Regret and guilt are my roommates. We live in a railroad style apartment, which means you have to go through their rooms to get to mine. We thought it was worth it when we saw the price, but once we moved in, we realized what an inconvenience it was. And forget about bringing someone home for the night. Nothing turns a potential partner off quicker than regret pounding on the door at 2 am because he has to “make like a cloud and bring the rain.”
I regret things that I did when I was young as much as events from my adult life. I regret small conversational foibles as much as huge life-altering mistakes. Every time I think of these things, I cringe. It’s times like these I wish I had a time machine to slightly alter my course of action. If I had access to one, I know exactly what regrets I’d target, and exactly how I’d fix them.
1. I regret being five years old, with a wooden rod in my hands. I was sitting in a chair trying to snap the rod in half. For leverage, I put my head between my legs and bent the wood over my knee. When it finally snapped, it send a shard right into my eye. I had to wear an eyepatch for two weeks.
Easy Fix: Go back in time to late 1982 and stop my parents from conceiving me. Possibly call in a bomb threat on my own house or rig their box spring to break, landing at least one of them in the hospital with a debilitating bad back that would take months of physical therapy to fix.
2. I regret stealing five dollar bills out of my brother’s piggy bank when I was ten. I told myself that he was five and didn’t need the money, while I happily spent the money on Ninja Turtle action figures.
Easy Fix: Go back in time to when Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird were young children and discourage them from ever having creative thoughts, possibly through a Clockwork Orange-style slideshow with their eyes pried open. This would for sure prevent them from ever creating the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
3. I regret calling a girl in the 4th grade, after it had become glaringly clear that I had a crush on her, and telling her that I did not, in fact, have a crush on her. I specifically regret having my mom help me make the call.
Easy Fix: Go back in time and murder Alexander Graham Bell right before he invents the telephone.
4. I regret saying “Nivea” instead of “Aquafina” in a college improv show. I was trying to reference bottled water, and instead said the name of a lotion, and so the reference made no sense and the joke failed.
Easy Fix: Go back to 5 seconds before I said that, and place a bee into my mouth so I would be unable to speak, thereby erasing my mistake from history and instead making me the recipient of sympathy and aid from my friends and peers.
5. I deeply regret breaking up with my first-ever girlfriend, one short day after agreeing to be her boyfriend in 6th grade. I succumbed to the peer pressure of my 11-year-old friends, who had convinced me that she was a snob. I think we had a real shot at happiness and I blew it.
Easy Fix: Go back to that moment I passed her friend Stephanie a note saying that I wanted to break up with her and tear up that note. Stuff it in my pocket. Say “never mind” when she asks me what I wanted to talk to her about. Vow to make it work with “TK,” as her friends called her. Become a great listener. Pledge my devotion. Be there for her. Grow a deep and lasting bond all throughout middle school. Make that rocky transition to high school and stay together the whole time. When college comes around, don’t apply to schools. Instead, support her as she matriculates to the University of Michigan. Get a job at a local calzone shop near campus. I’d start small, sweeping the floors, then move up to busboy. After I’ve proved my worth, I’d graduate to cashier. Next thing you know, the owner, Brian McCarthy, offers to make me a manager at the crosstown location he’s thinking of opening. I say sure, it’d be a significant pay bump, and I need all the money I can get if I’m going to buy a house and settle down in the beautiful suburbs of Michigan. It’s slow going at first. We’re not close to a major metropolitan area or a college, and the locals aren’t exactly clamoring for calzones. I suggest we start selling garlic bread, and get shot down. I pitch an Addams Family pinball machine, and McCarthy fires me on the spot. The 401k I tried to set up turns out to be completely fabricated. The accountant I used has taken all my money. My one true love begins sleeping with her ethics professor, and I regret not making a joke about how ironic that is. In an alcoholic stupor, I run onto the field during a UMichigan football game and have my neck snapped by a gigantic running back. I immediately die.
That’s what I would do differently if I had a time machine.