Today is Wednesday, October 21, 2015, and, as social media today will attest, the same day that Marty McFly and Doc Brown travel to in Back to the Future Part II. So I figured it’d be appropriate to share some short musings related to the subject.
This was one of, if not actually, my favorite movie trilogies, not just growing up, but today as well (and not just because my birthday, Nov. 12th, is the red-letter day in 1955 when the clock tower got struck by lightning). I love this franchise more than Star Wars, more than Star Trek even. There will probably always be a small part of me that, whenever people talk about “the present,” I will think of 1985 (hey, it’s like that Bowling for Soup song!). Time travel, in particular, has always been the sci-fi concept that I’ve found the most fascinating. This is probably why I also adore Quantum Leap from around the same time period, and may contribute to my love of Chrono Trigger as well. (You would think that it would make me also a big fan of Doctor Who, but, well…) The “What if?” scenarios are full of endless possibilities, both as forces for good and for ill. I’ve always found it more interesting, however, to see stories that deal with this on a personal level, rather than a global or historical one, and Back to the Future (along with the aforementioned Quantum Leap, usually) focus on this aspect a lot more than the ol’ “let’s kill Hitler” or “let’s prevent Skynet” that sometimes crops up in time travel stories. The story is kept small, mostly affecting some random teenagers and their subsequent families more than any far-reaching national or global scenarios (at least in the first movie), which works to its advantage. Keeping it small keeps the focus on the characters, and helps it become more relatable. Instead of being a far-out tale about the weird science-y possibilities and pitfalls of time travel, it’s simply about a normal kid trying desperately to still exist and get his dad to not be such a loser, and the questions it raises are about things that most people can ponder, not just nerds.
My early-life obsession with this movie and the potential it represents has led, I believe, to my propensity for introspection. As a kid, I was more concerned with what the future holds: if I could travel to 2015 or beyond, what great things could I find? Often at recess I’d pal around with my friend Dan Burk pretending to be time travelers from the future (inspired not just by this movie but also a little by Bill & Ted), coming back to this primitive 1990’s era where you had to use pencils and paper to do your homework: lame!
As I’ve gotten older, however, I have more of a tendency to look at the past, as most people do when they age. Being in your 30’s gives you the unique viewpoint of having enough in your past to truly see where you have been and what has shaped both you and the world, yet with enough time still in your future to have the opportunity to still live up to your potential. And I often ponder: what events in my life have shaped my future into what it is today? How many “punch out Biff” moments have I had, and where have they led me? If I could take to my teenage self, what advice would I give? Or, conversely, what would my teenage self think if he could see where I am now and what has happened in my life? Would he be proud that I’ve still kept up with my video game skills and I like the same type of stuff that he did? Or would he be disappointed that I’m still not married, not writing music for a living, and barely have enough money to scrape by, despite the large potential that I had? I think he may be disappointed, but perhaps not surprised. After all, I was a pretty smart kid; I think I saw where things were heading, even if I hoped that some day, somehow, my future teenage son would magically appear and help me find my density.
Every year I think, “This could be the one! This is the one where I finally meet that girl, settle down, and become an adult!” without having any idea how to get it to happen. My recent religious status has forestalled my usual venues for finding dates (I’m now far too non-LDS for any faithful girl, yet I’m still probably too LDS for most women outside the Church since I still won’t drink), and now I’m to the point in life where all my friends are either married or in the same have-no-idea-how-to-get-married boat that I’m in. Seriously, everyone, how do you meet people outside of YSA wards or bars?
As for my career, I’m working in a field that I enjoy, and I think that my teenage self would be happy with that, though with the hours that I keep and the relatively low pay/lack of advancement opportunities he may chafe a little. Also, I had always wanted to become a professional composer, but have had little progress in the field. I tried it for a year and a half, made about $500, and realized that, more important to success than actual musical aptitude was the ability to be a self-promoter, which is something I’ve never been good at (this also explains many of my dating problems).
Indeed, I probably have more in common with the original sad George McFly. Or, more likely, I have more in common with the George McFly that we never saw: the one from the future where he never got hit by the car or punched out Biff and Marty never was born. I may not be quite that much of an obvious loser, but I do suffer from similar self-esteem issues. Am I living in my own “bad future?” Was there a point in my past where I should’ve punched out a guy, or taken some risk, and become a far superior version of myself?
More importantly, is there still such an opportunity in my near future, and will I have the guts to take it?