Last night I had the most incredibly vivid dream. I dreamed that I was 15 again and could do everything right. So I woke up in my parents’ home and revised like mad for my GCSEs instead of winging them, eventually ending up at Cambridge. I hugged my dad a lot more, while I had the chance, knowing that he almost certainly had an undiagnosed personality disorder. I got with my first proper boyfriend, my childhood sweetheart, and was the perfect girlfriend – never unfaithful, no crazy mood swings – meaning we got married and lived happily ever after.
I was the best friend ever to Graham, instead of being loud and annoying, and we started our creative projects early and I became a YouTube star, and I rescued him from the job he never really loved. I didn’t get into television scriptwriting (I never enjoyed it) and focused instead on comedy music videos and writing fiction. I became a huge success, and without ever having to go through experiencing violence during pregnancy or a nervous breakdown.
But, of course, that scenario can never be perfect. There are huge problems. If I woke up in 1995 and knew everything I knew now, I’d know terrible things, like the fact that 9/11 was going to happen. Would I try and stop it? If so, how? If not, would I have blood on my hands? I’d also know about the 2004 tsunami, and countless atrocities. The thought of inadvertently being responsible for stopping horrific things from happening rather spoils my vision of redoing my life. And also, it would be terrifying, getting the chance to do everything right. Having that unnatural, bizarre power and control over your own life.
But the worst thing for me personally would be that Lily would never be born. And as I lay in bed contemplating this scenario, watching her sleep, I thought: no, it’s not worth it. I don’t want to go back (not that I could!). I just want to go forward in the present with my beautiful daughter and see what amazing things she does with her life. Because I can’t imagine ever knowing anyone so bright and funny and kind. I am so incredibly lucky, just as things are.
And it then struck me that, the same way I’d been looking wistfully into the past, wishing I could change things from 25 years ago, was the way that I could, if all else fails, be looking into the past aged 65, wishing I could go back to the age I am now. So that’s the scenario to avert! That’s what I actually have control over. No one ever gets to rewind life, and nor should they, but I’ve learned so much over the past 25 years. I actually like the person I am now, and I love my daughter with all my heart.
There’s no sense in wishing things in the past were different. And if you do wish your life were better, then change things now, in the present. Put things right, while you have the time. That’s all you can do.
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