Showman extraordinaire, Rod Stewart, tried to fool us all. He wanted us think that he was only concerned with those who wanted his sexy body, confessing to beautiful ladies how much he adored them, and being a pioneer by hanging out with the immortal MILF Maggie May. He could have tricked us to if not for Oh la la, The Faces song he covered and immortalized in the late nineties. It’s a track that brushes at the age old idea about what we would do if we could do it all over again, and more specifically if we could start over with the knowledge and experience we have today.
“Well I wish that I knew what I know now, when I was younger.
Oh I wish that I knew what I know, when I was stronger.”
It’s impossible not to bob along to this toe tapper and innocently imagine what it would be like to start our journeys all over again. What mistakes we would’ve sidestepped, which bullies we would have stood up to, which lovers should have been friends and which friends we wished we’d made lovers. And with all that knowledge pending, we fantasize about how differently our lives would have ended while we bumble along with the lyrics in our cars, on the way home from work, moving towards whatever moment in life just happens to come next. It’s natural to think this way. To ask the question “What if? What if I had done it differently?”
We all undoubtedly aspired to do better in certain areas of our lives and generally believe that just a decision here or there could have changed it all; with just a few more strands of knowledge obtained a few decades earlier we would be much closer to the ideal we once saw ourselves becoming, whether it be in regards to wealth, intellect, or passion.
But here’s the thing about that ideal we look at, sometimes longingly, knowing that the chance to capture it has come and gone: that’s not life and it‘s not true to who we are.
We knew a hell of a lot more at the ages of 6, 16 and 26 then we give ourselves credit for. I knew when I had a paper route in middle school that if I saved every penny and put it in a savings account with an extremely modest interest rate that today I would have eleven thousand dollars. It was simple math. I never let that money sit in a savings account to let it collect interest though, because I wanted sports cards, and junk food, and CDs. To believe the money earned lugging ink smeared bales around in the dark cold mornings before school should have been invested with long-term goals in mind is absurd. I can pretend that I would have rather stashed my checks because today I would have money for student loans, or a car, or an engagement ring, but by pretending that the things I want today are more important than the things I wanted then is marginalizing that entire period of my life – a period that has as much to do with who I am today as any college course, piece of ass, or materialistic possession that I have and will come across at any point in my life.
We also like to talk about how we would’ve done things differently because we’d be equipped with the knowledge that hard work pays off. Don‘t we know this now? Can‘t we capitalize on the fact that we could work hard and achieve things today? Going back to third grade to solve all the problems I have now is missing the whole point of why I have those problems. I’m not lazy and unsuccessful in multiple endeavours today because I didn’t work harder in high school chemistry or try-out for the basketball team. I’m lazy and unsuccessful because I don’t want to get off my ass right now. And chances are, if I was in third grade again, I would immediately have the mentality that I could coast until high school, flip the switch and end up as a successful commodities broker, despite the fact that I still don’t give a damn about what a commodities broker does. To believe that I would ace a test that I could have aced the first time only because now I think I know that it’s important is just passing the buck on the fact that I was too short sighted and disinterested to give a damn then. If I wasn’t supposed to be a world class scientist or scholar or long-jumper the first time around, well then I’m probably not supposed to be one now.
The final and most mysterious frontier to consider in the Oh-la-la revisionist theory of life is love and relationships. The premise here is that if we could do it over again then you wouldn’t suffer so many heartaches, sleepless nights, and false premonitions about who we should or should not spend our energy and emotions on and ultimately life with. Here’s the funny thing about love when compared with the other topics such as success and experience. With those things there are very distinct rules and guidelines that you can follow and consequently get the most out of what you put in. For success you work hard and try to put yourself in the best possible position. To have a fulfilling life with plenty of experience you have to make sure you’re not afraid to put yourself out there and be willing to look like a fool in the process. But with love, you can follow every rule ever conceived, written, cried over, and screamed aloud and still come up short. That’s why going back makes no sense. The best part about love – and life – is that you don’t know what’s coming. You find it when you least expect it and once you do truly find it all the heartache and loneliness you felt prior to that makes it feel even better – even if that love can prove to be anything but forever.
Truthfully, sometimes I wish I could go the other way. I wish I knew less. I wish I could watch The Shawshank Redemption and revel in Andy Dufrense’s freedom again for the very first time. I wish I could watch Michael Jordan in his prime without knowing what his immortal and final legacy would look like. I wish I could smoke that first joint with my friends and ceaselessly laugh because there was no possible way we could stop laughing. I wish I could stand eight feet away from a girl I was sure I was head over heels in love with and want nothing more than to talk to her but couldn’t because I was crippled by fear, anxiety, adoration and her pure youthful beauty.
And that’s why I don’t want to go back. I want to go forward, not knowing what comes next, not knowing a thing about the moment on the way.
Just think, if Rod had gone back, he probably never would have messed around with Maggie May. Good enough reason to stay in the oblivious present if you ask me.
Kris Kantrud is a freelance writer. If you have any questions, comments or complaints please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.