I’m currently working on a book that has time travel as a central device. The story is about a character that finds a way to travel back in time and uses this ability to go back and try to change decisions that he made in the past and influence the course of his life.
Writing this book caused me to think about this phenomenon and the age-old question, if you could go back in time and give your younger self advice, what would you say or do?
I think my message to my younger self would vary based on my age at the time.
At this age, there wouldn’t be much that I would tell myself. Whatever I would say probably wouldn’t have much of an impact. I was a fairly calm child that was a late bloomer in many things. I didn’t walk until I was 16 months old and my parents wondered if I would ever talk. Arriving at milestones later in life has been a common theme for me, but I’m okay with that.
My love for music started very early. My favorite instrument to play, the piano, would be something I would discover later in life. I dabbled with the guitar and drums at an early age and was focused on the accordion. It wasn’t until I was 10 or 11 that I began to play the piano,. I wish I had started earlier and would tell my younger self this.
I had an interesting childhood growing up on the Italian north-side of Syracuse, New York. We lived in a 100-year-old two-family house with my maternal grandmother. There weren’t many kids to play with so I was a withdrawn, insecure child. This was when I discovered my love of books and writing stories. I kept the writing to myself. This is one great regret. I didn’t let this part of my life blossom until I was nearly 50 years old. There were so many lost stories and so much lost time.
This was a tough age for me. I spent a year in a body cast after spine surgery to correct a severe curvature. The surgery may have saved my life although I’m paying the price for it later in life. I was at my most insecure and depressed during this time period. It was my first year of high-school and I was extremely awkward. Music really got me through. If I could go back and talk to this kid, I would tell him to hang in there and that things were going to turn out okay.
This was such a pivotal time in my life as far as career choices. I was in every conceivable music group in high-school and outside of school as well. I auditioned for, and was accepted at two great music schools. Then reality hit. My parents couldn’t afford the tuition and, despite some scholarships, I had to enroll in a community college and pay my own way by working as much as possible while going to school. This would cause me to abandon music for business school and not earn my bachelor’s degree until some 20 years later. If I could go back to this time, I would tell my 16-year-old self to hold fast to my dreams and find a way to do what I could to follow them. I took the safe path, but I could have taken a risk and I often wonder where my career path would have led. I would also tell myself to ditch the sweater vest.
I would change nothing at this age. I would just affirm with myself that at this time in my life, I made the best decision possible in marrying my wife, Caryn. She has stood with me for 32 years through good and bad times and we have made it through. When I look at her today, I still see that 21-year-old beauty that I married. I would, however, tell myself to get rid of the moustache.
This was a turning point for me as well. I had just earned my Master’s Degree and left the security of my long-time corporate job to work for a start-up company. It was one of the happiest work experiences of my life until it wasn’t. A year in, the company changed leadership and I found myself without a job with a mortgage and two kids. In hindsight, I would still go through the experience, but wouldn’t enter into it without a contract. My trust that my sweat equity would be rewarded was a bad gamble.
As I look back, there were good decisions and bad along the way, but the net result is positive. The one regret is waiting so long in life to begin writing seriously. Writing a book on time travel caused me to do this introspection and, unlike my character, I wouldn’t change much in my past.
How about you? What would you tell your younger self?