Can I Get a Do-Over?
Have you ever had an experience that you wanted to have another go at? Maybe you had an expectation in your mind about how it would play out, but something derailed it, and you’d like to give it another shot. Conversely, perhaps it went so phenomenally well that you just want to relive the rush of something amazing. Either way, a do-over would be a welcome opportunity.
With the rise in prominence of the multiverse in popular culture, it appears to me that the concept of endless possibilities and the ability to “try again” are themes many of us are deeply interested in. The Marvel Cinematic Universe—probably the biggest example of this at the moment—has embraced this trend wholeheartedly. The first season of Loki and films like Spider-Man: No Way Home and Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness make it clear that Marvel is eager to explore this limitless treasure trove of stories, ultimately adventuring through the question What If…? If their intentions for the future weren’t clear enough already, the announcement at San Diego Comic Con that they have transitioned from The Infinity Saga into The Multiverse Saga is pretty on the nose.
It’s not just Marvel, though—and y’all know I could talk Marvel all day. I recently listened to an episode of LeVar Burton’s podcast LeVar Burton Reads in which he shares a short story entitled “Different People” by Timothy Mudie. In short, it’s about a man who enters a relationship with a woman who has escaped from a parallel universe prior to its collapse. It explores questions of what might have happened had their existences not overlapped and what does it mean to get a life do-over in another reality. It’s really an intriguing story and, of course, brilliantly performed by one of the world’s greatest storytellers.
Another, slightly different, example is Claire North’s novel The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August. In the world North builds, there are a handful of select individuals who, upon their deaths, essentially begin their lives anew from the moment of their birth. Within the first few years of their lives, all the memories of their past lives return to them and, as time goes on, they are able to live each life with more and more lifetimes worth of knowledge and experience. Just imagine the possibilities of living such a life…er…lives?
I’m so grateful to be alive in a time such as this when these kinds of stories are being shared and explored so freely. After reading The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, it quickly became one of my favorite books of all time because it put into novel form my most recurring thought experiment: what would it be like to live my life over again with all the knowledge I accumulated the first time? (On an unrelated note, my other favorite thought experiment is to dwell on how much more I could get out of life if I never had to sleep.)
For better or worse, I spend a decent amount of time pondering the “What Ifs.” What if I hadn’t been so shy or afraid as a child? What if I could have warned my family of grandpa’s heart condition? What if I had gone to this college instead of that one? What if I had pursued a different career path? What if I had never come to Africa? What if I had superpowers from a radioactive insect bite? More often than not there’s not a whole lot of practical value in considering these scenarios, but I just find it so interesting to imagine what might have been.
What does this have to do with voiceover? Well, nothing really, at least not on the surface. For me, however, my journey with VO is a constant source of “What Ifs” and wonderings. Lately, I often find myself thinking about how I might better set myself up for success in a VO career if I could get a do-over right now. Maybe I would beg my parents to get me involved in theatre from a young age. I’d probably take all manner of acting and improv classes, as well as pursue a formal degree in theatre. Perhaps I’d use the knowledge from my past life to weasel my way into circles with other successful or will-be-successful actors. There is any number of things I might do to give myself a leg up to succeed in a career as a voice actor if I only had the chance to try again from the start.
And alas, here is where the thought experiment falls apart. Because as interesting as these trains of thought might be, that’s all they can ever be. Dwelling on what might have been does nothing but prevent me from actually taking action in the here and now. Parallel universes making up a vast multiverse and a never-ending reincarnitive existence are incredible storytelling devices, but they aren’t realities I have access to—at least not to my knowledge.
Furthermore, my little thought experiment also has the detrimental effect of keeping me in a fixed mindset. I end up getting stuck thinking, “If I had only…” instead of considering the possibility of doing those things now. Getting involved in theatre? What’s stopping me from joining a community theatre in my hometown? Acting or improv classes? I can still do those things as an adult. Better late than never, right? Surround myself with other successful actors? The VO community is one of the most open and welcoming I’ve ever had the pleasure of being a part of. I’m already doing that!
I think to some extent we all like the idea of getting a do-over. In a sense, it would be a nice safety net. It would give us permission to be bold without all of that risky risk business that often comes with boldness. Without risk, though, there is very little growth. I’ll speak for myself, but I imagine I’m not alone in learning more from my mistakes than my successes in most cases. If I got a mulligan every time I messed up, I’d be cheated out of so much growth and knowledge. I would stagnate. I simply wouldn’t be who I am today. As nice as it might be to do life over again, making different choices and seeing what came of it, I believe there’s a rhyme and a reason to why my life has played out the way it has thus far. I’ll take the lessons I’ve learned, make the best of them, and continue moving forward, trusting they will take me on the trajectory I’m meant to be on.
And who knows? Maybe after I die, all of my consciousness from this life will awaken in the two-year-old mind of my next life and I’ll get to try it out after all. In the meantime, maybe I’ll just focus a bit more on curing myself of the need to sleep. I could get so much more done!
Until next time, friends, keep telling stories.
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Voiceover Artist | Storyteller
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