“We can never know what to want, because, living only one life, we can neither compare it with our previous lives nor perfect it in our lives to come.” ~ Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Whenever we hit a bit of a rough patch in life, one of the first thoughts would usually be — if only I had done things differently! And most of the time, there seems to be an endless array of things we could have changed, decisions which could have been made differently. When I was younger, it felt especially poignant that many of the most profound lessons in life can only be experienced, but once experienced there is little we can do to change the past. In this sense, life can never be perfected.
And there were, still are, things I sometimes look to, and wondered about how things could have turned out differently. What if I didn’t leave Singapore when I was seventeen? What if I choose a different major? What if I dated different people? What if I choose differently?
But as the years went by, I also came to realise that those were pointless questions. I started the post with a quote from Milan Kundera, but another simple fable also stuck with me.
There was once a man who was very hungry. He went to a baker and bought some buns to eat. When he finished his first bun, he was still hungry, so he bought another. After the second bun, he was still hungry, so he bought another. So he kept buying and eating buns until the sixth bun. Then finally, after eating half of the sixth bun, he was full! He then turned to the baker and said, What a fool I was! If I had known I would be full on this bun I wouldn’t have bought and ate the other five!
Many of us would immediately appreciate the moral of the story — it was not the sixth bun which made the man full, but all that he ate before. And in that way, it is not just any one experience, or triumph, or success, which makes us who we are, but everything that happened in our lives — good or bad, large or small.
And even thought I may still entertain thoughts of how life might be different, I don’t think I actually want to change anything. So if I were a time-traveller, I won’t go back in time to change things just because I want a happier life today.
Instead, I would be very happy, just to relive my life again, all of it. I think life always passes in a bit of a blur — we are so often busy or looking forward to something, or hoping a dreaded deadline will pass. And there are so many beautiful things about life that we may not stop to appreciate enough.
If I could travel back in time — I would appreciate how thin I was, how beautiful youth really was. I would never be thinner, or more beautiful, or younger than I was.
If I could travel back in time — I would slow down and savour each moment, remember that life doesn’t start after the PSLE, or the ‘O’ levels, or any examination. Life is not made up of birthdays and celebrations but all of it.
If I could travel back in time — I would open my heart, even to the darkest moments, even they would never come by again.
But also — I don’t need to travel back in time to do all these. I am still the youngest I will ever be. Life is still happening right now. And this is always a moment to cherish.
So nope, I don’t need to be a time-traveller afterall!
Next on the blog is Danessa Foo from PrayerFull Mum. Danessa was a corporate finance lawyer turned school teacher. She traded in her career to embrace the role to be a Stay-at-Home Mum. If Danessa is a time traveller, what different choices would she make? Join her as she travel back time to find out.