In the middle of an otherwise bland workday recently, I texted my BFF:
If you could take a mulligan on any year of your life, any age, what would it be?
I knew the answer for mine before I even asked. She picked a year in her 30s. My mulligan year is 27.
Today I turn 47, which for a few moments had me thinking about my other 7-years and looking for a pattern: age 7 was probably good and 17 was pretty okay for a teenage year. In adult years, 37 was a rebuilding year. It definitely had some shit. But 27, that was a year.
I made some colossally awful decisions when I was 27 – decisions that set the course for the rest of my life, including that rebuilding year ten years later. Even though I’ve arrived at 47 just fine, if I could I would certainly call a total do-over on 27. I’d run around like a little kid on a mini-golf course whose ball just bounced off the giant windmill and careened down an astroturf hill into a puddle. I’d wave my club, yelling, “Do-over! Do-over!” Because if you call it enough, it’s true. You get a do-over!
It occurred to me tonight, as I gaze out at the fresh, green landscape of 47, that I can have a do-over. I can call it. If linear time is an illusion (and it is), and we arrive in each moment as every iteration of ourselves we’ve ever been, then right now I am simultaneously 47 and every other age I’ve been, with the seeds of every possible age I will be. So, I can be present with 47 and 27.
I can redo it. I can pick up my ball from the puddle at the bottom of the dingy little hill and start over. My first idea was to go back to old journals and old work files to piece together an outline of my year of being 27, and spend this year loosely following the trajectory of decisions I made that year, but doing them better and wiser. Then I realized that would be both nearly impossible and also terrible.* So instead, I came up with this question to answer: if I took the mulligan for 27, what principles would inform my next swing?
It’s not so much, “if I knew then what I know now…” because if everything exists at once, changing something now changes both the future and the past. If I’m living in two years simultaneously, then both the damage of my first try at 27 and the accumulated wisdom that could mitigate it have always coexisted.
So, which principles would be my focus if I wanted to have a better experience of 27 from any point in time? Is there a way I could focus my attention right now that would fundamentally change the meaning of a specific point in time?
I looked back at the decisions I made at 27 and how I made them, and came up with a list of guiding principles that emerged as a result over the next 20 years. Then I narrowed it down to the principles where there are still, shall we say, some holes in how I do things now. I think these holes are the wormholes, the portals to 27. So, this is where I plan to focus my “do-over” year.
47: Guiding Principles, Wormholes, Whatever.
- Trust the feeling of freedom. TRUST THE FEELING OF FREEDOM.
- Respect your body. Some things don’t work for you; you are the authority on that.
- If you feel like you’re going down a hole, you are.
- Stay conscious of privilege and position. Use it as leverage for good, to the best of your understanding.
- Let yourself have what you say you want. When you want something, start looking for it in what you already have first. Is it missing from your life, or are you missing it?
- Do your own work. Tune into ways you may be driving other people to make your decisions for you.
- Know when to call SOS (Same Old Shit):
- What can seem like an exciting risk or “getting out of your comfort zone” as a fast track to spiritual growth often is your same old shit in a fancy new package.
- Grace (for yourself, especially) vs. excuses, AKA the aforementioned same old shit.
- This big lie: I am too sensitive and feel too deeply, and therefore something is wrong with me. Because other people are better at feelings and I am in the reject pile anyway, what I do doesn’t really matter. (Good luck with this one, me.)
Misc. Bonus Thought
Seeing the full humanity of someone means seeing the good, the bad, and everything else, and understanding that it has nothing to to do with you.
*Later ideas included actually going back in time and finding a better therapist, in which case this post would probably be unnecessary, so if you happen to be reading this and the post is gradually fading from view a la Back to the Future, GUESS WHERE I AM?! Also, Flux Capacitor, Flax Capacitor, hahaha.