I’m not a golfer but I tried for a few months to learn a little bit about the sport in the 90s, before I blew out a disc in my spine. I had a few dozen golf balls, and a 9 iron, a putter and a very well kept lawn of bermuda grass. My kids and I would knock balls into the air, or tap them around the lawn, trying to make thoroughly improbably putts. It turned out I was far better at the computer golf game. Links 386, I think it was called. I could usually make it through Augusta National, or even Pebble Beach Links, and come out under par. I was quite the superstar.
I also learned about the mulligan. You know about Mister Mulligan, right? Some poor Irish guy’s name is forever enshrined in the sport of golf because, after a shot so extremely awful, his buddies allowed him a “do over.” I’d save par pretty often by using the mulligan feature in my little computer game.
In real life, we don’t get do-overs. I’ve been taking in a lot of historical stuff lately: A narrative about Teddy Roosevelt and WH Taft. The account of the Chicago’s first famous Serial Killer. Occasionally I find myself asking stuff like, “Wow! What if Howard Dean hadn’t screamed in 2004?” Or “What would have changed if Lincoln hadn’t been attended the theater that day?” Maybe… “What if I hadn’t been so surly at work the other week?”
I’ve recently been watching The Flash, a show based on the comic book superhero. He’s really fast you know. He can get so fast, in fact, that he can jump onto other timelines and relive his life. Nothing fancy like Doc Brown’s Delorean. He just runs really quick. His do-overs don’t often turn out so well. His hoped for girlfriend suddenly despises him. One of his best buddies is kidnapped and tortured… All because he decided to tinker with time. Also, watching James Franco’s production of 11.22.63, about a guy who goes back in time to stop Kennedy’s assassination.
I’ve always been fascinated by the dream. We all want do-overs. Trouble is, at least yet, we don’t get them. I don’t get to relive my teenage years. Or advise my gawky former self to “just go for it.” We don’t get to stop Lee Harvey Oswald. The only thing we’re capable of is messing up again, and learning from our mistakes, and moving forward.
Sometimes I think it’s not all bad. Some of the worst things that ever happened to me have glimmers of light shining at the edges. A rusted old car doesn’t look so bad, when we scrape off the outer crust, give it a new coat of paint and look at it in a new light. I sound way more idealistic than I usually do, but I have only two options: I can either face it and move on, or allow my decisions to eat me up inside. All too often, I allow myself the luxury of self-pity. Second guessing is only useful for folks like Time Lords, or Bill & Ted. For the rest of us, we just soldier on.
Still… what I wouldn’t give to go back in time, just once, to see what it was really like…