“If only I knew then what I know now” how many times have I said that over the years? What difference would it really make if, as many of my friends have said of late, someone could invent a time machine and go back to the days of our (misspent) youth? What would we do different? Would we work harder at school to get better grades? Or slob about and ridicule the ‘swots’ who know all the answers, like we did the first time around (I wonder where the swots are now). Then there’s the relationships that could have made our hearts flutter, if only we had said the right thing to the pretty girl who asked what we thought of her.
Then there’s world history. What could be changed? What should be changed? What would have happened if one of the numerous assassination attempts against Adolf Hitler had been successful? Would the war have ended earlier or would it have been prolonged if one of the younger fanatical officers had taken over the reins? Maybe if Hitler had not taken over the command of the armed forces and left things in the hands of his Generals, they could have won the war for him. What if he had died in action in World War One? What would have happened if the bullet that had Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand’s name on it had missed? What if someone could go back and change world history?
In my latest book ‘Kathleen’ a man is thrust back to 1940 and faces this dilemma. Should he help the Allies and tell them of every operation that the Axis forces mount? There would have been fewer fatalities caused by war and therefore a larger world population. And maybe the post war years would have been even more austere.
Then, of course, when the hero returns to his own time, the world would, more than likely, have changed. His life would have changed because his parent’s lives would have changed. They may have conceived him at an earlier or later date; or maybe not at all!. Could his personality and fortunes be changed by letting a single action of the war be redirected?
Every day of our past could be subjected to the ‘what- ifs’ and ‘maybe’s’ of conjecture. With the analysis of hindsight, everything could be better. We all have regrets and disappointments that we’d rather leave in the past; that we would want to change given the chance. It could also be worse; we may not have had all the joys and pleasant memories.
In that case, would it be worth the risk?
I like to think not – in that we would not be the people we are now. Through our choices, we have made our lives what they are today. The parallel universes we have rejected will remain unknown. If we had said yes instead of no, or no instead of yes, in the numerous situations we’ve faced, our lives could be totally unrecognisable today.
So, although our lives are shaped by the choices we make every day, it is our decisions that have done the damage; or enriched our existence. Some people are privileged to be world-changers; just look at the Olympic medallists, the positive image they have portrayed that has inspired maybe thousands of youngsters, will have a far reaching legacy.
Even those that have died in the war years, although their passing was unavoidable, have become inspirational to me and other like-minded people. Heroically giving their lives and winning freedom for those of us who weren’t even born, goes beyond admiration and respect. ‘What-ifs’ and ‘maybe’s’ didn’t come into their thinking. They just did it. If they hadn’t done their duty, then our world would have been vastly different.
To all those who, like me, wonder from time to time about the choices we have made; your choices have made you the person you are today. We can’t take yesterday back but we do have today. And tomorrow is spread out before us like a blank canvas to make of it what we will.
Kathleen is now available on Amazon Kindle: