Welcome Fellow Time Travelers!

No, I didn’t lose my remaining pixie sticks. I’m speaking metaphorically.

Over the last few days I’ve been listening to a lot of people, some older, some younger than me getting trapped in the “coulda shoulda woulda” and berating themselves and wishing they were on some other path in life.

It’s not like I don’t have the same regrets. Oh, boy, howdy, do I ever.

It is the curse of humanity to forever wonder about paths not taken. The curse particularly affects smart people for some reason.

I spent my first twenty years after school locked in a full depression tantrum over the fact I hadn’t been allowed to take engineering. And being too stupid to realize in America I could have gone back and done that, even if it would have cost us, or I’d have had to hustle for the scholarships. But I didn’t know much of how things worked here, yet, at least for about 10 years, so I didn’t realize that university is not something you do by permission and at the prescribed time. And after ten years we had kids and were dead broke.

I’m mildly annoyed — I no longer waste much time on rage-depression tantrums. I don’t have that much time — that I wasn’t prescient enough to realize indie would come, and to start writing for the drawer 30 years ago.

Then again, without the feedback (from fans mostly, not editorial houses!) would I be the writer I am now? who knows?

And if I’d become an engineer, would we even have kids? Dan spent most of the 90s working in hero-mode. I don’t think the two of us doing that would have led to kids, or even to continued marriage.

And that’s the flaw of coulda shoulda woulda. We assume the path not taken would be utterly flawless and cause no issues whatsoever. But that’s not how humanity works. And when it comes to careers these days, it’s definitely not how here and now works.

But the mind will turn on it. You’ll wonder “What will people think of how little I’ve accomplished.” And your mind will turn on “How could I have been so stupid.”

The fact is…. you weren’t. We change and grow through experience. Any decision made more than yesterday, you weren’t the same person, or if you were, you didn’t have the same information.

And beating yourself up, while an interesting hobby (People pay GOOD money to watch) is not productive. And doesn’t lead to making good decisions in the future. At best it leads to paralysis. At worst it leads to self-destruction.

Years ago, when I profoundly depressed, I came up with a mind trick. You know all those stories in which you send your mind knowing everything it knows now into your past body, to “fix” what you did wrong then?

Groundhog day is a limited, and a bit weird form of that, but I assure you there have been a ton of (mostly written) short stories on that theme.

Well, pretend you came back from the future to fix whatever went wrong. You were sent to today, because today is an inflection point and today you can do better. Now.

You’re allowed to be upset at the mess everything is, but that was another you, so long ago you don’t even remember it very well (We’re assuming you lived another ten or twenty years or more before you came back.)

And it doesn’t matter. If you prefer to think you were sent from a parallel world where things had gone seriously wrong, and are in this world to fix this timeline, that’s fine too. Then you can shrug that the other you was an idiot.

The important thing is that you’re here now, because this is an important inflection point in your life. A place where you can change courses and make everything better.

Start today.

What can you do? It might just be changing your attitude to be more open to possibility. It can be being in a better mood because you’re not beating yourself up.

Or it can be cleaning your room. Doing the dishes. Looking for work. Eating better from now on.

Start today. Establish new habits.

You’re a time traveler and this is your challenge. Make it better today. Your future in this timeline might not be wide open, but it is open enough.

Go fix what’s broken from here on.

114 thoughts on “Welcome Fellow Time Travelers!

  1. The LawDog Files is down with a ‘Bandwidth Limit Exceeded’ error again. Looks like the trolls aren’t done with him yet.

    Nothing has been posted on the site since October 7, neither articles nor comments. I tried, and got that Bandwidth Limit Exceeded error.

    They can’t refute what he says, so they have to prevent him from saying it.
    If everybody is thinking the same thing, most of them are not thinking.

    1. Funny, how one well-reasoned post about something most Americans have probably already had slip from memory attracts so much negative attention . . .

      1. Apparently there was also some saltiness about me ending something by saying ‘and it is not like it would be a bad thing for the US to launch an annihilitating first strike on Russia’.

