The Paradoxes Of Time Travel
My freshman year dorm room was papered in inspirational quotes. I trawled databases of them, cut and pasted relevant ones into a Word doc, changed the font to something scripty, printed out pages and pages and then cut out each saying. I taped most of them to my closet doors. By October, at least a handful would regularly get unstuck and flutter to the floor and I’d have to smooth out the scraps of paper and reaffix them with another loop of tape. No matter how hard I try, I can only recall one of the quotes and none of the specific motivation that led me to decorating my room with them.
Recently, I did an interview for someone’s coaching program. This happens sometimes. What made this one stand out was that the interviewer read me a couple of snippets of old GenMeh blog posts. I found myself surprised to hear words I’d written five years ago, because I don’t remember writing them five years ago and I doubt I’d write them in quite the same way today. I’m sure in the moment they felt genuine and urgent and right, just like it felt genuine, urgent and right to fill my walls with famous quotes meant to enlighten my college years. I was struck by the surety of my point of view. Age and experience, it seems, have brought equivocation or at least a little temperance.
To think about my younger selves is to be filled with a swell of protectiveness and wonder at their vulnerability. Look at this blind newborn kitten, this foal trying to walk for the first time! In some cases, there is still a sense of shame, irrational though it may be. I feel embarrassed for these earnest iterations of myself, for her sense of style, for her black and white thinking, for naiveté that she wore like a cardboard “Kick me” sign. Whether she was 12 or 22, she knew exactly what she wanted because she had no idea how much choice there really is in the world. They’re all me, but also not. They’re stuck in their times and circumstances and I can’t rescue them from their bad hair and misdirected idealism and I can’t figure out how I shucked one self off to become the next. Somehow, the me who got hit by a car in seventh grade became the me who saw the inside of the Sistine Chapel who became the me who moved back in with her parents while unemployed who became the me who gets invited to a White House event. Maybe you need to be ignorant of the process for it to work.
And while I can only remember one quote from the walls of my old dorm room, it sprang to mind this week when I was trying to sound insightful about sentences I’d written half a decade ago:
“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.”
Seems as good an explanation as any as to the relationship of the mes of yesteryear to the one of today who wishes she could take them under her wing.