A friend told me her book club recently read the novel "Replay" by Ken Grimwood. The book is about a guy who dies when he is in his 40s. Instead of going to the Promised Land, he wakes up in his dormitory at the age of 18, completely aware of what he did with his life before he succumbed to a heart attack.
Starting over while knowing what the future holds, he proceeds to scrape together $2,300 and talks someone into placing a bet for him on the horse he knows will win the Kentucky Derby. Even after paying the 30 percent share to the man who made the bet for him, he nets $17,000. From there he continues to bet on sure things like the World Series until he accumulates millions of dollars.
My friend said women in the book club were having an intense discussion when one of the members asked the provocative question, "What would you change if you could go back to the time you were 18, knowing what you now know?"
This question intrigued me. What would I modify if this happened to me? Smiling, I imagined being 18 years old again armed not only with my youthful looks, but cognizant of what happens when you make certain decisions. How wonderful to start my life over, I thought.
First I imagined a growth spurt between the ages of 18 and 21. I'd be eternally grateful if I could be 5-foot-5. That caused me to laugh, as I realized I'm used to being down here close to nature.
Continuing my ruminating, I recalled a long-ago vacation to Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius. From the vantage point of a small hill, I looked out at the Pompeii excavation, imagining what the archaeologists might have felt when they uncovered this mass burial ground and city. I longed to be one of the team that unearthed the sturdy homes featuring urns of wheat standing outside the doors.
The walk along the streets of the remains of a highly developed civilization, complete with a sophisticated aqueduct system, was riveting. If I could be part of a group that discovered and excavated a society covered for hundreds of years, I'd be thrilled.
That's it! I would pursue an education and career as an archaeologist.
Continuing my fantasy journey, I thought back to the time I was a probate paralegal. At the time I believed being a lawyer would be a gratifying accomplishment. After attending law school in the evening for one year, it became clear that I would not be able to achieve the kind of legal opportunity I dreamed about. But had I decided on a career in law at the age of 18, nothing could have stopped me from becoming an attorney battling for human rights or a constitutional trial lawyer.
I could strive to sit on the Supreme Court. I'd be focused on my goals without the distractions of an 18-year-old mind. Envisioning sitting on the nation's highest court in my black robe made my heart race!
The fantasy path proceeded to a profession caring for wild animals. Illusions of myself surrounded by baby tigers, tame mountain lions and young giraffes enchanted me. Images of fanciful hats I'd wear to protect myself from falling branches or animal swats on the head appeared in my daydream. The more I thought about this, the more I identified with Dr. Doolittle. Contemplating these possibilities was delicious fun.
A serious and sober thought then entered my mind as I appraised the life I've led. Although there are several things I regret, many of the decisions I made turned out great for me, and I believe improved life for people I met along the way.
Deliberately thinking about the past brought up some cherished memories. Not only have I written several books, but I've helped many aspiring authors complete their projects.
When I taught creative writing, I helped fledgling writers get started. My Writers' Workshops have been motivational, and my students tell me they are appreciative.
Additionally, I remembered occasions where I went above and beyond what was necessary to ensure that my real-estate clients were able to buy the home of their dreams.
Are there things I would change? Sure. I would adjust my parenting agenda to generate more time for nurturing my daughters when they were young. I would prevent some of the financial mistakes I created - but I would not be interested in devoting my life to making millions of dollars.
Balancing what could have been and what truly did happen, maybe I didn't uncover a lost civilization, but I made a difference in the lives of several people. Conceivably, this is what is important in life.
Wistfully, I admitted to myself that the concept of waking up in some exotic land, surrounded by young animals, looking up at a beautiful blue sky with white clouds, certainly is tempting.
And then, lo and behold, I realized that I do wake up in the morning with Charlie and Toots by my side and gorgeous white stars visible in the early morning hours that will be followed by a strikingly beautiful azure sky.
No do-overs for me. I'm doing just fine.
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