        Counter force nukes might be a waste, given the possibilty that the Russians have zero effective nukes. But, they might not.

        As for Russian population, there would not be a way to push nuking Russia through the US launch bureaucracy without the mess that the Russian leadership contributed significantly to by invading Ukraine and running their mouths about nuking people. It would pretty much be the Muscovites screwing around, and making discoveries.

        The danger with Biden and nukes is only in him launching a ‘demonstration strike’ to provoke them in a place where it cannot hamper their refurbishment of warheads and other systems, and then refusing to let the US bureaucracy launch any further strikes even as the Russians refurbish and launch. But, Biden does /not/ have that fine a level of control over the US bureaucracy.

        Democrats and Russians now both seem quite unhinged in insisting that this or that thing must have an entirely different fact pattern. The motivation seems to be an unwillingness to admit that they may have no path to where they want to be, from where they are now.

      1. Maybe. ESR had a glitch and now he hasn’t blogged in years.

        Yes, still salty about that, thank you.

  2. I love this idea. We’re in the Groundhog Day loop, and it’s up to us to Do The Right Thing now so we can escape it and get on with our lives.

  3. Ah yes, the “reincarnated as a younger you” trope.

    Problem is, how much power do you have at that younger age to enact the changes that need to be done? I’d love to travel back in time and save the life of my younger sister, my grandmother, and prevent the accident that took their lives. (What adult actually listens and acts on the word of a five year old?) And save my mother with dietary changes from an early death; which would have prevented my father from making an egregious mistake 11 years later marrying my evil former step mother. Where I could have stopped my grandfather from obsessively cleaning up Masonic finances to the point where he ignored his own liver disease that killed him.

    “If only…” are probably one on the most tragic, and futile, phrases in the English language.

    1. Talked to the counselor about suicidal thoughts. Except that I don’t remember actually having them at the same time. And I had no clue how much of it was my family and not the (admittedly aggravating ) school

    2. It would depend on the technology. It is physical travel? Do I arrive naked like in the Terminator movies? Can I carry some data in era appropriate storage external to my memory? Am I just sending back messages? How much bandwidth?

      Sure I’d like to send or carry back information to enable my past self to make good trades in the stocks, bonds and precious metals markets. Information on upcoming technologies. Maybe some advice on not doing certain stupid stuff.

      I suspect, however, the Universe doesn’t tolerate too much interference with time. Kind of like a glass rod between certain events that cannot be prevented. I might be able to bend the rod a little bit but if it reached a breaking stress, Fate will intervene. Generally I try to avoid attracting too much attention from Fate.

      1. That theme has been done so many times, in so many variations, that it would seem there’s no room for more. Yet they keep coming, ranging from serious (13 Monkeys, Piper’s Time and Time Again, Hawke’s Time Wars series) to funny (Groundhog Day, The Men Who Murdered Mohammed) to hilarious (Stargate Window of Opportunity), plus a few “just plain bad/stupid”.

        I tend to subscribe to Niven’s Law: “If, in the universe of discourse, both time travel and the ability to change the past are possible, in the end no time machine will be invented in that universe”; the reason, while not obvious, is fairly easy to deduce; even I managed it. 🙂

        The stories are usually fun to read, though.

      2. Depending on year or arrival, memorizing six stocks, and the date to buy them, would make you a billionaire.

        Problem is memorizing “Apple” and arriving in 1920.

        Of course, knowing 1929 was coming, one could make a fortune knowing only the year.

        Then again, invest the S&P 500 index fund at 10 percent of income for 40 years, and you have a fortune. A crash may clip it some if your cashbout is forced, but that formula is surprisingly wealth-building over the existence of the S&P 500. Even 5% over 40 pays out well.

        The secret isn’t the fund or the index. The secret is living such that you can shave 5-10 percent for long-term savings every single payday. That may mean vacations in the back yard until age 60, and secondhand everything.

        If I had understood that at 20, I would already be “retired”, well before 60.

