Time Travel and Discontinuity

Time travel can be an incredibly fulfilling pastime if performed in moderation. However, without appropriate care, it can wreak havoc on relationships among friends and family.

Your friends and family are probably unaware of your adventures, since many “practical” people would disapprove of such reckless behavior. This often leads to the time traveler leading a double life of sorts. First and foremost, I must advise that if one has dependents, the responsible time traveler needs to consider his or her responsibilities at home before rushing off on what are often relatively dangerous adventures.

Time travel, at best can leave one a bit estranged, and at its worst, can leave one depressed with feelings that nothing really matters. We will deal with the latter issue of time travel induced depression at another time, and focus for the moment on estrangement.

The first problem one encounters is that of discontinuity. While the rest of the world is moving forward in linear time, the time traveler is typically inserting periods of time (often large) into what others perceived as their daily life. A time traveler who has just spent two weeks in ancient Greece is apt to forget that lunchtime conversation that he or she had with a colleague just two days ago, or forget that he or she promised to do a favor after a phone conversation just last night. After time, those around us tend to see us as unfocused, forgetful, undependable, or downright daft.

The only solution to this problem is to keep detailed records of conversations and happenings. That way a traveler will be able to refresh one’s memory after a long trip, and remember that important conversation or promise. Without careful organization, one’s reputation as a dependable person will begin to suffer surprisingly rapidly.

The second problem is that one’s body changes in time. Your hair grows. Yet gain or lose weight. You get tan or fade. It is very suspicious to go to bed at night and to wake up with a tan. This is a very delicate point that takes some planning. Fortunately, with the advent of tanning salons, one can rely on plausible deniability. Men should be mindful of the state of their facial hair. And one must be careful not to gain or lose too much weight on a trip.

These issues can be exacerbated over extended travels, or even if one partakes in a great number of short journeys. I once knew of a young man from New Jersey who in his early thirties lived with his mother. She nagged incessantly, and as a form of escape, the young man would time travel to exotic locales for days on end. He drank heavily on his trips and the fact that he was away 7 days every other day caught up with him. His mother saw him gain weight at an excessive rate. The end result of their dysfunctional relationship was that he had aged almost 10 years in one year of her life. She begged for him to see a doctor, and her persistence only served to drive him further away and for longer. After five years he had aged almost 30 years. The effect was noticeable to everyone as this 35 year old man now carried the burden of 60+ years of life. His doctors were baffled and were convinced that he had some sort of syndrome. His mother was heartbroken and distraught. He was so out of touch with his own time, that he was unable to function. And one day he simply disappeared. Whether he met his demise during one of his trips, simply died of old age, or just never came back, no one ever knew.

Such stories, of varying degree, are not uncommon among time travelers. Rapid aging, changes in personality, the rapid acquisition of some obscure skill or knowledge all alert others to irregularities in lifestyle. Simply put, close relationships cannot be effectively maintained unless one’s partner is aware of, and supports (or partakes in) one’s time travel adventures.

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