It’s taken me 35 years, but I finally figured out the secret to time travel. It’s easier than you think. Almost too easy. And it’s every bit as awesome as you’d hope it would be.
Here’s how you do it:
First, think of a person who’s very important to you and a big part of your life. Take a second to think about how much you care about that person, and imagine their face, the sound of their voice, what it feels like to be around them.
Next, travel forward in time. Use your imagination for this. (Obviously, what you imagine may not turn out to be totally, or maybe even remotely, accurate, but as you will see in a moment, that doesn’t actually matter.) So go on, imagine yourself into the future.
Now, the future is actually extremely predictable when you travel out far enough. All relationships end the same way, which is to say, they end. At least in this world, in this life time. Nothing lasts forever. The people in your life, even those most important to you, will not last forever. So it’s really not a fantastical idea to go ahead and, fast forwarding into the future, imagine the day that person ceases to be a part of your life. Imagine hearing the news that they have died. If you want, you can imagine details surrounding this event, but you don’t have to. The important thing is that you imagine how you will feel when you learn you have lost them.
The experience of grief when a loved one dies is as varied from person to person as faces in a crowd. But there is a quality of mourning a loss that is very widely reported by those experiencing grief. It is a wish that you could go back in time. Not to the best times of your life, but to a time – to any time – when you were with that person. Often, it’s the simplest and most mundane of times with the loved one that people report missing.
If I could just smell his hair again.
If I could just hear her breathing next to me.
If I could just see his socks on the bathroom floor.
What people experience in grief is very often a realization that they would give just about anything to see that person again. Even just one more time.
It is not guaranteed that you will feel that way about the person you’re thinking about right now in this exercise. For that matter, it’s not a guarantee that the person you’re thinking about now will even die before you. Maybe it’s they who will lose you. But for the sake of this exercise in time travel, go ahead and assume that you are absolutely going to one day in the future feel like you’d give anything to go back and see that person just one more time.
Now travel back in time. To now. Bring with you what you learned when you were in the future. You’re wiser now. Bring back that longing for one more moment with the person you’re thinking about. You can still feel it, right? Remember what it was like to realize you would never see them again? Now, consider the fact that you get to see them again.
So smell his hair. Listen to her breathing next to you. Look at his socks on the bathroom floor. And rejoice.
The last step in the process of traveling back in time is to repeat the above steps with everyone else you know. Start with the people you love most right now. Then move on to others who you may not yet know you love. And those who you maybe have yet to appreciate at all.
When you’ve gone through all the people, repeat the steps with other things in your life. Animals, plants, places. Buildings, foods, songs, hobbies. Just travel forward in time to whenever you first realize that you will never again experience those things. Let that hit you, then bring it back in time. To now. And feel it.
And repeat the steps with yourself. The you that you are now, with your body and your face, with your abilities and your senses, your mind and your memories. Travel into the future far enough, and you will find the end to all of those. Then come back in time, to now, and go look in the mirror. And put your hand on your heart. And take a deep breath.
And that’s it. You’ve successfully traveled back in time.
Those among us who tend toward skepticism will say, “Now wait just a minute. How do I know any of the future scenarios I imagined will come true? And therefore, how can I consider any of the stuff I brought back in time to the present reliable?”
See, here’s the thing. Not all of the scenarios you imagined will come true. You do not yet know which of the people or things or experiences in your life you will lose in time to miss them. Even people who you love the most right now could, in some unforeseen turns of events, turn out to be so inconsequential to future you that when you finally lose them, you don’t even care. And, as mentioned before, maybe they’ll lose you first.
But if you did the exercise correctly, you traveled forward in time to the end of everyone and everything that might matter to you. (Not necessarily accurately, but you’ll notice I didn’t promise a way to travel forward in time.) So while you do not yet know which of those people or things will turn out to one day depart from your life, shattering your heart into a million pieces, you have included the ones that will. And there is no doubt that some will.
The only case in which you will not suffer loss in your future is the case in which you literally have no future. If you’d like, you may pause for a moment to reflect on that case. I’m guessing that will feel like a loss. I’m sorry.
And since some of the future scenarios you imagined will come true, your memories of them are perfectly valid. Which means that you effectively traveled back in time.
I guess the only way to be sure though is to treat each and every future loss as definite, so you can be certain you’ve accounted for the ones that are. I think you’ll find there’s no harm in that anyway. Because hey, you got what you will one day remember, saying “I would give anything for one more moment of that.”
You now have what you will one day want more than anything. And also, the ability to travel back in time.