        Well, a bad marriage reset the start year kinda brutally. Ouchies. That is the other secret: marry wisely, and stay married.

        1. Well… all of that and not having kids. No, seriously. We never had the cash to do THAT. What we managed, we managed through renovating houses while living in them, then selling them at double, then….

    3. I guess I’m lucky that 90+% of the things that I would want to change are decisions and such that were completely my own doing and therefore I would have near complete control over. Sure, if I went back far enough, I would want to try to talk my parents into buying some stocks (for me, at least), and invest some on my own as soon as I was old enough, but mostly I would like to keep from making the decisions that clearly were self-sabotaging.

  4. I time travel quite a bit nowadays ( i’m 70 ); the mind is a funny thing, I seem to have more and more totally random memories just appear. They are not huge memories just small snippets, apropos of nothing, no connection to what I was seeing, or thinking, or whatever.
    And sometimes they do indeed lead to some more in-depth thinking about my past, and the roads not taken.
    But I’m probably somewhat unusual, in that I almost always end up choosing a memory path to consider that might have happened that makes me shudder. I consider myself very fortunate that I didn’t slide down any of many paths I’ve been on that would have been if not disastrous, nowhere near as good as the ones I either chose or lucked into. And I’ve been lucky a lot, I really could have made some real doozie bad choices, to add to the bad ones I did make. Real bad.
    I end up saying, “Phew” that was close and feel good about where I’m at. The mistakes I have made appear to be far better than some of the ones I didn’t make. So I have that going for me. Which is nice.

  5. sigh It actually wasn’t anything I did, which could have been a serious turning point, but the Air Force personnel office. I wanted to go back to Hill AFB for my last assignment in service – back to a unit where I had gotten much useful work done, loved the job, adored the little house that I lived in, had connections to the local public radio station there. Loved the four seasons, everything, even the snow in winter.
    Instead, I got sent to Texas for the final assignment – which was really a kind of betrayal, because it had always been the practice in my career field that for your last duty station in, you had your first choice; could send down roots, buy a house … all a kind of repayment for spending twenty or thirty years on remote or overseas assignments.
    But … I wound up in a civilian job at a computer, as an admin-receptionist, with a lot of spare time on my hands as well as access to the internet, and eventually wound up writing for a milblog … and then, and then, and then … writing novels, many of them with a Texas setting. All of that likely wouldn’t have happened, if we had gone back to Utah …
    I’ve gone back on google street view, and looked at the little house, and the street that we lived on, and wondered.

  6. I hope I’m not receiving messages from the future because this morning a terrible thought popped into my head: President Fetterman

          1. Not quite the same, though. Mrs. Wilson took advantage of the then current situation, Biden was knowingly installed from the beginning as a puppet for TLPTB.

      1. Sure, you make jokes now, but when he wins with a historic 92 million votes in 2028, who’s going to be laughing then?

    1. In fairness, in a couple of years his mental issues might have cleared up. That happens with many stroke victims.

      However, it’s also possible that his mental issues will never clear up. That also happens with many stroke victims.

      Of course, even without the stroke damage, all indications are that he’s terrible as an elected official. The residents of the city that he brags about being mayor of hold him in contempt, and openly state to anyone who asks that he did nothing good for the city while he was mayor.

  7. No regrets. Seriously, no regrets.

    Evey time I sit back and consider paths not taken I realize each and every step I took led to now. Change any one of them, the pace and pattern of my life would be different leading to a different now.

    Yes I enjoy looking back at might have beens, loves passed by, Captain of Industry careers missed, Varsity sweaters could’a worn, etc., but any such would have me in a different now, sans present, only, wife, sans two children that didn’t turn out too bad, sans delightful savage teenage granddaughter, sans even the batch of White Night Stout I brewed a few weeks back. It would all be a different now.

    So! Looking back did some good, did some bad. Not happy ’bout bad done, but it all led to now and this now is quite satisfying. Nope, wouldn’t consider changing it even if I could.

