Humbly Dedicated to:

  1. Erich Fromm

  2. Another dream I had

  3. The present you (who ever you are)


It was a dark and peaceful night. One of those nights when nothing is supposed to happen. Although he didn’t know how, Relja found himself at one of those motels where there are rooms around and a pool in the middle. As the moonlight was reflecting off the water’s surface, Relja was walking near the edge of the pool. He felt he shouldn’t be doing this, but still, he did. He was walking the edge and with every step, he felt he was losing his balance.  Although the night was as peaceful as any night on which nothing is supposed to happen, he was scared.

As he made his next step, Relja completely lost balance and started to fall into the pool. For him, it took ages to fall as if somehow he was managing to oppose the gravity itself. He didn’t know why every part of his body was telling him not to fall into the pool, but it did. The moment his body made the first contact with the liquid it didn’t feel anything like water. It was more as if he fell into a pool of electricity. With each moment he was sinking deeper and with each moment the spasms were getting stronger and stronger. Visually, his entire body became a gradient of red and around him, everything was turning black. A classic movie scene, he thought… what a cliché.

It wasn’t pain he felt, as much as it was a series of unpleasant shocks. As he lost his final battle with gravity, one last shock struck his body, as if whatever was pulling him wanted to be sure he’ll succumb to this… thing. Relja didn’t have a better word to describe it.

Everything went black and the next moment Relja woke up in a bed in a small cottage. “Well, this certainly isn’t the bottom of the pool.” – Relja thought.

As he was lying in this bed, for some reason his mother and his younger brother approached him with a peaceful look in their eyes.

“What the hell? One moment I’m in some American hotel and the next I’m in a cottage presumably somewhere in the mountains with my family. Whoever is in charge of transportation, he’s doing a pretty good job.” – Relja tried to shake off the fear with humor. “Where am I?”

“You’re with us Relja, you went back in time.” – His mother replied casually as if her job was the one of an universal master of space and time and not a cook in a local restaurant.

“What, back in time? I didn’t know pools were meant to do that. How far exactly did I go back?”

“Two years.”

You see, Relja just ended a relationship that lasted for around two years. The relationship with that girl was one year of pure joy and another year of pure horror. He got cheated and he cheated, the girl would also come late night in front of his house and begged him to try one more time or she’ll kill herself, etc. The usual teenage stuff. It was nothing serious from an adult point of view, but it is when you’re 19 years old and your tiny little heart gets broken for the first time.

“Two years.” This made Relja think. “So this means I’ll get the chance to fix all the things I screwed up with Helena. As I already lived it through I know what will go wrong and now I can make sure it all goes right. This way our relationship can last forever.”

Yes, Relja was also a stupid kid who believed the first person you fall in love with will also be the last and there can’t possibly be any other in the future. If you fail the first love, you don’t get another chance. Another foolish teenage thought.

Thus, Relja suddenly went from being scared to being thrilled. He’ll meet Helena again and then all he has to do is recall things that went wrong and make it right. There will be no pain and no suffering. The year that initially was hell will turn into heaven. Relja felt he was really lucky to find himself near that strange pool. If he knew electrical shocks or whatever it was take you back in time, he’d do it much sooner.

But then, for some reason unknown, all the walls came crumbling down. Not for real, but in Relja’s mind. Just because there are weird pools and time traveling in this story, it doesn’t mean weird things like wall crumbling can happen.

In a matter of a second, his happy thought of going back in time became a horrible and disgusting thought. All the horrible memories of events he had to endure with Helena came rushing through his mind. The time he caught her with another guy, the time when his friends told him he was a pussy for still hanging out with here and most importantly, the memory of how long and painful it was to make peace with the fact the relationship was over. Ah yes, it’s wonderful to be a young human clueless of the true life-horrors that come later.

Relja realized because he went back in time, he’ll have to experience the suffering all over again and he’s a fool for thinking he’ll make better decisions this time. He cried and cried until he couldn’t cry no more. Poor Relja.

A month passed and he really did meet Helena same as the first time via Internet. First, they talked online for few months and then they met in person for the first time. It was a lovely feeling to love and be loved. One perfect year filled with love and happiness passed and then came the terrifying year filled with sorrow and anger, like a harsh winter that comes after a nice summer with no autumn to serve as a transition.

Although he knew all of this, Relja indeed lived it all as he did the first time; the sufferings and the failures, the joys and the successes. Everything played out exactly the same, like a rerun of some TV show.

After he broke up and made peace with it for the second time, Relja woke up.

This time not metaphorically, but for real. Relja woke up, it was all a dream.

In reality, Relja was 27 years old and he just woke up to go to his job. His current girlfriend already left and Relja didn’t even have time to wrap his mind around the dream he just had. He got out of his bed, made himself a breakfast and a coffee, ate it while watching a cartoon (he was still a child in some way) and went off into another usual day.

The only thing he could think about was how silly he was back then because all of this really did happen to him – minus the time travel of course. How dumb he was to give so much emotional attention to something as trivial as a teenage-relationship. “Hah, you were a dumb kid Relja.” He thought to himself.

He thought how he’d give everything to go back and have these “love” problems and not all the serious problems of a grown up like finance, social security, and doubt if he’ll be a good father. Now those are some serious problems and not some stupid girl.

As Relja was contemplating on how his current life is hard, somewhere in the future, 40-50 years from now, an old version of Relja is also thinking to himself in his deathbed: “I wish I knew before how trivial all these financial, social, and emotional problems are. But it’s too late now, my health is getting worse day by day and there’s nothing I can do. I wish I could go back in time… I’d be so much smarter…”

As he was taking his final breaths, over the radio Edith Piaf, an amazing French singer from the 60’s sang: “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien.” (I Have No Regrets).


Question Time:

  1. Why do we humans seem to always regret our past, fear our future, and thus ignore what really matters; the present?

2. Do you have any regrets that still haunt you to this very day? And if so, why?

6 thoughts on “About Relja and What He Didn’t Learn About Life By Going Back in Time

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