Vidakovich column: ‘The Midnight Library’ is a good read
In Matt Haig’s book, “The Midnight Library,” a middle-aged woman named Nora Seed is quite unhappy with the direction of her life and several of the regrettable decisions from her past that have come back to haunt her present, time and time again. Following a string of unfortunate events, including the death of her beloved cat, Nora decides she has had enough of this world.
For Nora, though, even the decision to take her own life ends up in failure. Instead of being permanently free from her miserable earthly existence, she finds herself accompanied by her old high school librarian, Mrs. Elm, in an expansive and dimly lit building called the Midnight Library.
Mrs. Elm, who Nora shared many after-school days with in the library playing chess, explains to her old student that she now occupies a place between life and death, in which every book on the dusty shelves represents a unique life for Nora, based on the many different choices she made in her life that played out in an infinite number of ways and affected many other people’s lives with both positive and negative outcomes.
Nora now finds herself in the envious position of being able to go back in time to younger years and find out how many of the paths she chose not to follow would have turned out.
With Mrs. Elm’s guiding hand, Nora begins to pluck the volumes from the shelves of the Midnight Library that represent some of her biggest regrets. Nora’s travels in what Mrs. Elm calls the parallel universe, take her first to the man who she left at the alter, and to a person who had little interest in carving out time for his wife to fit his busy lifestyle. Then she experiences the lavish life of a rock star and realizes that fortune and fame would not have suited her well after all.
Nora’s biggest regret was giving up a promising swimming career as a young girl to have more time for regular things and to live the days of an average teenager. Her father was devastated when Nora gave up the aquatic sport that held so much promise for her, and in her travel back in time, Nora discovers that several Olympic medals were hers for the taking. But still, with the option to stay in any of the lives she chooses, Nora always returns to the Midnight Library and Mrs. Elm.
I won’t elaborate on how the book ends for those of you who haven’t read it, but as Nora’s choices dwindle from the shelves, the Midnight Library begins to disintegrate, taking Mrs. Elm and Nora along with it.
In the end, Nora realizes that she is exactly where she is supposed to be, and the life that seemed so bad just a short while ago, bad enough to try and end her life, was filled with many more blessings than she could count. Nora realizes now that the biggest gift is that of life.
Personally, and probably much like you, I still find myself wasting time and energy reflecting on some of the decisions that did not turn out as planned. Most of mine thankfully are related to the relatively unimportant arena of sport.
Leaving the basketball program at Mesa College and a couple of high school friends, especially one, behind simply because I missed home remains paramount in my thoughts. I sometimes think if I keep beating myself up on things that I failed at, it will make it OK by serving some kind of penance. It doesn’t work that way.
There were a bunch of kids in an elementary school and a high school basketball team in Montrose who depended on me for leadership and guidance. My decision to pack up in mid-year and quit on them still grates at my soul and spirit, but I can’t change it. Sorry is an overused word that rarely corrects a misstep.
Like Nora, maybe in the end we all realize we’re exactly where we are supposed to be, surrounded by those who truly care about us.
There really are no bad decisions. I guess it’s just what you make of the path you choose to follow. Just keep remembering that today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.
Glenwood Springs native Mike Vidakovich is a freelance sports writer and youth sports coach. His column appears on occasion in the Post Independent and at PostIndependent.com.
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