My Midnight Museum
It’s been a couple of days since I turned the last page of Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library. I was left alone in awe, sitting on the edge of my bed feeling a little more empty but a lot more fulfilled. This book….. was something.
It’s been a while since the last time I finished a fiction. I’ve been pretty pretentious in my book selection, burying myself in a pool of self-help books that I only managed to read halfway. A good year has passed since I last picked up a piece of literature that effortlessly kept me reading all day. This book had me glued to its pages. Not only because of how enjoyable the words were but mostly because of the idea of it…. a realm between life and death that allows you to pick and choose a version of life. Your life. An infinite choice of your life if you had made a different decision each day. Big or small. The idea of it, to say the least, is entertaining.
Matt Haig is a man of talent, but more so what I envy most is his wild ability to imagine. Growing up in a religious household, death isn’t necessarily my favorite topic of choice. The after-life, as clear as it is vague, is never really a part of my daydreams. I guess a part of me felt lucky to have entered this imaginative realm through a couple of hundred pages. I felt privileged to have walked by Nora Seed’s side along in her adventure. Picking and choosing a different life each time before she is launched back to life.
I finished this book feeling like it did more than just entertain me. I was left imagining… asking myself what if, just what if, we all have our own Midnight Library? What would mine look like? Which different decision would I have made? What choice could I have possibly made differently that could lead me to my own version of a bear encounter in Svalbard? The thoughts were itching my brain.
Now, I have to say, I am nowhere near the state Nora Seed was in. I am at a moment in life where I feel the most loved. I hardly feel lonely, and even when I am alone there’s a certain bliss that comes with it. I am enjoying what I am blessed with, so I am not too sure what my book of regrets will be filled with. I mean sure, I have a bunch of regrets. But for the most of it, I’ve come around to accept that it happened for a reason. I couldn’t have done things differently…. I don’t think. But what if I did?
I imagine if I did get the chance to enter that realm, float a little between life and death where the clock doesn’t tick past midnight, where would I find myself? Nora had her library, Hugo had his video game store, and me? I don’t expect myself to wake up anywhere if not in a museum. The joy of being surrounded by masterpieces. Its shapes, colors, textures, light, darkness, pain, bliss, and the silence of sheer appreciation. I wouldn’t have wanted anything if not to walk myself into an art installment that transports me into a new piece of my life.
In her midnight library, Nora had her librarian, Mrs. Elm, who was a kind and warm figure from her root life that would help her explore the possibilities that the realm has to offer. I had to think a little harder about my version of Mrs. Elm. Out of all the beings that I have encountered, who would be my librarian? And well I guess in my scenario, my tour guide?
You see, relationships become a lot more complicated as we grow older. I don’t believe there could be one truly impactful person in our adult life that isn’t in any way complex. A simple person that brings you immense comfort without any hint of pain, worry, or sorrow? It feels like satire to even consider that possibility. Considering my options, my best guess for my midnight tour guide would be someone from my childhood that I have kept dearly in my heart but hardly connect with today. Someone simple, that I remembered has only shown kindness and brought me joy. Someone pleasant with a lot of warmth. Someone with a certain distance, but was close enough to care. Someone delightful like my second-grade teacher, Ms. Milda.
My memories of her are as vivid as it is blurred. I remember I had stopped by a couple of times at her house near my school. I would just stay there to hang out, which — I know — screams big teacher’s pet energy and huge ass-kissing game, but I guess as a kid I genuinely enjoyed her company. I couldn't remember much of the things she said or the activities we had done together, it was well over fifteen years ago. But even with my fragmented memory, I can remember well her warmth and kindness. It was one of that warmth that could keep you toasty for well over a lifetime. And in a realm that floats between life and death, her warmth seems necessary.
So if I was to wake up and find myself in a midnight museum, guided by my second-grade teacher, walking through a hall filled with art pieces that could transport me to an alternative version of my life, which version would I jump into? What big or small decision would I have done differently? Could my life possibly be better if I had decided to stay home instead of going out? Would it matter if I had decided to pick a different studio to live in when I was studying abroad? What if I had been honest? What if I had lied? How much would it matter? How differently would life be if I had decided to stick to Vocal for my Music, Art, and Theatre elective until I graduate? What if I had 2 shots instead of 5? What if I didn’t care? What if I cared more? What if I showed up that Tuesday? What if I never said I love you back? What if I said it earlier? What if I did it? What if I didn’t? What if… what if… what if….? I am forever left to wonder.
Aside from the gripping storyline, the thing that amuses me most from this book is the rationale behind this irrationality. Haig was strict with the idea that you can control your choices, your actions, your decisions — you can choose to do whatever differently. But the thing that is out of our control in real-life — the outcome of these decisions — stays out of our control. It was the perfect embodiment of “be careful what you wish for” transcending into “you can’t always get what you want, but you’ll get what you need”.
I am still left wondering, in awe, and almost envious of this piece of art. There is a lot of joy in life, but finishing a book that lets your mind wander and leaves your heart bursting is one of the toughest joys to beat. So I guess thank you, Matt. I have enjoyed walking alongside Nora Seed in between the realms. Maybe one day if I find myself waking up in my version of your fiction, I’ll let you know how it went.