Since I’ve been pretty busy the past 7 days or so working, volunteering, running errands, getting dolled up, going out in public, and writing about it, I figured it’s high time I’d catch up on some of the Daily Post prompts. There was a prompt put out last week that I found pretty interesting. And though I didn’t reply to it right away, the week-plus since I first saw it allowed me to think of a reply. And rather than a straightforward post, I thought another edition of “Allison’s Word” would fit the bill. So, the word for this post is…
Yes, mulligan, which is a term normally found in the sport of golf, in which a player is permitted to replay a stroke (usually a bad stroke), even though it’s technically against the formal rules of the sport.
“Is this gonna be a post about golf?”
No, it wont, so let’s broaden the definition of mulligan in a non-sport way: “A second chance to perform an action, usually after the first chance went wrong through bad luck or a blunder.” Understand?
“I dunno. You lost me at ‘golf.'”
Ouch! Well, in that case, let’s use another three-syllable term:
“Ah, I see what you did there.”
Oh, changing my hair and my expression to demonstrate what a do-over is? Well, now you get the idea. I went one way, but read my audience’s reaction and chose to go with another approach on the fly. See? A do-over!
“You forgot the hyphen on your sign.”
Okay, let’s not nitpick here. Everyone has had moments large or small that they’d probably like to do over, from a less-than-perfect job interview to a bad date. Of course, it’s not possible to turn back the clock and do all of that over, but it’s…
That’s actually the term I was about to use: It’s human nature to imagine what you would want to do over from the moments that went bad for you or those times when you made a major mistake. Which leads me to the Daily Post prompt that’s the basis for this post:
If you had the chance to be reborn, would you choose to return as your present self, or would opt for a fresh start? Tell us about what motivates your choice.
“What? You mean wanting to hit the big reset button?!”
Yeah, that’s what D.P. is asking us about. Just as it is with imagining how different those bad moments would be if you got to relive them, it’s also human nature to imagine how different your life would be if you had the opportunity to hit that big red plunger attached to your lifeline marked “Danger! Reset button! Use with caution!”
The imagining of doing things over has been the propellant for more than one piece of entertainment over the years. I’ll bring up two such TV shows here, beginning with the most recent of the two, Being Erica, which aired at the turn of the decade.
“OMG! Best! Show! Ever!“
Yeah, I know! That show was awesome! And well done, too. [*ahem*] But let’s hold off from being all giddy and tell the uninitiated what Being Erica was about. The title heroine, Erica Strange, was leading an unfulfilled life with a dead-end job at the outset when a mysterious psychoanalyst introduces himself to her and gives her an invitation to improve her life. He does this by surveying a list of regrets Erica compiled, chooses one, lets Erica open up to him about it… and sends her back to that moment, where (when?) she gets to relive it over again, doing it a little differently so that she can better her lot in the present. The moments may have been as small as dancing with the wrong guy at junior prom or as big as not telling her late brother she loves him. Whatever the case, through reliving those moments — and maybe even permanently repairing them — Erica learned how to deal with the issues and difficulties that would affect her future (and when I say that, I don’t mean the “then to now” of her timeline but rather the “now to infinity”).
“Pretty heavy stuff. But so good!”
I wholeheartedly concur. And considering how good the show was and the loyal following it engendered, I imagine a lot of people could easily relate with Erica and her “go back then/return to now” experiences and wonder just how different things would be today if they remembered and perhaps be able to change one little thing.
But let’s go from small to large and talk about another time-travel fantasy, one that wasn’t as memorable as Being Erica but is just as germane to this topic. The show was called Do Over, a sitcom that ran for only a handful of episodes in the early 2000s. The central character was a 35-year-old guy, Joel Larsen, who was depressed not just over how his own life was a dead-end but how those of his family and close friend took unpleasing turns as well. But thanks to a shock to his system (in the literal, “someone should’ve unplugged that thing” sense), he wakes up as his 14-year-old self in the early 1980s.
“The era of big hair and loud clothes?”
Well, yes, but the retro stuff is just eye candy. The key thing is that hero Joel remembers how everything turned out, and with that he sets out to improve the outcomes of himself and his family. But unlike Erica, Joel didn’t go back and forth in time; and with Do Over being cancelled after not quite 3 months, the viewer never found out how things turned out.
So here we have two different concepts of life betterment through clock turning: In Being Erica, it’s moving a little block from one level to another and seeing how the Jenga tower still stands. In Do Over, it’s taking a scrambled Rubik’s Cube and making enough turns to assure all 6 sides are a solid color. Neither of their protagonists had to completely start their lives over from their toddler years, but they both had their own ways to change their course, or at least reflect on how their lives turned out.
So now the question falls on me: Would I want to hit that big red “do over” button on my life and start everything anew from August 3, 1969? Well, I suppose I’d first have to ask about the ground rules. I mean, would I be doing my life over completely? And would I remember anything from my previous life? And would it be my life I’m reliving or that of someone else?
