The Midnight Library

Every time I get done with a major item on my list, my entire routine goes for a toss. Take my recently completed GRE for example. I hadn’t been studying for it too hard, but ever since I’ve gotten done with it, I have been feeling listless. I don’t have a routine anymore – no list of youtube videos on GRE preparation to get me through my day. I hated preparing for it, but now that I am done with it, I kind of miss it. I wish I had studied a bit harder. Given the chance to do it again, I know I would act in exactly the same way I did the first time round. That still doesn’t stop me from harbouring teeny-tiny regrets in my chest. Not just about the GRE though, about almost everything in my life.

But at least, until now that is, I don’t have any major regrets in life. I wonder what would count as a major regret in life. I’ve started thinking along these lines after I read ‘The Midnight Library‘. It is a book about a library the protagonist visits after she tries to kill herself as she hangs in an in-between state of limbo. The library is full of never ending shelves, all stocked to the brim with innumerable books. Every book contains one of the infinite lives the protagonist could have had if she had taken different decisions. It isn’t just about the bigger decisions, but about every day decisions. In any day, you will have a number of small decisions and every time you decide to act in one way instead of another, you will change the direction of your life. It is kind of like what that motivational speaker said – you are one decision away from the kind of life you want.

But the book wasn’t about building a dream life alone. It was a little bit about that, but not entirely. The book talks about how all of our other lives are happening simultaneously. I think they tried to incorporate concepts from quantum physics and talk about stuff like the multiverse – but the author doesn’t spend too much time on it. The main idea, from what I could tell, was that you harbour all these regrets in your heart, when in fact, regardless of the outcome you would probably have turned out to be the same kind of person. Like, I could go through life thinking it turned out to be so trashy because I went to law school instead of medical school, and then live my entire life in misery under the weight of this one mega incorrect decision (or so I think), when the reality is that I would probably have been unsatisfied in a life where I went to medical school too. Your outcomes may differ, but a desired outcome may not necessarily make you as happy as you think it will. The appeal of each option then, is that it remains untested.

I liked this way of looking at things. I didn’t enjoy the book too much on the whole. I thought it felt a little forced in parts. But I liked the idea that you shouldn’t spend too much time thinking about all the different regrets you have or how differently you could have lived life if one random thing had gone a certain way…in the end it might all amount to the same thing. A little fatalistic, but just the kind of vibe I was looking for this week.

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