Reliving The Last Year

1. Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy, Lindsay Duncan, & Tom Hollander, In A Cute, Cozy Film About Time Travel!

If I had the last 12 months to do over again, I think I would be able to be a lot happier than I was.

This is the year we moved.

We’d been planning to move for more than half a decade, and when it was finally facing us, I was in turmoil.

But we’re here now.

I know it’s okay.

There’s a movie called About Time.

It’s a story with time travel, but it’s not about a time travel plot.

It’s a slice of life movie.

It’s about finding yourself.

It’s Eat Pray Love or Under the Tuscan Sun, but instead of traveling around the world to find yourself, it’s a story about being able to undo and retry days in your life.

The protagonist uses this ability to get things just as he wants them, but then his time traveling mentor explains that the real secret with this power, is just to live each day twice.

Live the first time, harried and experiencing all of the drama that we get caught up in on a daily basis, and let the chips fall where they may.

Then go back in time, and live the same day.

But don’t change much.

You’ve lived this day. You’ve survived it.

You know you’re going to be okay.

So go through a second time, with the comfort you have watching a familiar old movie, or listening to a song you know and love:

Allow yourself to feel comfort this time around but let everything happen as it did.

Eventually, the protagonist doesn’t even need to live each day two times in order to have this attitude of security. I suspect this is a lived philosophy of the writer of the story.

I’m not going to get a chance to do the last year over.

But there’s value in imagining what my life could have been like without stressing about things that did not matter.

2. Magneto and the Barbell

However, in the movie About Time, the protagonist also learns about the limitations of his power. There are things that a little time travel will not fix.

There are unwanted things that he must accept.

I won’t go into the specifics, but I handled some stuff in my personal life very poorly this last year. 

But even if I had the chance to do it over again, the relationships would probably not be salvageable.

Some damage is too chronic, too severe.

Some situations cannot be saved by going back and “getting it right,” because they are systemic problems compounded by far too much habit and momentum, most of which is out of our hands. For situations such as those, there is no preventing them because they are not a single day of conflict, they are a fundamental mismatch that has only one hope, and that’s time going forward, not time spent reliving the mistakes of the past.

Going forward, years from now, we all might have enough tools to sort out the mismatches and be in one another’s lives again.

I hope that’s so.

But the only thing I could do if I went back in time a year, was know what I know now, that it’s already far past the point of saving things, and I think I’d just bow out sooner and more gracefully, instead of waiting until I had zero resources left and yelled.

They made prequels for the X-Men movies, if you never saw them.

In one of them Jennifer Lawrence plays the shapeshifting Mystique, who is blue and scaly in her natural form, but can use her power to make herself look human.

She’s lifting barbells.

Magneto shows up, and uses his metal control powers to lift and drop the barbell on her.

In a flash she reverts back to her blue natural form, she drops the disguise, because she has to react to this attack.

Magneto explains that if she’s always using part of her focus and energy to look like one of the humans, then she’ll always be a little bit more distracted and depleted than she needs to be.

I wanted those friendships to work, and I was willing to put whatever effort I could to keep them going.

But ultimately, when they fell apart anyway, the effort spent putting out fires returned to me to be used however I needed. There was left over energy for many other problems that had been screaming for attention but were on the back burner while I tried to navigate my relationships.

Moving was hard. It’d be easier to make the move if I had already been in acceptance about the situations in my personal life, and could have focused entirely on things that were under my control.

3. Remove Its Feet

The Desk Cycle was $220.

Breaking it would cost $220.

Getting a new one would cost $220.

It would have really helped to bring it with us. It’s a nice piece of equipment to get some light exercise when you’re stuck indoors in the middle of the night, which I am every night.

But the Desk Cycle’s foot pedals were not supposed to come off once they had been installed.

This was for safety reasons.

You don’t want those foot pedals to fly off of the machine while you’re using it.

I was very afraid to try harder to remove the pedals.

Hell, I can’t even say for sure that I tried. I know I thought about trying to get them off, but I knew what the instruction book had said, that once they’re in they’re permanent, so I might just have been cowed enough to not even attempt to remove them.

We drove out here without a moving van. It was a five day trip.

The car was packed.

