your character to create permanent consequences, based on in-game decision making. As you can probably imagine, each little decision causes a ripple effect, leading to monumental changes within the game, characters, and overall story.
Ironically, the beginning of Max’s story begins in the school bathroom—when attempting to save her childhood friend from a fatal gunshot wound—as does my narrative for today, minus the dead friend portion.
How did I never noticed it at work before, considering that I’ve been in this Men’s Room a thousand times? The mirror above the sink, reflects the mirror on the wall, creating an infinite set of reflections. Of course, there’s a story to be captured—and told—within, and within, and within…
As a big fan of Science Fiction, the sentiment of time travel is part and parcel for the genre. If you are a true fan of sci-fi, you must find a fascination in the possibilities of altering time. From television to silver screen, hypothetical cause and effect scenarios have been imagined: Timeless (2016), Continuum (2012), The Butterfly Effect (2004), Looper (2012), Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989), The Terminator (1984), Groundhog Day (1993), Star Trek IV (1986), Midnight in Paris (2011), Planet of the Apes (1968), Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004), The Final Countdown (1980), Intersteller (2014), and—it goes without saying, but I will anyway—Back to the Future (1985).
Dear Dr. Brown. On the night that I go back in time, you will be shot by terrorists. Please take whatever precautions are necessary to prevent this terrible disaster. Your friend, Marty. ~ Marty McFly, Back to the Future
Knowing the inevitable future events of his beloved best friend scientist, Marty McFly attempts to alter history by penning a heartfelt letter, warning Doc Brown about catastrophic events that will end the good doctor’s life. Scrawled across the face of a sealed envelope that contains Marty’s warning, placed in Doc’s jacket, are the following words: do not open until 1985.
It’s a desperate plea to save a friend, regardless of the implications that an interference in time would inevitably generate, based on truly selfish motives. Yet, I wonder if I would do the same thing, if given a similar chance. What would I change, fix, or omit from my personal history? Would it be worth the alternate timelines, repeating loops, and infinite paradoxes that I would create from such actions?
The most useful form of time travel would be to go back a year or two and rectify the mistakes we made. ~ Matt Lucas
Sometimes when I’m recalling stories from my past, contents of daily narratives in this project, I wish that some events never happened—specifically related to things that have harmed me, poor decisions that I’ve made, or even choices that I should have made:
- the time that I started a business with a scoundrel business partner, who dragged me down a rabbit hole of personal debt;
- the instance where I quit a job because I was encouraged to lie, about my performance and allotted workday hours, in favor of the corporation, to allow them to invoice a client for pseudo-work-completed;
- or when I didn’t take my college education seriously, instantiating numerous cause and effect ripples, over the following twenty years, in both personal and professional aspects of my life—have I ever told you about how I wanted to be an architect when I grew up?
But, am I not the sum of all my experiences? Everything that I’ve ever loved or hated, accomplished or failed, gained or lost? Who would I be if I changed even the smallest of any previous life experience? I don’t think that I, would be I at all.
And the more that I consider it, the pain of all life’s experiences, I realize that to suffer is to live. Were your greatest moments of individual development wrapped in a bow on a four-star vacation to Paris, or was it found in the loss of a family member, the heartbreak of a relationship, or the realization of personal failure? Can you develop traits in compassion, empathy, or wisdom while experiencing nothing but bliss and endless success? Maybe this is why celebrities are always so sad and depressed at the height of their own stardom? For me, growth was always found somewhere in the string of heartbreak scenarios.
To have the ability to permanently erase or change our past, would effectively erase a portion of who we are, as unique people—I could never do that, no sir.
As the final epiphany exits my mind, my hand washing completed, I notice a small piece of folded paper on the sink top. Oddly, my name is familiarly penned on the top flap in red ink: Brian.
I pause and ponder its presence. I reach for the note, cautiously open it, and—in a moment of complete bewilderment—read the message, scribbled in my own handwriting:
“By the way, don’t forget to mention the thing about us wanting to be an architect when we grow up. ~ B”