In response to the question, “If you could go back in time and have a heart-to-heart conversation with your sweet younger self, what would you say to her?” Karen Maezen Miller said, “There’s nothing I could tell her that she hasn’t always known. It’s just that sometimes I forget. We all forget what we have always known and who we have always been. That’s when we become confused. I wouldn’t want to disturb her in the least! She’s doing the best she can, and always will.”
I like that. I don’t spend a lot of time with regrets, but those few times I do, something like this helps remind me to stop it. If I get still enough, sometimes it seems like I can remember who I really am.
You can read the whole interview at Painted Path.
As I was reading that over, I detected a potential contradiction I want to address briefly. I said I like this because it reminds me when I forget. Karen seems to be saying that she wouldn’t remind her earlier self–if you happen to have forgotten for the moment, then so be it, you’re doing the best you can.
Contradictions occur just in the way you look at it, of course. For one thing, the original question is entirely hypothetical. You can’t go back and have a conversation like that. You can just do your best in this moment. My “earlier self,” (as if there is such a thing) did the best he could then, and I’m doing the best I can now. If the best I can do at the moment happens to involve forgetting, well, it’s the best I can do. Anything else is just mental gymnastics.
But I still do mental gymnastics. So in that spirit: The only reason I know what I know now is that I experienced what I experienced then. Even if I could go back and tell myself something (hypothetical again), I would only have information, not knowing. I guess I could possibly warn myself away from experiencing something, in which case I wouldn’t come to actually know it, in which case I wouldn’t be able to warn my earlier self away from it, so I’d be back to square one. That’s what makes writing science fiction a challenge.
Better to just focus on what’s happening right now. Excuse me, I have some dishes to wash.