Interview with Eugenia

I have a question for you— would you go back to your freshman year, if:
1. You keep knowing everything you know now, and you know you come from the future
2. You keep knowing everything you know now, but you don’t know you come from the future
3. Your knowledge of everything (intelligence, life, relationships) go back to freshman year’s knowledge as well, but you know know you come from the future
4. Your knowledge resets and you don’t know you come from the future
In these four situations, will your answers be different?

Okay here are my opinion on each:

  1. This feels like it would just make living pointless because you already know what happens. You’re just coloring in a drawing that has been drawn already. I guess it’s nice to know things in advance, but if you had an expiration date on when friendships and relationships lasted, would that make you pessimistic in beginning then? It would require a very courageous person to live fully knowing how everything turns out.
  2. Similar to one, but with a bit of skepticism because you don’t know if the things you know are true or made up. I would prefer two over one.
  3. The positive thing about this one is that it reassures you that you’ve lived into the future. Otherwise it doesn’t give you any insight in life. I think I would prefer three over one for sure though.
  4. I can only say I prefer four because I am in the future looking back into freshman year of college, and my experience turned out well. So I have hindsight bias on this and therefore say yes to four. BUT if the roles were reversed and it’s my future self talking to my current young twenty self, I would hate the uncertainty.

I see, regarding number one, wouldn’t you want to relive some moments of your life, or correct any mistakes you’ve made?
I also cringe at some things I’ve done 5-6 years ago and wish I could go back with my current intelligence and grasp of life, and redo it much better

I think I would like to know how much free will we have in one. Is it if we go back, try to change something as best as we could, it would still have the same result?
Are you allowed to change the future if you know the future? Is the knowledge of the future final?

I guess it may not, but let’s just say the general direction of future will be the same and you’re allowed to change things
Like in certain classes, I regret that I didn’t do things I later thought perfect, and I regret not speaking in perfect English in class discussions.

but I feel like all of these small things are a part of the learning process… to replicate the big things like an interview or a relationship or a friendship would be so hard…
I can only say this because I am happy where I am now that I would not go back and change anything… I would try to relive the same life I’ve predicted because I would want to replicate the results. I don’t think time learning is time wasted…

That’s nice, you remember the the Mirror of Erised in Harry Potter? In the mirror you probably see yourself as is.

I think I see myself in the mirror of Erised in regards to my past self. For my future self I see a big puddle. I don’t know what I desire. Maybe I see a version of myself that I know what I want

That sounds perfectly content to me! What if I tell you, your current self is actually your future self traveling back, like in situation 4? Because currently you have no knowledge of the future, and you don’t know that you’re from the future. Knowing this, will you live your life fuller?

But if I knew I am my future self, then that is just number three

Well you don’t know, that’s why we’re speculating “what if”.

HA. If I chose number four as my future self then everything must have turned out okay
And I will keep living a very good life.

I think these options come with a certain level of confidence. Like if you choose 1 then you are trying to prevent something from happening. If you are 2 you need some handholding to get through life and if you chose 3 it means you need reassurance.

Or reliving moments that can’t be overturned, like seeing a passed loved one again. But that also means you would be traumatized once more if the moment fleets again.

I had a conversation the other day with an author friend and he said in order to experience ultimate happiness you have to accept ultimate pain. You would have to relive all the bad things in order to have all the good things. I was like WOW!

What was the context of this conversation?

He is middle aged so I asked him if he was ever lost in his early twenties. And he told me a story about CS Lewis the writer who fell in love late in life and adored his wife and had a son but then his wife got cancer within the second year of being married and so they just tried to be as happy as they could when they had time together and then when she died he was devastated. But if he had prevented himself from feeling ultimate happiness when she was around in fear of ultimate pain, then he was just grieving preemptively.
I think this story really stuck with me because when I was dating a person, so much of me was already letting go, so I was preemptively grieving for his lost instead of living in the most happy version of our togetherness.

