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If you could go back

My husband Erik?s most recent blog is about his fantasy of being able to go back in his childhood, but with his current brain.

‘This goes beyond wishing you had known something that would have helped you: it’s a dream of reliving your life with full knowledge of what’s coming and with a lot of experience to help reshape that life.’

In Erik?s mind, there?d be lots of advantages – an IQ that would establish him as an 8 year old prodigy. The ability to exact intellectual revenge on his school bullies. He’s considered the drawbacks too, especially his social life, where he?d be caught in a no-mans land: too smart for the other 8 year olds but too creepy for his adult intellectual peers.

He’s clearly spent a while contemplating this and he concludes:

I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s thought about these things. I?m not am I?

Maybe you are Erik, or maybe I’m the only one that hasn’t. The very idea of going back and living it all again is terribly draining. That’s why time machines were invented, so you can zip back and forth as you please. But even more than being tiresome, I don’t think my 40 year old brain is that much better equipped to being a child. If I knew then what I know now, I might be a bit disheartened.

For a start, I don’t think I’d be regarded as some kind of child whizzkid. I’m still rubbish at exams, in fact I go out of my to avoid them, unless absolutely necessary as in an eye examination. Even then I panic when the optician asks me to read the last line of the chart that’s clear to me or I have to decide whether my vision is better or worse with lens 1 or 2. I focus more on the nuances of the optician’s voice than I do on my vision, hoping he’ll give me some clue to the right answer but he appears to have taken lessons in neutrality from the Swiss.

I’d still fail to comprehend maths. I could recite my 12 times table by the time I was 9 but when I was 12 I still couldn’t add fractions and I doubt I can now. I refuse to go near a sewing machine so the apron that was supposed to be finished in May for Mother’s Day would still have taken 40-year old Margaret till September. And as for being better at art, my efforts in the class I took 2 years ago, ‘Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain’ made the left side of my brain laugh so hard that I had to stop after three sessions.

Socially, I think there might even be some deterioration, given that I seem to be more inept now than ever. The 8 year old Margaret was actually quite confident – a bit of a tomboy who would hang out with boys and be all rough and tumbley without fear of one of them trying to touch my boobs. As a 12 year old I was less rough and tumbley but there was still no fear of a boy trying to touch my boobs. Today I?d still sooner hide out in my room than be out talking to people and trying to impress them with my wit and general cleverness while the voice in my head tells me I?m a loser.

But I know I’m better at sarcasm than I was and I’d use that to humiliate the whores in my class that made fun of me. And to defend myself against my brother’s put-downs. I’m certainly better at sports. I doubt my 12 year old self could have run 4 marathons and I would go back and beat Alison Rushen in the 300 metres dash. I’d take my Asics running shoes with me so that she’d feel really thrashed and not just pipped to the post., maybe Erik’s onto something here.

So would it really make a difference to go back to that age. Would I have become a journalist rather than opting for the better paid but morally inferior public relations industry. Would I have forced my mum to enroll me in the Sylvia Young stage school and got a role on Grange Hill, later leading to a recurring character on Eastenders. Would I have gone to live on a kibbutz for a year instead of working behind the bar at Pontins Holiday Camp, Weston-Super-Mare.

And will I be doing this again at 60, reflecting on my 40 year old self and wishing that computers hadn’t become obselete so that I could add an addendum to this piece.