“Like in Heaven Can Wait?”
Yeah, something like that. Well, let’s start with the latter question. When I was a kid, I sometimes imagined in my mind what it’d be like if I were a member of some other family.
“That’s a pretty dark statement you’re putting out there.”
I know, but I think it was influenced more by having a stepfather and stepsiblings. And I know how their lives before me and apart from me went: Poor choices, arguments, divorce, more than a few regrets. But if their own lives had a more pleasant outcome and if I had been with them from the start instead of first meeting them at age 9, I would think my life would’ve had been better as a result: More support, more positive vibes, more encouragement, definitely less anger, certainly less resentment. Had all of that taken place, I’d be more sure of myself, not to mention have better grades in school.
But would that positive life be mine, or would I be in someone else’s high heels? And speaking of heels, would I, in that totally new life, have discovered that stash of women’s clothing or something similar? The more I ponder that question now, the more I would prefer my re-lived life to be as me/Allison and not as Joe or Jane Smith; I wouldn’t want to suddenly be handcuffed to a new life like the protagonist of Heaven Can Wait.
And speaking of Heaven Can Wait, at the end of that film (and the variations before and after it), the lead character, once he became restricted to his new life and new identity, wound up (**spoiler alert**) forgetting everything about his previous life. Which leads me to the question of remembering what I did before if I lived that new life. Both Erica Strange and Joel Larsen had the benefits of vivid hindsight when they relived their lives (certainly more vivid than my memories). Having hindsight is a luxury I’d still want to have if I were to hit the “do over” button. Yes, things would change and certain things that applied in my old life wouldn’t quite fit into my new one. But still, if I were to remember, say, a certain test question in a high school class, remembering and understanding its importance would mean so much to acing that test in my new life. Or, if I could still remember a certain habit or even the smile of a classmate, maybe I could use that knowledge to strike up a conversation with them, or at least have it lead to helping them study for that test.
“And who knows what that would lead to?”
Exactly. But now to that first question, whether I’d be starting all over or, like Joel in Do Over, moving forward from a certain point. Well, that depends. Starting the whole thing over from 1969 onward would be too easy for me to say. But then, I wonder exactly when I’d like to turn that clock back to. Would it be from the point when I just turned 5 years old and got Mom mad at me for scribbling my crayons on her refrigerator door? Would it be the time I threw a fit in 2nd grade over some “popularity contest” our teacher put on? The day I falsified my mom’s signature on an acknowledgement about deficient school grades? The day I made that wrong choice about post-high school education? Or would I hit the “do over” button from the day Mom caught me with my sister’s bathing suit in my dresser?
“Geez, you have more regrets than Erica Strange.”
Yeah, I admit I may be the case. It’d be so hard to choose an exact date or moment to start doing things over. Choosing that correct date could make all the difference in my new life, which certainly makes it the hardest of those three questions. Wanting to do things over is easy; choosing when to start doing them over is hard.
But there’s a 4th question I haven’t pondered yet: Would I want to hit that “do over” button in the first place? Well, since I have so many things I want to relive and repair, I’d be tempted to actually hit that big red reset button. But then, looking at all that’s happened in my life, or at least the moments I can vividly remember, I’d like to inspect that button to see if it would mean changing things for good or just leading me to a vivid window of my memory to reinforce the lessons I’ve learned. Sure, Erica Strange got to permanently repair one or two regrettable things in her life, but most of her time traveling seemed more of the “let’s do something different here but not let it be permanent so that I can apply it to my current situation” approach.
“Most people call that ‘alternate reality.'”
Well put, thank you. As well, Erica had the instant gratification of turning right around and instantly applying that lesson, or even coming back to the present and seeing if anything changed drastically. That instant gratification makes me somewhat hesitant about completely hitting that reset button. Maybe those bad moments were destined to have happened for a reason. Maybe those regrets are just the scars on my life that urge me to change my life for the better now. Maybe it’s better to remember what I’ve learned lest I be doomed to repeat those mistakes if I don’t.
“That’s probably the real lesson Erica Strange learned.”
You know, maybe it was. Whatever it may be, it’s all part of a big open-ended hypothetical question, one with so many answers but not one certain outcome. If I were to be asked this same question next week, next month, or even next year — “would I want to be reborn and do things differently?” — I’d probably have a different response to it than what I have right now: “Maybe.”
Sure, if I were to it “reset,” I may have a better job or a better bank account or even a better romantic life… but would that be the purpose of doing so? And if I did hit that big red plunger, would that real reason dawn upon me? It’s all part of the conundrum of the ultimate question that never has a set answer: The question about whether you would like to…
You mean changing the word all over again? Yeah, I bet you saw that coming, didn’t you?