    I’m speaking on a personal now level of course, wouldn’t wanna change anything.

    However if I could go back in time and have a word with Buck Fiden’s great grandfather…

  8. I agree with jiminalaska. We did this as an exercise at an offsite. I stated I wouldn’t change anything because I would lose the people I have now.

    1. Same here. Find a better paying job than the one that ate several years of my life, take better care of my health, take better care of my relationship with my wife and kids…those are things I might want to change, because they’d improve things for the people I have now. So I’m trying to do some of that now.

    2. Also agree with jimalaska. I’ve thought about what had happened if I’d stayed on the timber USFS path. Doubt we’d be married 44 years later. I can guarantee that our finances wouldn’t be as good. Doubt we would have any children. Alternative, what if I’d gone straight into computers … Never mind. I know how I got into the computers and it required the path I did take. I’d never gotten into upper level computer classes based on my first two years in the math and computer classes I was taking. Not in the late ’70s. Also I wouldn’t have met my husband. Conclusion, I wouldn’t change a thing. Would be where I am now, would lose the most important people in my life.

    3. No, no major changes, though it would have been a good idea if I had never started smoking. OTOH, I quit soon enough to avoid the worst of the damage.

      It wasn’t part of my wiring to have gotten married soon enough to have kids. Still, I am married, and we’re both on Spouse #1. Not too bad for 21 years of an interesting period of our lives.

    4. Some guy once said: You are what you are because of what you were when. Or something like that…. I am today the product of what happened and while some was not ‘optimal’ or even very good there was lots of great stuff back when. It produced the “me” of today.

      To quote the song, My Way (2nd verse):
      Regrets, I’ve had a few
      But then again, too few to mention
      I did what I had to do
      And saw it through without exemption
      I planned each charted course
      Each careful step along the byway
      And more, much more than this
      I did it my way

      I’m still doing it mostly my way and am fine with that. I have hopes and dreams for the future and for those I know but I also know that it is up to them. The future will be an interesting one I’m sure and I’ll be there to hum the Sinatra tune even as I have to put rounds down range – or whatever. What is past is past and it will (hopefully) help guide me in my present and future. Sarah is not wrong as it takes lots of views of this sort of future/past thing to make it all work for us.

  9. So I realized that the path to music is lost to me. However, it is not totally lost– I can sing whenever I want to and at any time of the day or night. I just won’t be performing. On the other hand, I recently took up ballroom dancing– another path I didn’t finish. It looks like I have a real talent in that area. I’m taking it up for social and physical benefits. My stamina has increased in the last month. My doctors are very wary about it… but I don’t care.

    It also brings me a lot of joy. I can’t explain how much lighter I feel.

      1. My doctors are good… it is that transplant doctors/ nurses/schedulers from the hospital who aren’t good. *sigh And they are the only game in town.

    1. I’m so happy to read this. I’d say the fact that you feel joy from dancing means it’s doing you a world of good. And I’m sure it’s helping you heal and get stronger in a number of ways.

        1. Perhaps ballroom dancing is causing you harm in the long run — but I cannot help but wonder: what would be better? To shorten your life doing something that’s making you happy? Or lengthen your life, but have less happiness in it?

          I guess there’s even a third option: that the span of your life is fixed, but the happiness you’re getting from ballroom dancing now is going to cause your later years to be more miserable — with the total misery nonetheless “fixed” — but with misery somewhat alleviated by the happy memories you are generating via your dancing.

          I think too many doctors only look at the pain and death you face when you do something — often forgetting that happiness and pleasure can make pain and even death worthwhile!

          (I also think many doctors forget that happiness and pleasure can even make pain and death less likely, for a multitude of reasons …. which, I guess, is yet another option that could happen ….)

          1. I’m thinking that only walking was letting my muscles atrophy– making my death more certain and earlier. I do believe dancing will lengthen my life through joy and excercise. 🙂

  10. My Dad used to tell me not to wish for someone else’s problems.

    We are who we are by the grace of God and the choices we have made.

