The phrase ‘you can’t go home again’ was originated by Ella Winter, and popularised by Tom Wolfe as the title of a novel. It’s a phrase that comes back to me regularly with regards to thoughts of moving away from my home town, moving house on an almost annual basis since, growing up and becoming a different person etc. I’m not always sure how ‘at home’ I feel, but maybe I’m just chasing a feeling that I can never recapture. It doesn’t matter what I do to recreate my old bedroom; amassing a new key ring collection, a new assortment of baseball caps I would never wear, or a new hockey trophy for a tournament I never played in. I was a weird kid.
In a very literal sense, I can never go back to my childhood bedroom, because my parents don’t live in that house anymore. Sure, I could knock on the front door, greet the confused inhabitants, and convince them that it’s worth letting a stranger into their house just so he can prove Ella Winter wrong. But even if I could, I’d go into that room, possibly still a child’s bedroom, and all I would feel is a gut-wrenching pang of lost time. Maybe I’d lament the missing Matrix Revolutions poster, (with the appropriate tag line, ‘everything that has a beginning has an end’) the lack of a tiny grey cathode ray television in the corner, and the absence of a singular smell of adolescence. But what I’d miss most is not the objects, or the geography of it, but the feeling of being a pedantic, insufferable sixteen-year-old, yet to decide whether to dedicate his life to any one thing in particular, aside from making sneering corrective remarks at every opportunity.
One reasoning for the direction in which we view time, past into present into future, is the gradual increase in entropy the universe undergoes. The past has already happened, it is set, we agree that these things cannot be changed. They have a lower entropy, a lower level of disorder than the future, in which a greater number of possible versions of reality exist. But there’s comfort in remembering the past. It’s safe. Just ask fans of Peter Kay’s stand up. We know what happened, we know who we were back then, but we can’t say the same about the future. You can never be who you were, and while we should be okay with that, and happy to grow and progress, it’s just another reminder of the inexorable march of time, just like sitting through Peter Kay’s stand up.
Would I really want to be the version of myself I was when I lived in that bedroom? Where I wrote a bucket-list in which I somehow expressed an equal desire to ‘fall in love’, ‘see the Mona Lisa up close’, ‘go to New York’ and ‘con McDonald’s into giving me a free meal’. Where I would paint my Warhammer figurines. Where I lost my virginity (those last two were necessarily many years apart). I want to go back to my old self and tell them that writing a list like that is bullshit. Pointless. What you want will change, and you shouldn’t feel beholden to a promise you made to yourself in the past. Plus McDonald’s really isn’t that expensive. I want to encourage myself to be more in the moment. I’d say not to look forward to the completion of a stupid list, only done so for its own sake. And maybe I’d give some tips regarding losing my virginity. Maybe I’d even get it right.
I used to fantasise about going back in time to my twelve-year-old body with the mind I have now, and being even more of a know-it-all irritant at school, but having the foresight to not worry about the little things. Also knowing which of my classmates would turn out to be followers of the BNP on Facebook, making me feel a touch less rueful of their lack of approval. But what would that do? Realising that nothing I did mattered until I turned eighteen? I’d become a tiny nihilist, accosting teachers and classmates for the tiniest of transgressions, using my knowledge of the future for personal gain and generally being a fucking nuisance. I’d be Biff from Back to the Future.
What’s the point in looking back unless it’s to learn something? I know I was a little shit. I also know that what I wanted then doesn’t matter. I’ve been in love, I’ve seen the Mona Lisa up close (if you want to know what that was like, just Google ‘Mona Lisa’) and I’m going to New York soon. Not because my sixteen-year-do self told me to. Frankly I’d rather not do what that idiot told me to, he had a fucking Matrix Revolutions poster on his wall. Don’t worry McDonald’s, you’re safe.
Next time on the Bandwagon, I’ll be discussing my new fad diet, wherein I eat what I want for a week, then eat nothing for three weeks, fake my death, move to Italy and gradually work back up to my ideal weight using pasta and wine.