There was not room for a piece of exercise equipment that poked out with foot pedals on either side. If we had gotten them off, that could have been another story. The Desk Cycle isn’t big, it’s just awkward and sticks out, with those foot pedals.

About a month ago my mom went back to Michigan, and among other things, wrenched the foot pedals off the Desk Cycle so it could be shipped out.

They can come off, you just have to give it some serious effort.

I’d make sure we did that before the move.

Would’ve saved us $80 in shipping, and it could have been here the whole time.

4. Perfect Information

That’s not the only piece of packing that could have been easier.

I waited too long to pack.

I waited too long to make decisions.

I’d lived in that house for so many years that it was hard to imagine living someplace else.

But I’m here now. I’m experienced. I know what we needed out here.

I’d make excellent packing decisions this time.

Wyatt Woodsmall cautions you that you always have to make decisions without all the information you’d want.

If you have all the information, you wouldn’t even be making a decision.

You’d know what will work best, and you pick the best option.

The guesswork would be gone from the packing process because I could speak with authority about what we’ll need in the new place, and what can stay.

I’d even know which things we take for granted in Michigan that California has let us down.

5. Hungry Howie’s

I would eat about seven more Hungry Howie’s pizzas a night for the three months we’d have before moving.

What is this stuff you think is pizza, California?

It’s prop food of no discernible taste, but made to merely look like a pizza.

6. My Oops Mouth


About a month before we moved, a semi-painful tooth of mine experienced a shift and became WRETCHEDLY in pain most of the time.

I could make it sort of numb and calm with mouthwash, so I became a mouthwash lush.

I hid from my family that I was in pain, because I did not want to get scheduled for any surgeries that would upset our departure schedule; we’d been trying to move for 6 years and something always got in the way.

I would not be the thing that kept us anchored to Michigan.

The tooth had a cavity. The doctor said, “Oh  my god, it is a cavern.”

But, if I’d caught it in July of last year, instead of waiting for the tooth to take a turn in September, or waiting further until November when we were squarely in California, maybe I could have gotten a filling and saved the tooth.

And saved thousands of dollars in dental bills.

And hell, even if we just had to do it there in Michigan, we could have paid Michigan prices.

7. Sleep Apnea

I actually haven’t done this one in the current-timeline, but that’s largely because I’ve had a cascade of dental work that filibustered the time and attention away from getting a sleep study done.

I was very unsure I would be able to sleep in a bed that was not my own, but five nights of sleeping on the road disabused me to that worry, and I am now sure I’ll be fine getting a sleep study done.

I am hopeful to get one done this year, but imagine what a full year of restful sleep might do for me!

8. Make Room

I think I would have moved all of my shit out of the dining room.

During the pandemic, my sister moved back in with us, and since she didn’t move out with us to California, I’m so glad we had that time together.

But there was not space for all of us.

When she sends photos of how clean and spare the house is now, I feel ashamed for the mess I made her live beside for the time we lived together.

This is one of those moments that easily corrects from hindsight.

I did not need all my food stuff in the pile I kept in the dining room. I had used the dining room as an adjunct pantry, but it wasn’t a pantry, and instead was a pile of boxes and cans on the floor that I would pick my meals from.

I’d just keep all that in my room.

By the time we were moving, my sister was very excited to have the house to herself, and I would have liked to leave well by clearing away my stuff sooner for that last little bit. I don’t know if the gesture would have done much good, but I would have liked to honor the cleanliness she would eventually get when we were gone.

9. Write.

I love my website.

That’s new.

I’ve had a website off and on since 2007.

I was excited to have it in 2007. I didn’t know it was going to fail and fail miserably.

I had no actual strategy for who the website could reach, or how the website would help once they got there.

Between then and now, my website was an embarrassment, and a chore.

It was something I would constantly tear down and try to start over again.

I hated it up to two weeks ago, so loving my website is very new.

And there is nothing material which changed between a year ago and today, the changes were all mindset and experience; if I were sent back a year ago today, I’d be able to get my site in shape in a few weeks, just like I’ve done this time.

The first major change happened when Naomi from IttyBiz had a freebie week, a free preview week. You’d get to see a single lesson from three different courses, and see if you wanted to buy any.