    Yes, self-inflicted wounds bite; but it could aleaus be worse. We might have missed the chance to read Sarah’s science fiction.

  11. We have trained them to think of the Future as a promised land which favoured heroes attain—not as something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.
    C. S. Lewis

    And everyone gets that time travel

  12. About lose– I took the road that gave me the most losses. But I gained a lot too. If I hadn’t gone into the military, I wouldn’t have met Otto and then lost him 8 years ago. My life would have been much poorer without him in my life.

  13. How I would love to go back in time and talk sense.to my 17-year-old self, but would he even listen?

    1. Retro-perfectionist thoughts are a terrible variation on the vice of Pride.

      “There was no way you could have known.”

      And anyway, “had I but known” is for Gothic romance heroines.

  14. Whenever is beat myself up with the “woulda coulda shoulda” whip, my mom would tell me: “You don’t know that your life would’ve been ‘better,’ only that it’d’ve been ‘different.'” I remind myself of that any time I start down the “what of…?” road.

  15. Go back and plead with my parents to yank me from The Junior High of H-ll, and then? Homeschooling wasn’t an option unless you were so sick that you could prove to the state that you could not physically attend school. The only private schools were very religious. Even if I’d had a happier late teen era, I wouldn’t be who I am today. Yes, I’d have been spared a lot of pain and scars, but would I be able to do what I now do without them? (Note: I am NOT saying that that 6 year span “worked out for the best” or that “G-d has a plan and everything works out well in the end.” Just that a different Alma would be a different Alma.)

    I wouldn’t wish that period on anyone, but some of the—let us call them “quirks” of my personality—were visible before then, and would probably still be present. Perhaps in a worse-for-society form. Or worse-for-Alma form.

    1. God does have a plan.
      Not everything is going to work out for the best, for you.
      Not everything is going to work out well in the end; because nobody knows what the actual end is.

      The problem with the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, and predeterminism, is how do we prove that the apparent randomness isn’t predetermined by some higher power?

      1. Once you understand that free will and predestination are both 100% true, the universe makes much more sense. The coolest thing about God is that He designed the universe for free will. It took billions of years for that to finally happen in our neighborhood, but He seems very patient.

        Although when time is 3 dimensional for a person, traveling sideways in time is not hard. Our perception of time is limited by the single dimension we observe. We are the ant on the string. Plus, thanks to Einstein, we now know that everyone has their own time track. There is no single fixed time for the universe.

        Regarding good and bad things: Often to get to the other side of the swamp, you must go through it. If we try to avoid our swamps, we may prevent good things happening. One important data point for me: When Peter walked on water badly, Jesus did not calm the storm, until they are back in the boat. Suffering can either drive us far from God, or draw us close, our choice.

        1. About free will: I’ve been having a blogpost bouncing around in my head that I’ve been meaning to crystalize and send to Sarah. One of the things that drives me nuts about people who claim we have no free will, though, is the assumption that because everything is “preordained”, we cannot have free will — as if we could only have free will if we act randomly.

          Another thing that drives me nuts, is how people who tell us we have no free will inevitably tell us to use this new “information” to go and live a better life!

          1. Strict determinism went out the window with the discovery of quantum mechanics more than 100 years ago.
            G’Kar: “Isn’t the universe a wonderful place? I wouldn’t live anywhere else.”

          2. I live in Mordor west. The church I go to is still faithful, but the next “higher” level of church governance called “Presbytery” is run by “Progressives”. They use it to support the left. CRT is an article of faith.

            I am the elder blessed to “go” to Presbytery meetings. No one else wants to go.

            God is prompting me to speak propheticly at the next meeting against the corruption. This is an interesting variation of free will. If I speak only what God wants me to say, am I just a puppet? Where is my free will?

            When I speak, how do I know if it is God’s words I say? If i somehow actually hear God clearly, how do I know it is Him? An interesting variation of free will. I tell people one of my three main goals is to perfectly reflect God to everyone I meet. I fail. God has reminded me not to put words in “His” mouth.

