If you had it to do all over again... could you even manage to?

Illustration for article titled If you had it to do all over again... could you even manage to?

It's become a cliché to say, "If I could do it all over again, I wouldn't change a thing." Or, "I'd do the same thing again." But could you actually do that in real life? If you rewound your life to your 16th birthday, would it even be possible to duplicate your past actions?

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Assuming that you're older than 16 now, then imagine the following scenario: Someone rewinds your life to your 16th birthday, but you get to keep all your memories of your life since then. And you decide that you liked your life so much the first time around, you don't want to change anything. How do you go about doing that?

Would you be able to go through with asking out people who you know are going to shoot you down? Would you still start dating someone, knowing it will only last a few months and be the worst relationship of your life? Could you still struggle to get that first terrible job, that ends up being a total dead-end nightmare? Would you still be willing to move across the country for an opportunity that didn't pan out?

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Or do you think you could cherry-pick just the important bits? Skip over the false starts and mistakes and still somehow make the important, defining stuff happen?

What do you think — if you decided you were going to live your life over again, would you be able to pull it off?

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DISCUSSION

"And you decide that you liked your life so much the first time around, you don't want to change anything."

This is the part I can't relate to at all.

There is so much I'd do differently, but I think the complication is that some of those 'dead ends' — in terms of both career detours and relationships — directly and indirectly lead to opportunities.

I always imagine the "many worlds" idea of multiple parallel universes accommodating all these branching decisions. Like a Choose Your Own Adventure book that isn't filled with so many "You Have Died" endings; one with almost infinite pages chronicling how every decision you make changes the narrative in completely unique ways.

I would do almost everything differently. Like using another life in a videogame and trying to avoid the same pitfalls that harmed you during your previous run. Thing is, I feel like even if I tried to make the same decisions, the way I handled things would be very different. Simply with the knowledge of having gone through it already. It would be nearly impossible to treat every moment with fresh eyes.