Yeah, sometime in elementary school for me, too. I could start taking ballet at the proper age, instead of too old like I did. I could compete in the National Spelling Bee, and I might would take a stab at being Miss America.
There was a major decision facing me my senior year of high school (not about college, but about my personal life) that I'd do over in a heartbeat. I sort of chickened out and let the decision get made for me, in a way, instead of actively choosing the option that, in my heart of hearts, I really wanted to do. But I was young, hindsight is 20/20, etc., so... *shrug* That's how the cookie crumbled, I guess.
Still, life would have been different. It's a little bittersweet to know that now.
(Less dramatically, I would like to have studied German and/or Comparative Lit in college, and maybe minored in biology or anthropology.)
Well, TPS, being who you are, you could try flying in circles around the world real fast and see if that works. Even if you can't reverse time, I would imagine it would work off those scalloped potatoes.
My indecision on this answer makes me despise myself a little. Would I just go back far enough save two lives, or would I go back and preempt the loveless charade that ended so sadly? I wish I could say the former without reservations, but if I'm changing things, maybe I would just erase the whole painful episode. What an asshole.
Maybe I'd just go all the way back to birth, start over, fuck it all.
It's weird. A lot of bad things have happened to me in my life, and I've made a lot of poor decisions, but ... I'm not sure what I would take back.
Let's imagine for a moment that I could rewind to when I was, say, two years old. Had I been able to articulate that my mother should leave my father and stay in Korea with her family, I would be a completely different person.
Or, let's say I had voiced that same sentiment when I was a bit older, in fourth grade. Again, I'd be a different person.
And the thing is, as much as I'm crazy/sad/poor, I don't think I'd take anything back even if I could. I'd rather have the experiences, terrible though some of them may be.
As I inferred in TPS's lottery winnings thread, 1985. I would have never stopped my dad's truck to kiss that girl. That set so many future mistakes in motion.
But would I have made those mistakes anyway? Or worse? Would I have ended up where I am now, seriously happy with a woman I love but still dealing with the mistakes that (in my mind anyway) began that fateful day as we left the Great America employee parking lot?
On second thought, fuck it. I'd go back to when I was 19 and those two girls asked me to sleep with them both at once, which I declined because it would have resulted in my best friend at the time having to walk three miles home. Looking back on it, he would have understood, so I'd kick his ass out of the car and have my threesome.
Third-ish year of college. Not that I'm too unhappy with how things turned out, but I have a few tweaks I wouldn't mind being able to try out (as in, what if I had gotten in to the good school I was to chickened to even apply to...)
Every time I consider something stupid I've done, I realize that it somehow precipitated a chain of events that led to something nice. So although there are plenty of things I know I'd do differently now, I'm not at all convinced that the result would be any better than this.
There are at least a hundred different places in my life where I could have screwed things up less than I did but I would probably just have screwed them up in different and maybe worse ways. I managed to live through the last 43 years with all my limbs and most of my brain cells intact and as far as I know, no one hates me (not even my ex-wife). I'm really happy with where I am today and if I'd taken some easier roads to get here, I doubt that I'd appreciate that fact as much as I do.
I have a stock answer for this question (Spain, 1981, stay there, fool!) but I decided not long ago that actually, I wasn't going to do this anymore. No more regrets - fuck it. There's no rewind button and there's nothing more pointless than wishing you could go back in time and make things right because, alas, fuck, damn hell, you can't. And anyway it probably wouldn't work as demonstrated so memorably by Michael J. Fox back in those same late lamented 80s when I shoulda had more fun and made more money and yet, somehow, didn't. The only thing more pointless than regrets, I have decided, is worry. Sitting around worrying about what might happen if, augh, argh, ohs noes!! is the other most total waste of time there is, for, just as there is no rewind, also there is no fast forward, grasshopper.
So no regrets, coyotes. We is what we is, and we wouldn't be it without all of it and there is, really, you know, just the moment, just this immediate thing right here is all we got - it's all the same fucking day, man, so, rather than think back and regret this in 20 years, do something. Else. Something else-ish or other that you won't regret, or, sometimes even better, that you will regret tomorrow morning but not at all in 20 years. This moment is all there is.
