Ideas about time travel appear in all sorts of sci fi stories I enjoy*. I recently saw a showerthought** posted online by a user named kai1998 on Reddit. It said, “When people think about travelling to the past, they worry about accidentally changing the present, but no one in the present really thinks they can radically change the future.”
This idea really struck me, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Of course, in sci fi, our protagonists are in the past and trying to avoid their present being changed for the worse. For example, Star Trek: First Contact and The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror V “Time and Punishment”. It is a given in time travel stories that even the smallest change made in the past will have a devastating effect on the future. But if you asked someone what small thing they could do today to have a massive impact some years down the line, I expect most people would deny having such power.
The difference, of course, is that we don’t know what the future will look like. So we don’t know what impact our actions will actually have. You might feel powerless to make any changes, that your life is being controlled by factors outside you. Or it might seem frightening to think of having such an impact on the world. Anxiety might cause you to do nothing at all, for fear of doing something “wrong” or ending up with a bad result.
Perhaps you think it’s too late to make changes, that your life has been set. You might have lost hope that things can change for the better.
So there are all sorts of reasons you might avoid making changes. Ask yourself, what exactly is holding you back? What can you do about that? Is it a real block that you cannot get past, or fear based on what you fear people might do or say? What would you do if you need not be afraid of failing? What would you choose to do, if it were all up to you and no-one else?
Imagine yourself from 10 years in the future, coming to visit the Present You. What advice might they give you? What might their life look like, and are you happy at the thought? How might you improve it?
Or even ask Future You from one week in the future what they think about a decision you are trying to make right now. Are they likely to be happy or unhappy you have made certain choices?
The future is unwritten. Pick up a pen!
* Just don’t ask me to explain the paradoxes in the Terminator series. I’m not sure anyone can work all those out.
**A showerthought is a casual realisation when you are doing something that doesn’t require your full attention (such as showering), yet seems like a revelation.