Have you ever felt that confusing feeling that you’ve slipped into some kind of time-warped parallel universe? I’m not talking about time travel or even déjà vu. I’m referring to the feeling you get when you are experiencing a moment from the viewpoint of yourself at two different ages in time.
This past weekend I experienced a trifecta of space-time weirdness when in the course of one evening, I felt 13, 22 and 41.
My husband and I went out for dinner and drinks with my college and post-college roommate and her husband. At one point in life, the four of us practically lived together, but distance had greatly diminished our opportunities to see each other regularly. Now that we live in the same state again, we are trying to rectify that.
Fueled by alcohol and pasta, we covered every topic under the sun: children, home ownership, education (our kids’ and ours), neighbors, doing shots at Halloween parties, anniversary vacations, etc. Of course, we dipped briefly into the past as well, attempting to remember where it was that we saw the Dishwalla/Refreshments concert—the one where my roommate got staggering drunk and my now husband and I burst into an alcohol-induced fight. With a combined 29 years of marriage between us now, my girlfriend and I could laugh about the epic battles our younger selves once waged with our now spouses.
When you’re with college friends, time slips away. Suddenly 40-something feels no different than 22. Same people at heart, just a lot of living has taken place in the space between then and now.
And so, I found myself in a lovely parallel universe in which you can occupy a moment as your present self and your past self, and it all feels wonderfully normal and fun.
The night had to end; however, and as soon as we got into the car, the time bubble burst. We were 41-year-old parents with a new babysitter at our house, and we were going to be an hour later than we said we’d be.
Our conversation quickly turned to wondering whether we should pay more for our tardiness and who would drive her home. I’d had two glasses of wine and since I am no longer 22, I was in no condition to drive. My poor husband tried to figure out what he was going to say to a 15-year-old girl during the four minutes it would take to get her home.
I began wondering whether the parents who had hired me to babysit as a teenager had had similar conversations as they drove home. Was the mom tipsy when she greeted me? Probably. Was the dad dreading the drive to take me home? Most definitely.
Then, my 13-year-old self was sitting next to me, remembering the awkward conversations I’d had with the old dorky dad. How quickly I sprang from the car, desperately wanting to flee his half-hearted questions about school and such.
Now, instead of being the fleeing teenager, I was apparently married to the old, dorky dad. He didn’t seem old or dorky to me, and yet my husband and I are far older than the parents I used to babysit for. Things were getting confusing.
When we got home, I asked our babysitter the questions I had once been asked. How did it go? Did she eat well? Did she go to sleep without a hassle?
I’d entered a different parallel universe and this one was just frickin’ weird. I was on the wrong side of this late-night exchange. Shouldn’t I be the one holding my out, thrilled to receive a crisp $20 for my 10 hours of work, instead of the one forking over a fortune for a few hours?
As I checked on my daughter and turned out lights, my dazed state of mind was no longer wine-induced.
After my husband returned relatively unscathed, we flipped on SNL and I was back to 22 again. There on the screen was his purple majesty. Yes, the very same Prince that my college roommate and I rocked out to in an arena that no longer exists. Twenty years had passed and he looked pretty much the same. Despite what old photographs may say, my friend and I do, too.
The next morning I awoke dehydrated and shaky (that feels oddly familiar!), but determined to run the 15K race I’d signed up for weeks before. I slammed some Gatorade, a trick I wished I’d known about at 22, and hoped for the best.
I didn’t know anyone at the event, so for the most part I ran alone. And as I did, I pondered all those selves that had occupied space in my mind the night before. Within the first mile, the 13-year-old receded into the past; she could barely run a mile for the President’s Fitness Challenge she was required to complete in high school. The 22-year-old wouldn’t have bothered to even show up; she’d be in bed nursing her hangover.
In the end, it was only my 41-year-old self who finished. By the last mile, I was feeling every year of my age. My evil past selves wanted to re-emerge to ridicule me. They wanted to taunt me for being slow, but I refused to let them.
I was nearly dead last, but somehow that was ok. Unlike my younger selves, the person I am now is the one who showed up and was strong enough to cross the finish line.
Those trips into the parallel past are amusing, and I like visits from my former selves. As nostalgic as they make me feel sometimes, they always remind me that I’m happy with who I am now.