1. About 7 or so years ago when I began to be a tad too hard on my husband. Mostly inwardly, and I made myself miserable. What a joy it would have been to accept him wholeheartedly instead of worrying and obsessing over stupid things that only made me look stupid in the end.
2. I would have taken my youngest to the eye doctor a year earlier. He is farsighted and wears glasses, as does my older son. I can't help to feel guilty and irresponsible that he was walking around "blind" for a year.
I just would have stood up for myself more, growing up. I don't think it would have changed a whole hell of a lot about my life (which I like, now) but it would have made me feel a damn sight better about myself.
There were about 15 girls/woman over the years who were interested in me and I probably should have asked out but was too stupid or tongue-tied or socially inept to cope. But if I rewound time to my young adulthood I'd be that stammering kid again who couldn't get a clue unless a woman said something as obvious as "are you going to take me upstairs now or what?" or "when are you going to ask me out?"
I think the worst decision I ever made was moving across the country (for the second time) with my ex. I was half-hearted about it at the time. We were already having problems. I didn't like her choice of grad schools, wasn't interested in California, was feeling worse and worse about our relationship -- but I made the move anyway. (Partly because I was ready to leave Austin, and partly because I didn't want to be the bad guy.)
It lead to a few years of misery -- avoidable misery, which is the worst kind.
But if I hadn't made that terrible decision, I likely never would have ended up in California, which I now love dearly.
I've done a lot of stupid things, and I've not-done a lot of smart things. I 'own' all that. Can't change it. And that's okay.
So tempting. There are a few major turning points, but they weren't obvious to me at the time. I wish I'd never laid eyes on my ex-, wish I'd been braver a few times, kinder a few times, wish I'd trusted myself more, wish I'd have bought that google stock.
Yeah, let me add to what I said above: I's I were able to rewind my life I'd do it more for the things I didn't do, than for thing I think now I maybe shouldn't have done. But I think I've learned from -- as they say in Oregon: Just do it.
There are a lot of situations in which, in retrospect, I could have gotten laid/been in a 3some, etc etc but if I had done those, I might not be here, married to whom I am married to, having the wonderful kid that I have, and, only slightly less importantly, posting to y'all.
1985: being more proactive about college applications instead of just responding to the brochures which were sent to me.
Fall 1990: Listening to the voice in my head that said "run" when I met the Bosie who used me.
Fall '91--sending in both fiction and poetry portfolios.
August '92: introducing myself to the co-subject of the jealousy poem the first day of workshop.
Summer '94: moving back to Boston instead of Denver
Fall 2003: throwing the harridan designer out of my place after hearing her simper that I ought not to have it.
February '04: giving someone my number instead of telling him his sister had it.
FWIW, someone in the Philosophy of sexuality class I took at Bridgeport said he had had a threesome and found it difficult to concentrate equally on the other two.
OK, OK, I'll give a non-copout answer (I mostly agree w/ MGL).
I'd go back to grade school and really learn how to ride a bike. I never did, and I think I'm a lesser person for it. If I could ride a bike, I wouldn't have dropped that class junior year that I needed to take, but that was too far from my other classes to walk to on time. If I took that class, I wouldn't have had to take 18 credits my second semester senior year, and I wouldn't have been such a bitch to my friends, and maybe I would have done better on my thesis work.
Also, i could bike to work now, which would be so much better than driving.
Assuming that I could rewind my life, but still keep the knowledge, I would go back to when I was 17 and screwed things up with my first love. If I was to just go back without the knowledge, there would be no point, because I would make the same stupid mistakes over again.
Also, if I could somehow fit in that threesome opportunity that I turned down out of (misplaced, as it turned out) fidelity, that would be cool too.
I was thinking about all of these personal events for this, but really I'd go all the way back to picking veggie-German, and do the real German stream. Cos then I'd speak better German, and also be able to avoid all those crappy girlfriends that came later.