I finished Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library over the weekend, just in time for the book club this week. Non-genre fiction is not normally my thing, but this was recommended by a friend, and it turned out to be a bit more piquant for me than, say, a Jonathan Franzen novel might have. Reading it at a turning point in my life a few weeks after retirement landed the story closer to home, as did some personal history.
Without diving into the dreary details, suffice sot say that I once had cause to speak to someone very dear to me about regrets. They wanted no regrets in life. I opined that there was no such thing as a life without regrets, that we make so many choices each day, and that the hardest choices we have to make are not between good and bad options, but between good and good ones. If we cannot avoid regrets, at least we have the power to choose them. What separates those of us who are crippled by what-ifs from those who are not is the possession of a North Star, a guiding light that allows us to discern which choices bring to us the fulfillment we need (which is too often different from what we think we need in the moment.)
Setting The Midnight Library down with that end-of-book exhale, I realized Haig had taken me, via the life of Nora Seed, to the next step: those of us who have come by our regrets honestly, following our souls rather than our lusts or avarice, may find that our regrets are so much bunkum, either artifacts of of self-doubt, shortsightedness, or a bit of both. Whatever their provenance, regrets are little more than deadweight save for their ability to serve as guardrails for the choices we make going forward. If they can guide us on a better path, great. If not, they serve no useful purpose and should be ejected.
I say this as a man in possession of a suitcase of regrets, so I am overdue to take the medicine Haig seems to prescribe. I’ll take a hard pass on Nora’s path, though. I have decided instead to exorcise my demons via poetry, writing a verse paean to each regret, cherishing it, and tattooing its lesson into my soul before casting it to the winds.