Kazam! You're 14 years old again, back home, but knowing what you know now

You wake up to the clock radio playing the latest chart-topper by Bobby Vinton, or Petula Clark, or the Jackson Five, or the Starland Vocal Band, or the J. Geils Band – whatever your era was. You’re fourteen years old, in your parents’ house, your old room, everything exactly as it was… but you’re still you. You still remember 2006 and all that led up to it.

What do you do?

You might say you’d invest in Microsoft, or silver, or something you know will go through the roof… but how much free cash did you have to invest as a fourteen year old? You might say you’ll lay some sweet bets down on the next World Series or Superbowl – but do you know who won the World Series that year without benefit of Google? And did you know many bookies as a fourteen year old?

So – with due regard for the realities of your situation – what do you do?

First thing, I give Cristine S. a call …

Alfred Bester treated this (along with a lot of other wish-fulfilment fantasies) in his short story 5,271,009. In the story, none of these works out quite as well as one would hope. In this particular scenario, the protagonist, despite knowing a helluva lot more, still gets treated like a kid, and still gets beaten up by the bully. Knowing that the bully got that way for understandable psychological reasons doeasn’t help any.

Do we have to live that time all over again, or is this just a short trip? If we have to stay, my first thought would be to get the school to test me so I could skip several grades (I know, how sad). I’d try to spend a lot of time hanging out with my old friends too (whether it’s a short trip, or if I’m stuck in the past. My family is pretty superstitious, so I’d predict a few family events (wouldn’t be too hard since I was fourteen almost ten years ago), then point them to some good stocks to invest in.

For me, the year would be 1980.

I’d know who won all the Superbowls. My first thought was that I could lay some money on those and then invest the winnings in Microsoft. I might also take a shot at getting rich by posing as a psychic. I know enough of the history of the 80’s and 90’s that I could make some pretty amazing and unforseeable “predictions.” I’d know that the US Hockey team was going to win the Gold Medal at lake Placid, I’d know that Ronald Reagan was going to win the Presidency and I’d know that he was going to get shot by John Hinkley. I’d know the Pope was also going to get shot that year.

I could work up a pretty good record for uncanny predictions over the course of a couple of years. I’d never predict anything that I didn’t know for sure was going to come true, so I’d have 100% accuracy. Then I’d parlay that into fame, riches and tail.

I would be just in time to head off some regrettable fashion choices. With luck, I might be able to prevent the regrettable henna incident of 1984. And I would definitely have some calls to make.


I get myself diagnosed correctly. Start meds early. Give myself the chance for a semi-normal adulthood. I also don’t second-guess my abilities and go into computer science when I graduate highschool.

I’ll admit, that’s best-case scenario. The problem is, I look around and say, “How many of the -good- things in my life would I lose if I altered my own history? Would they be worth losing the -bad- things?”

Win a chess tournament, then bet on sure things.

Work harder. Second guessing other stuff is just an invitation to Madness (which was what I was listening to).

To answer my own question… I would try mightily to accumulate as much cash as I possibly could. We were not a wealthy family, but I would try to hang on to every nickel so I could leverage some of my knowledge of events to come. I’d surely have enough to take at least a little advantage of the Hunt brothers’ silver scheme, and that would hopefully net me enough to start some actual stock buying.

I’d insist that my dad get a complete GI with his physical and hopefully find the cancer before it progressed to the inoperable stage.

I’d send copies of an anonymous letter to the Marine Commandant, the FBI, and anyone else I could think of claiming that I was privy to a suicide bomber plot to ram a truck into the Marine barracks in Lebanon in October 1983.

I’d send a similar letter to NASA’s senior management in January of 1986 warning that the rubber seals in the U-ring didn’t work at low temperatures.

I wonder if making those changes would affect anything else? I doubt it, but maybe one of those Marines would come back, interact with someone here, and the next thing you know, there is no Netscape initial public offering.

That’s be it for me. I wouldn’t second guess anything.

I’ll admit, that’s best-case scenario. The problem is, I look around and say, “How many of the -good- things in my life would I lose if I altered my own history? Would they be worth losing the -bad- things?”
Very true. Lots to think of there.

There are a few so-called friends I could steer clear of, at least one woman I could decide not to end up in bed with lest I start thinking a fat woman twelve years my senior really is the best I can do, but not many investment opportunities for the next few years. Try to conquer the social phobia in the next few years and perhaps go straight from school to university instead of taking a useless gap year.

