What Would You Tell Your Past Self If You Spoke Today?

0825My TiVo only records one show at a time (it’s an old TiVo), so sometimes it only catches a few episodes of a show. This season, Frequency is that show for me.

The premise is speculative: A woman starts talking to a man on an old ham radio. The man turns out to be her father…20 years ago.

Of course this creates all kind of interesting situations, as the woman is able to give her father information about the past. They’re both cops, so there are mysteries to solve.

But as they solve mysteries, the future changes in both small and big ways.

So there’s a certain danger to speaking to your past self. You might be married to someone in Future A, but if you tell your past self to bet on the Braves in ’96, suddenly Future B becomes a reality, and you don’t even know the person you were married to in Future A.

Given that danger, I’ve been trying to think about what I would tell my past self if I had the opportunity. It can’t be a big thing–the risk for future disruption is so great. (Though, granted, that’s a powerful tool–you could avert tragedy for someone you love. Let’s assume for this case that something like that would mess with the space-time continuum too much.)

I’m sure there are many moments I’d redo if I had the chance–we’ve all said and done things we wish would could take back. But the moment that comes to my mind is an additive one. It’s something I wish I did.

Really, it was the simplest thing. I was a senior in high school. I had just finished seventh period, and a girl I liked drew close to me on the back steps and asked me to go to the river with her instead of attending the final class of the day.

I never skipped class in high school, but I wish I had that day.

I can say that because I know the future. I know nothing would ever come of me and that girl. I also know that nothing bad was going to happen if I skipped one class out of the thousands of classes I attended in high school.

Nor am I filled with regret. It’s a little thing. But I remember it well, and I wish I had said yes. Because I don’t remember at all what happened in class that day. But I guarantee you that I would still remember spending the afternoon by the river with her.

What would you tell your past self?

7 thoughts on “What Would You Tell Your Past Self If You Spoke Today?”

  1. Similarly for me, it was missing an opportunity to spend time with a girl as a teen.

    Despite now, twenty years later, being happily married with three kids, that instant has always stuck with me. It was likely due to the years of misery that followed because I chose to spend time with the wrong girl that evening.

    Lesson learned: Don’t blindly accept the first thing that comes your way due to lack of confidence in yourself.

    Not that past me would have been able to take that advice of course.

    • Geoff: I like that lesson! And I also like the idea that telling your past self something doesn’t necessarily result in your past self following your instructions. 🙂

  2. Jamey,

    I can’t think of any specific moments, though there were a lot of them. I think the one thing I would tell my past self more than anything is, “Don’t worry…it all works out.” Just keep faith.

    I have to admit though…one if the things I would love to see and maybe this is something you can do in the afterlife, is playback your entire life and see those points in time in which you may have met people that you really didn’t get to know until maybe much, much later. In essence, seeing your entire life from a 3rd person perspective.


    • Joe: That would be amazing! I’d also like to play back my life with branching paths to see what would have turned out drastically differently if I had made a different choice vs. what would have stayed mostly the same.

  3. This reminds me of that one movie, The Butterfly Effect. The main character has the power to change the past a little but have big consequences for his present. Seeing what life would be because of different decisions would be cool though, but only through as third person.

    I would definitely tell my past self one thing… “Go for it.”

  4. I would tell my past self, “Don’t marry him!” And I would be happier today, but I might not have learned all the lessons I have learned because I did marry “him” and it’s been tough. I can honestly say that I am a stronger person because of what I have endured.


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