With a katana.

I recently went on an annual trip with some friends I’ve had for two decades (going back to middle school). It’s the sort of annual trip only older dudes do. We stayed in a somewhat secluded cabin, shot firearms, grilled out, and spent a couple of afternoons on the lake in a pontoon boat. They also played video games (I discovered that I’m so grossly behind the curve with modern video games, that I quit in disgust and sulked in a corner while they played for hours, jovial and orgasmic), and the main event was playing the table top role playing games of our misspent youth.

To say it was rejuvenating would be an understatement, but one thing I noticed (mostly in retrospect) is that we didn’t have many philosophical discussions, or even many hypothetical ones (could Andy defeat Mike Tyson in a fight if he had a baseball bat, for instance*).

This is maybe because as we’ve aged, we’ve grown more apart politically. It could also be because we quietly wanted the trip to be an oasis away from politics philosophy theology real life, and an opportunity to shoot paper zombie targets and eat fatty food with impunity.

The closest we got was when Andy brought up the concept of being able to go back in time to give the sixteen-year-old version of yourself advice. Ten years ago, in our early twenties, I bet we would’ve jumped all over that question. However, now that we’ve pretty well made our beds well into our thirties, it’s tougher to say out loud what you’d do differently. In some of our cases, it’d sound like you’re being a snooty blowhard due to your relative success, in others, the long list of regrets would overwhelm the 16 year old you and he’d blow his head off**. So aside from one of us saying,”I would tell myself not to be afraid to talk to girls” and all of us nodding in agreement***, we all kept quiet and let the question die. Or at least, that’s the only answer I remember; I certainly wasn’t going to jump in those waters.

It is an interesting question though, and has been the subject of a lot of speculation/wish fulfillment over the years (and a website/book). Looking over that site I realize it’s a passive aggressive way of asking someone to admit what their biggest goof was (if the the person answering is going to be honest; there’s plenty of people that answer in a way as if to say,”See, I was right! I was right!” and the ‘I wouldn’t change a thing’ variety of answers are common, too****).  Stephen King’s answer was honest. He wasted a decade being an addict. I don’t have anything that profound. I’ve wasted a year or two here or there, and I suppose if I added it up I could squeeze close to a decade of regret out the old life rag.

Anyway, I’ve decided that if we have another trip next year, I will come armed with hypothetical questions. Safe ones that involve Andy in combat with highly superior foes.

  • *No, he couldn’t. Not even with boxing regulations in effect for Tyson and Andy wielding a sword.
  • ** The list of my regrets are utterly overwhelming, but I think the 16 year old version of myself would be oddly tickled by them. They pretty well bemuse me now.
  • *** Not talking to many girls in High School may have prevented me from being a father of seven by age twenty-one, but I digress.
  • ****I think it’d be pretty shitty to link to ‘normal’ people’s letters to themselves.
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