            The men’s group I meet with, are going thru the “minor” prophets. Did they speak/write “God’s” word? How much of them is in the words of the books? For believers, the whole Bible is “God’s Word”. Yet each book is from an human source. Micah seems to channel America in 2022. Nothing new under the son.

            This great mysterious paradox of the universe, that nothing surprises God, yet everything I do is of cosmic significance. For each of us, that same opportunity, as we travel our short journey here.

  16. It’s never too late to switch your fields. I spent most of my career dealing with various kinds of paperwork, some of it still Top Secret and other bits insanely complex. But every move I made was to a higher post and a different area of paperwork – anything from data entry and analysis in the early years to close liaison with Presidents and Ministers in various countries. But all built on paperwork, merely needing a change of sector. And while I was doing that my ‘light relaxation’ for 45 years was writing non-fiction in my hobby field. Now I long retired, and a widower, I switched again and am having fun trying to write a novel about an alternative England after the Romans left. So here I am now, still a paper-pusher but in completely different areas after every move. Maybe one day I’ll find a publisher for my novel which will add another string to my bow.

  17. Time and again, sh!t happened. Some of it lingers still, in nightmares that wake me screaming.


    Time and time and time again, I was in the right place, at the right time, willing and able, and saved a life, or steered one right, or did that one hard thing that made all the difference.

    Would not change a thing. Warts and all, it has been a purposeful life.

    HIS, not mine.

  18. We would all like “do-overs” but your path is your path in this life….I am very pleased with some things I have achieved, and disappointed in some things I didn’t achieve…Maybe I’ll do better next time….

  19. If I’d gone to grad school when I planned, I never would have met my husband… without whom I cannot now imagine my life. So, no. Warts and all, I wouldn’t change anything.

  20. Well…

    Hu Jintao, the previous leader of China, appears to have been purged. He was escorted out of the CCP Congress that just ended (he’d been sitting on Xi Jinping’s left). The official line via state media is that he had health issues, and was taken out of the meeting to rest. But in the video that’s available, he does not appear to be happy about leaving (and puts up some very mild resistance). Further, there’s currently nothing in Chinese media (state or otherwise) detailing any health issues that the man might be experiencing.

      1. No, I don’t think that will happen. That would be a bit too drastic and showy for China, and cause ripples within the Chinese public. But the fact that he could be forced to leave the Congress indicates that he now effectively has no political power.

  21. We could change the circumstances/events of our lives.
    But our basic temperament/character would remain the same. Unhappy people would find a NEW way to be unhappy. Happy people would find another way to be happy.

  22. But for a cat left at the otherwise empty former house of a friend of a friend, I likely would never have met the woman who is now my beloved wife (who only met that cat years later). Such is the randomness of outcomes whatever decisions we may make in life.
    I can think of several inflection points where a different decision would have made major changes in my life. I might have had higher status, been richer – who knows? Murphy always has a say. I’m healthy, usually happy, & loved. I wouldn’t try to change my past.

  23. This is one of the arguments I’ve got against the doomsday hypothesis: it’s based on the assumption that all possible people are randomly distributed in time, yet many of us could not have existed, much less reached adulthood if we’d been born in an earlier time, and none of us would even remotely resemble ourselves if we’d been born into a future time.

  24. Today is tomorrow’s past. So today I’m doing some editing instead of writing.

    Sometimes things happen that make you look on things past with a different light. Stories can be edited. People, not so much. You have to keep moving forward, building, maintaining, and creating. And preparing for the future. For failure, for bad things that happen that are out of your control- but also for the good opportunities, too.

    There were many opportunities to make positive changes in 2016-2020. For all the good that came from then, I think we can still do better in the future.

    Near future is still going to suck of course. But there are still opportunities to be had, even when things are at their worst. It’s easy to get black pilled and only see the (massive) wave of bad news coming down the pike. Not so easy to see places to make a positive change in that situation.