The free lesson that changed everything was about considering your website, as a garden.

There are zen garden sites, which have one singular feature, and no distractions. (This is what I had been trying to do for years, because I learned plenty of my business knowledge from guys with no creativity or emotion who could produce such singular-focus websites, and I thought they were a must.)

There are curated, museum tour type sites, where you move seamlessly from one experience to the next, but always in a certain and thought-out manner. (I had tried this years ago when I tried to duplicate one marketer who had 6 months of emails in an autoresponder set up for when you got onto his list. I loved how a person could come into your world and be shown such an intentional experience, and it would be paced out just so, to keep them interested, but never overwhelmed. I worried a lot about my audience members getting overwhelmed.)

Finally, was the English country garden, a sprawling estate which no visitor ever sees the entire grounds of. We have such a place back in Michigan, the Henry Ford Estate, though I do think I’ve seen most of it, for living by it decade after decade. It was a place you’d see a fraction of each time, and so in a way each visit was different.

To learn that it was alright to have a website so huge and sprawling with content, and that it was not just okay that a person would not see everything, it was a feature?? This was music to my ears.

I just needed to get the site filled up with content.

We’re half way through Scrivs’ 30 days of prompts for your content, and I’ve really enjoyed the way the prompts have made me produce content for my site that I don’t mind having around.

I still want to go back when it’s all done and edit things, and link some of the pages together better, but it’s broken the logjam for me:

I now believe I can write for my website!

If I were dragged into the past to live this year over again, I’d take that realization with me. I would be able to start this process a year ago, and I’d be further along in my business than I was.

The other aspect that has made these articles possible, is the thumbnails.

I took a course by Jumpcut several years ago, to learn everything they knew about how to increase the likelihood that your content go viral.

While none of the articles I’ve written are intended for that purpose (these are getting-to-know-you articles for people who know who I am but are deciding whether or not they want to stick around and hear more of what I have to say) I did learn a lot about making thumbnails for your videos, and I’ve put all of that knowledge to work in the thumbnails for these articles.

A year ago, I’m not sure which things were confounding me in Unity, the program I use to make video games (and these thumbnails) but I know I was stumped.

A year of knowledge in how to use the program that sets me free to make the cover art for each article, would also travel back with me in time, and I’d be able to make the thumbnails I needed, as well as I’d be able to apply all my game-making knowledge to any games I’d want to make in the re-lived year.

10. Come Home

I think I’d be antsy to get out to California. It’s nicer here for me. I love where we live.

I was so worried about where we’d live and would we hate it. The move wasn’t really my idea, but I have benefited from it plenty.

I think it’d be nice to leave Michigan, not with a hurried sense of dread, but with a calm smile of returning to where I feel like I belong.

11. Live Without Needing Time Travel

It’s pretty easy to take time out and imagine what we’d do differently if we got to correct our mistakes and live life again with experience.

This happens a lot in video games. “Ooh, this time through I’m gonna go get the bunny hood first thing so that I can be fast the entire game!”

The hard exercise is to imagine that this next year, has already happened, and I’ve already survived it, and that though I will not have the perfect information about what things to take action on fast, and which things not to sweat, we can take a break, in the form of expecting, from time to time, that we’ll be here a year from now, we’ll be fine, and that we need not frantically wear ourselves out trying to arrive at any specific goal so fervently.

I wish I had stressed less in the last year.

I wish I had all the knowledge that makes me confident in building my website and games.

I wish I had taken steps to make life easier for those I live with.

I bet a year from now, I could look back and see how I once again stressed more than I needed to, I let my fears run some part of my life that could have been avoided with knowledge, and that I made life worse than I needed to for the people around me.

So the best takeaway of reflecting exercises like this, for me, is to try and catch those panicked responses to my life, and just assume that a year from now, I’d be safe and solid, so maybe, on this subject, just for now, I can be safe and solid now, without the requirement of hindsight.

That’d be nice.

The above post was an entry for Paul Scrivens’ 30 Day Prompt Challenge.

Prompt: Somehow you found a weird time vortex that traps you in a single year of your life. What year (or age) do you get stuck in and why are you glad it’s that one?