But the big payoff comes in July 1981 when at one point England will be losing a cricket match to Australia so badly that they will be quoted at 500-1 against. At that point, bet a huge stack. Invest the proceeds in housing as a steady long-term investment. Bet on every General Election a couple of years in advance. Get odds some time in the 1980s for South Africa (then barred from international sports) winning the Rugby World Cup in 1995 and the country to have a black president by then. Bet on Sri Lanka lifting the cricket World Cup in 1995 (or 1996, whenever it was. I can’t actually get the year wrong, it doesn’t come round every year). There should be plenty more opportunities too.

Speaking as a former NASA insider, it wouldn’t have done a damned bit of good for Challenger or Columbia. You’d’ve been better served by betting the mortgage with a bookie that the shuttles wouldn’t come back.

Experience high school all over again? Let’s see, where does Dad keep his handgun…

Seriously. How long do we have here? Do we have to live lives over again from that point, or do we have only a little while to be 14 before returning to our lives?

Dotcom stocks sound good, I’d tell myself to get into Yahoo & Amazon.com IPOs, and Google down the road. I’d also write myself a note to not to get involved with a certain guy, and to get serious about tennis and to not to quit it over an incident in 12th grade. I’d also tell myself to not to take Latin in order to get a special diploma… never did me any good.

The year is 1975.

  1. Get a job doing anything rather than sitting around reading SF and watching TV.
  2. Get a girlfriend.
  3. Drop the tuba. Well, don’t drop it, but definitely abandon music.
  4. Start exercising. Bicycling will be a good idea, both for exercise and getting to/from work.

That should do it for the next few years… those four things should make a fairly apocalyptic change in my life history, such that I can’t even begin to guess where I’d be four years later in college. I have no idea what my life would be like now, 30 years later, but it would definitely be better, accidents and mischance notwithstanding.

Oh, and buy stock in Apple, Netscape, Microsoft, and Wizards of the Coast.

I’d make the same mistakes, only sooner!

I was working for my dad when I was 14, and he approved of the stock market. So some judicious investing would be in order. Then I think I’d wait for a couple of girlfriends to arrive on the horizon. Boy, won’t they be surprised!

I don’t think I’d really second-guess things so much as I would use my knowledge of the original outcomes to tweak certain experiences.

The year is 1988. I wouldn’t do much to change things in the Big Picture, but I will go to nursing school at the local community college (well known for a good nursing program) instead of telling myself for years that I’m not smart enough to be a nurse or that nursing is not a feminist enough job. (True story: my mother always said that before feminism, the only jobs a woman could respectably get were teacher or nurse - preferably nurse because she wouldn’t have to look at men’s naked bodies. I somehow coded that for years as “no self-respecting feminist woman would ever be a nurse.”)

Other than that, I wouldn’t change much. I’d still have my son, young and out of wedlock. I’d still follow a disastrous couple of relationships, because they made me who I am. (And damn, wouldn’t I love to be in that 19 year old Adonis’ bed again, even knowing the heartache to come!) I’d probably pursue child support more rigorously though, to make my son’s financial future a little brighter.

I would **not **get that perm in 1989, however!

hmm… well that would be about two months ago, so…
I’d tell myself, “hey, on June 7th, don’t wear those green shoes. They’ll give you blisters. And if you give yourself blisters with the green shoes, don’t wear flip-flops for the rest of the day because they’ll give you HORRIBLE blisters and you’ll have to wear those goofy pink foam shoes for a few days.”
And I’d ace my finals. And I’d make a few bets with friends… stuff like, “I bet you ten bucks she picks E to do the solo at graduation”

Stop spending money on stupid things. Get the grades I should have gotten if I applied myself; get a different job in college so I could actually take part in some other collegiate activities. Short the market with every last cent (mostly through far out-of-the-money Put options) in October, 1987. Ignore any and every credit card offer. Milk the internet boom and retire a rich, rich man in before the new millenium. Make better, and hopefully more mature, choices about the women in my life.

And Ken Grimwood outdid Bester with his novel Replay. Grimwood’s character was able to do better in some areas (making money) and worse in others (personal relationships). It’s just a great book.

For me, I’d start writing and sending off my stories.