    But such things do exist. Prepare for the suck. Just don’t forget to watch out for the possible good that could come by, small and rare as it may be.

  25. Sugar dreams we used to call them. The regrets followed by the what-ifs.

    I could have saved several children plus a lot of pain to myself had I made a single statement at a certain point of time. Too scared and ignorant of the nature of evil back then.

    I sometimes reflect on Ken Grimwood’s novel “Replay” and wonder if a person could make a difference to the world if they had future knowledge. You could become rich and explore more of life with a touch of hedonism, but could you truly affect the stream of history? Would you turn clown world into something worse?

  26. By the way, I’m overweight. I wish I could say “portly”; but it’s probably more than that.

    It may have saved me during my first bout with cancer (not 5 years cancer-free). It may have caused my second cancer (1 year cancer-free) to hit at a younger age. Doctors just don’t know. Or they’re just not saying. By the way, the first and second cancers were baked into my DNA. No choices I made would have prevented either one.

    Most of life is like that. Are we called to a National “Birkenhead Drill”? Not yet — and maybe never. Live your life in such a way that the (true) stories told of you would make inspirational reading for pre-teens.

    If we’re on the Titanic, don’t try to steal the silverware, “complain to the manager”, or take someone else’s seat on the last lifeboat. Be like the band, who, though not employees of the White Star Line, stayed behind to try to calm and comfort those about to die.

    Forth, and fear no darkness!” as King Theoden said. They are craven wretches who cannot stand the Light we serve.

  27. Sarah, this week’s post brings up a question that recurs in my mind:

    Why are so many truly Americans born in other nations while so many foreign thinkers are born on this blood-won soil?

    I’m glad you made it to where you belong and I truly hope you’re there when the page turns on the Crazy Years.

    1. That “Chinese calander” seems to have jumped a peg, over to and stuck on

      “year of the Barking Moonbat”

    2. A certain percentage of people will always go one way or the other. There are a lot of people born outside the US who will fit in quite well with the US simply because there are so many people born outside the US. When an estimated 95% of the world’s population lives outside of the US, it doesn’t take much.

      And the reason why so many born in the US appear to have thoughts that fit better outside the country is because those are the more common thoughts that people have – particularly in a place that allows a certain amount of naivete, such as the US.

      1. And the reason why so many born in the US appear to have thoughts that fit better outside the country is because…

        …the grass is always greener… over the septic tank.

    3. I have a feeling that it is the Americans who never made it here who will be rebuilding those other places after whatever’s comming.

  28. I have regrets, too, and part of me wants to wallow in them. But today….today I won first place for a handspun, handwoven shawl at a fiber fair, and had congratulatory texts coming in. I’m not used to this…

  29. I don’t know about time travel but I wish I could know counterfactuals. Only God gets that privilege I guess.

  30. About the only productive thing you can do with regrets is turn them into resets and change your behavior for the future.

    A verse I call to mind when I look wistfully at the past:

    Ecc 7:10 ISV Never ask “Why does the past seem so much better than now?” because this question does not come from wisdom.

  31. Thanks for the post, especially considering my own thoughts on the matter a few days ago. Not that I still don’t wish a lot of things could be different, though I don’t see how I could go back and change one of the biggest things that left me badly equipped for life without arranging some kind of “accident” to make sure my mom and stepdad never met. Now, learning how to deal with public school crap, actually doing something about my weight much earlier, being better equipped to deal with UGA bureaucratic hoops, and maybe finding some way to keep my mom from going on the path that led to her slowly dying in a nursing home? Those I can clearly see where I could have done better and do regret those.

    Still, there are at least a few things I can see leading me to something potentially better. If I had moved to AZ or TX years before I know I’d regret it now, especially if I’d chosen AZ. So here’s hoping Murphy and O’Toole are occupied elsewhere while I finalize Project Escape – which is going to be to a city and state that suits me far better than anywhere I’ve lived or wanted to go – and that the parts that need to go well do so to an incredible degree!

