Going Back in Time

I just read an article about someone wishing for a time machine so she could go back to the 1950s. I was at a Christmas party a week or so ago and someone said with longing in her throat adding an ache to the words, “Oh, to be in my 20s again.”  I have a friend who is wise and vibrant and beautiful and she claims her best days are behind her.  It’s painful. There’s a movie about this golden-age kind of thinking. Bruce Springsteen sang about it too.

This idea that the past holds what is missing.

It doesn’t.

I would not go back to my 20s for anything. And they weren’t awful, but they don’t hold anything I don’t have now. And now- having lived not just my 20s, but also my 30s and most of the 40s- today I have so much more. More love, more gratitude, more confidence, more certainty, more compassion, more wisdom.

I have no desire to live in another time either. I used to say I wanted to live in the Old West, but I would have to be rich because I couldn’t kill my own food. Even then, I could appreciate the realities of a wish to live in any age other than my own. I wanted to ride horses and wear dresses with petticoats. Nowadays I love vintage and the fashion of the 40s, but would I want to live in the age of Hitler? Would I want to live in a time of segregation? Of polio? No home air conditioning?

No, I’ll stick with my vintage thrift store finds and the 21st century.

Does that mean I never long for the past? I’m not sure longing is the right word, but I do think of the past. Places. Events. People. And I miss them. Some more than others. And in that way, wishing for those old times seems as dangerous as wishing to live in a different time. If I wish to relive the good, I don’t see a way to do it without also reliving the bad. And I certainly don’t want that. Like every story about time travel, it’s best not to mess with it.

Don’t get me wrong, there are things about my life today that I would like to change. But I don’t see the chance for change in the rearview mirror. I see the opportunity for change in today. What’s missing from today is not behind me.

What I’m looking for in life is in the gift of today, the present. And in the promise of the tomorrows to come.