My son turned 20 a couple days ago. For his birthday, we decided to take him to one of his favorite local restaurants. He was running a bit late, it was happy hour, and well, the beer finally got to me.
Not in a drunk kind of way, mind you, but in a bladder kind of way. Excusing myself, I sauntered off to the restroom. On the way, I made a note about one of my many imperfections, then dismissed it with a nonchalant utterance, “I’ll fix it the next time around.”
To some, that would be a very bold statement, to others, it would be nothing short of blasphemy.
Me? I find it nearly impossible to believe that this is the only time we get to exist. Now, I’m not sure where we go, but I think we have to take several trips around the universe before we’re evolved enough to go to that final, final destination.
Which means I get a couple more do-overs.
Hedging this bet, I am writing this RobZerrvation to let my next self know some things to avoid the next time around, things that would have made this life much more productive and often less painful.
So bear with me as I help out my future self.
If you’re reading this then 1) you died, 2) you got another turn, and 3) don’t blow it like you did the last one(s).
First things first. Convince your brother that he should take you somewhere on Labor Day weekend in 1972. Anywhere but Brewster, Washington. He doesn’t need to drown again on his next turn around.
Remember that you can’t help your dad. He had lots of demons. As a little boy, you can’t help him in his fight. Instead, try to be more understanding of his mental and health issues, don’t be such a turd, and try to ease his pain without building a ballfield in a cornfield in Iowa.
In high school, don’t fall for the girl who is selling Ojo de Dioses in the Spanish booth at the International Fair. You will meet a lot of girls in college that you would have loved to have dated if you hadn’t married your “high school sweetheart.” There will be lots of sweethearts, my boy. Lots. No need to be tied down at 20, at least in the married sort of way.
This, by the way, will solve the second faux pas automatically. Your family stopped talking to you over that whole hand in the other cookie jar thing. If you had avoided getting married, you couldn’t have had that affair, and you wouldn’t have spent tens of thousands of dollars in the intervening years getting crappy cars fixed because your brother would still be your mechanic.
I’m sure there are some other reasons you would have liked to have your brothers in your life – perhaps you could have gotten a crack at that 7,000-year-old alien your brother was having sex with, the one with the spaceship parked behind Mt. Si.
On second thought…
Assuming you still have children in your 20s, spend more time with them. Make sure they aren’t conceived nine months before the end of July. Seafair parade season and pirating always gave you a twisted view of priorities. Remember next time: your children first, your own childhood second.
I’d like to tell you not to move as much as you did. I mean, really, 26 times? But then, you are something of a gypsy and bon vivant. The change of scenery did you well at times, and you got rid of a lot of stuff you didn’t need in the process. Still, you really didn’t need to buy three miter saws in your lifetime. Next time, take the first one with you.
In the career department, well, you got something right. I mean, who gets to make stuff and get paid to do it for 33 years? You only did real work the first four years when you were in the mailroom. Not bad!
I would say that next time, you don’t want to run your own show for 20 years. Find a good state job earlier. I mean, you got into it later in life when you could have gone into public service much earlier. That pension is looking pretty good now. Just imagine what it would have been like after 20 or 30 years instead of six.
Now for the biggy. If you ever go pirating in Key West, don’t speak to any reporters. Don’t even give them a second glance. Definitely, do not invite them to your house for their birthday. And whatever you do, don’t be stupid enough to run away with them to Florida. Nothing comes of it. I mean nothing.
I know you don’t want to hear that. You love to think that there was some purpose to your eight years in the Land of the Mouse. Yes, you met some lifelong friends there, but otherwise? Nada. Zilch. Zero.
Honestly, you could have faced your demons at home. You could have stayed in Seattle. Next time, if the opportunity presents itself, stick around. Move into an apartment if you have to, get a divorce again, but whatever you do, stay, don’t go.
And watch your email. Somewhere along the way you’re going to get an email application from a Red Handed Jill. She wants to join your pirate group. Last time around, this happened while you were in Florida.
If you stay in Seattle this time, Red Handed Jill will be able to join your little performing troupe. You will get to meet her sooner. She will turn out to be the one you always dreamed of. If you play your cards right next time around, you will get to marry her earlier and get more years with her than you did this time around.
Her real name is Kat, by the way. You’ll like her. Trust me. And you’ll wonder why you ever spent time looking for happiness 3,000 miles away when she grew up right in your own backyard. She’s a Rainier Valley girl.
Remember, Peter Pan doesn’t always have to fly off to Neverland to find adventure. Especially when Red Handed Jill was there all along, waiting with a handful of pixie dust so you could soar together in ways you never, ever imagined.