What if this happened:
Many years ago someone you didn’t know gave you a set of incomprehensible drawings—gibberish, really—to build a time machine. What a joke!
But just last year, upon earning your dual doctoral degrees in quantum physics and metaphysics, you happened across a yellowing portfolio containing those long-forgotten construction plans. To your astonishment, you realize that you are now able decipher them with clarity and understanding. So you assemble a working time travel device, and you realize that you are that stranger from long ago, who had traveled back to give the plans to your younger self.
I can’t tell you why, but I often wonder how some scenario from my past might have been vastly improved if I then had possessed all the knowledge, skill, wisdom, and experience I’ve now accumulated. Wouldn’t that have been fantastic! What mistakes and missteps I could have avoided! What brilliance I would have shown! What a difference it would have made in my current circumstances! Surely by now I’d not only be world-famous, but filthy rich as well!
The trouble with such what-ifs (besides upsetting the entire space-time continuum!) is the immutable law that I can’t know what I haven’t learned, and I can’t skip the experiences in which I’ve obtained it.
(sigh.) I guess there are no shortcuts, even in the time-travel business.
Which brings me back to my present reality (along with all my past mistakes and lack of brilliancy). And I realize that since the past is unalterable, I may contend only with my present in order to shape my future.
And when I envision my future, I’m drawn to all the pretty potentialities that sparkle before me like shimmering galaxies viewed through the Hubble Telescope: wonders indeed are out there! Yes! That’s where I want to go! But do I know how to get there? Certainly not—not yet anyhow!
So forward from here I plod. And plan. And learn. And grow. And develop. And shine until I’ve become my desired future self, with all the wisdom, expertise, and experience that has brought me thus far. And so there, then I’ll be.
As we peer ahead into 2014, what are the what-ifs in your foresight?