    1. Somethings are 100% out of your control, no matter how much you see them coming. Realization needed is no matter how you changed how you handled the coming train/car wreck, it was out of your control.

      What frustrates me is my current weight situation. To some extent the off/on weight problem is my fault. But also not. The tendency is 100% partly set by early teen dieting, when I should not have been dieting. That dieting taught my system to fight weight loss. The dieting was NOT my idea. It was not something I could change no matter how much knowing the result; I fought it then. I was Not overweight. I wasn’t Twiggy proportions, but I wasn’t anywhere overweight for my size. Another part of the tendency is I get pioneering genes from all sides of the family. Being “plump” and able to restore that quickly after stints of limited resources, up until my parents generation, at least as teens and adults, was 100% a needed survival tactic. I’ve heard the stories. It gets frustrating that my system seems to fight every ounce that comes off, but let me take my eyes off the target a nano second it comes back on. I know that is “normal”, but …

      As far as exercising? I also know why it is hard for me to take the extra time that dedicated exercising takes. I have it in my head that exercising is something that happens while you work. Time at home is “relaxing” and not moving. Does it matter that this hasn’t been true for almost 40 years? No. It is ingrained. I’m good when I can get in the habit exercising. But when something breaks that habit, I have to start all over again ingraining the time.

  32. About the “coulda woulda shoulda” thing…

    One of my favorite quotes from Babylon 5 applies: “Narn, Human, Centauri, we all do what we do for the same reason: it seemed like a good idea at the time.”

  33. “Start today. Establish new habits.

    Go fix what’s broken from here on.”

    The perfect cure for Coulda-Woulda-Shoulda. Of course, not as easy as it sounds.

  34. I appreciate this post! I’m in between jobs right now, and I’ve always felt a little bit of “impedance mismatch” or “dissonance” with my current career, so naturally I want to take some time to ask myself “can I do something different?”

    While I kindof have a feeling I’ve been doing “everything” wrong at this point, don’t have a specific understanding of what is “right” or how I can get in the “right” direction — which is particularly annoying when I specifically want to go a different direction!

    Over the years, I sometimes think about past relationships that never came to be, or wonder if I did the right thing to decide to drop out of academia (although, as much as I would like to teach and research, looking at the current state of academia gives great credence to the answer of “Yes, I did the right thing!”), or if I could have worked harder, or cut my losses (and loyalty!) sooner and just started to look for work, or whatever — I find I have to remind myself over and over again that if I had taken a different path, I wouldn’t be where I am today — and that, as you pointed out, had I chosen a different path, I would have merely run into different obstacles.

    Heh, that’s actually something I realized, that caused me to continue on with my math major: I was taking differential equations, and struggling with enjoying the class (for reasons that became pretty clear in retrospect) — but I realized that if I switched to, say, history, it wouldn’t be long before I’d hit another obstacle, and wonder if I should switch majors again — so I decided I should stick with math.

    As for relationships? Besides the fact that my current crop of children wouldn’t have been born, I have some insight of how the relationship to one of the people I dated in college would have ended: several years ago, I attended her funeral, because she died of pancreatic cancer. Had we pursued a relationship together, could it have been better than my current marriage of almost 20 years? Perhaps — but it would almost certainly have had that bittersweet ending, as well!

    There is, indeed, no telling how life would be, had we chosen different paths! (And now I have to get back to struggling what to do with my current path trajectory!)

  35. I’ve done some really bad times living in “George Bailey sans Clarence” mode. This post is absolutely 100% right. I think I got free when I noticed that a couple of the great missed/blown opportunities imploded in an ugly way and I was not in the blast radius. A little ray of sunlight I’ve been following ever since. Recently came across this in the Psalms “His mercy is better than lives.” Lives, plural. His mercy is better than all the alternative biographies that could be lived (which is pretty astonishing, because “billionaire who served in the French Foreign Legion and invented fusion-in-a can” (imaginations, we all got ’em) has a certain shiny quality …. but His mercy is better, much much better.

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