“Grieving preemptively” sounds like progressive nostalgia to me. I forgot about what progressive nostalgia really means in that exhibition in Prato that we went together, so I searched, and interestingly “progressive” means progressive in the political sense. Our memories or at least my memory must have been wrong that I thought progressive means preemptive or anticipated. But I’m pretty sure in one of the books or booklets on the table in the museum mentioned a concept similar to my recollection and understanding.

Just as in my hometown of Nanjing, as my break there draws to a close, conversations invariably shift to one topic: my impending departure. It seems that every discussion revolves around the logistics of packing, making last-minute purchases before returning to a place where everything comes with a hefty price tag, and tying up any remaining loose ends.

Even though my feet are firmly planted on the land I adore, it feels as though my heart and soul have already crossed thousands of miles of ocean, lamenting the loss of these final days. It's as if I've already departed, experiencing the melancholiness of nostalgia already.
And in the last few days I’m actually in my hometown, I can’t think of anything else other than my departure as well. I can’t truly and thoroughly enjoy things as much as when it’s just midsummer, and my heart is filled with the anticipated departure. Every visit feels like a goodbye.

But would I not return home even knowing that this anticipated nostalgia will fill my heart? I would still go home and enjoy my time with family and friends! So I relate to your writer friend so much. If you keep thinking about leaving… I don’t blame this on you. How can you truly enjoy complete happiness when you know deep down that you’re gonna leave eventually?

This is so beautiful. I have invisible tears in the office space on a Monday morning. I love this so much. I agree that preemptive grieving and progressive nostalgia live in the same family. But for some reason progressive nostalgia is more distant because it is the anticipation of feeling nostalgic in the future for the past, versus preemptive grieving is less distant- it is missing the loss of something while in the moment.

But they both are reflective feeling of something that has yet to happen. I am so excited that your first project is about progressive nostalgia. Progressive is definitely not in the literal political term- it is very much the concept of something moving forward while we still reside in a singular static space. Your running metaphor is exactly the mental timeline progressive nostalgia resides in.


And going off of the topic, I do feel like sometimes I’m acting like a caricature, or the personality of a side character, and I was wondering if that undermines my protagonist-ness in any way, if that makes sense. Sometimes I’m able to separate my mind from my action and behavior as if I’m looking at myself from above, and observe myself as if I'm analyzing a character.

Yes that makes perfect sense. Sometimes you do that as a main character. When confusing things happen I look up from a distance and think of my life as a story, and I am a character in the story and how interesting is life’s twists and turns!

I think it has to do with being an artist because you are not only the main character but also the subject to your inspiration. Making autobiographical comics is a form of removing yourself from your actual being and putting it into a character on paper, who thinks and does the actions you do, but at the end of the day, is a removal of yourself from the physical body. That might contribute to why we view ourselves in this removed manner.

This is extremely insightful. I remember the time when I did autobiographical comic (I call it the comic diary) or when I was writing about my life, I was wondering if some of my actions are truthfully portrayed, or artistically fictionalized to be a character; and that was carried into my real life, as I observed that I act in a way like a character that’s adaptable in artistic or literary work, as if I was preparing myself for a smoother process for artistic creation later. That’s my moment of otherness and removal from the self.

Yes exactly! I try to write myself in my comics in the most honest way possible, but at the same time, it is a fictionalized version of my experience, and that’s why others think it is interesting to read because it’s an observation through my lens but in my head I was just documenting my truth. In some ways it is a removal of self, this storytelling form, even if I am trying to tell the story as accurately as possible- but it filters through perception and memory loss, so it is actually very different from the original experience that happened.

I know! I also have a similar experience when documenting my dreams; I take the role of an observer of my brain while living through the reality it created. sometimes I need to use my imagination to fill some gaps that are illogical or that I simply don’t remember (I try to retain the weirdly fun logic of the dreams in my documentation, but sometimes I need to speculate a reason in order for the writing to make sense). That’s a relevant but very different topic tho