The Midnight Library and The Book of Regrets

Summer is almost here. For the last few summers, this time comes with a body full of regret. I’ve never called it regret because, in my head, if you make “poor” decisions as an inherently damaged person, they aren’t regrets…they just get added as more proof of just how flawed you are. I know that may sound odd and I’m not really sure where it comes from but it is a deeply rooted belief I haven’t quite been able to shake.

One of my summertime regret is around our camper. It’s a nice camper…still like-new after a handful of years of ownership. When I bought the camper, it was an upgrade from a model that was a few years old, also still in excellent shape with features we love like an amazing stereo, cool lights, a bathroom with a shower, and a lot more. We used it a lot and it was plenty good for our needs.

Prior to that, I had purchased a bare-bones pop-up so we could just “try it out.” I referred to it as one step above a tent. It had nothing but a couple of beds, a table, counters, and a door. It had been very well-loved. We got it mid-season and used it a few times…enough to feel like this is awesome but a little more comfort would be nice.

And then I decided to upgrade to the second model and then one more time to a brand new camper with even nicer features…the one we have today.

We used it a lot the first couple of years…just like the first two campers we had. But then we just got kind of tired of the process. Storage/getting it for a long weekend was harder. Hooking it up, driving with it, setting it up, taking it down, etc. for a long weekend…it just got to be a bit much and we weren’t in love with it so much anymore. Plus my daughter got a cabin so we tend to go there for the weekends when we want to get away. I’ve lent it out a couple of times but that’s it. It just sits.

But I’m still making payments. And that’s where the regret comes in. At the time I purchased it, I thought I had sufficient “proof” that it was a good purchase. We camped regularly and this would make everything just that much better. Yet, here we sit…us in one place and the camper in another, barely even being looked at except to sit for a moment in that pile of shame. I’d consider selling but I think I’m upside down in that loan and it’s easier to just keep paying…besides, who knows, maybe I’ll want to camp again one day. I do frequently dream of a life on the road but right now that doesn’t fit our lifestyle.

Then I read The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. And my world changed. An Amazon Editor had this to say about the book:

With insights both simple and profound, The Midnight Library explores the choices we make and taking the bitter with the sweet.”

Vannessa Cronin

For the last few years, when I look at that camper, I only saw those payments I was still making and the lack of use. I only saw another bad decision I’d made in my life. I only saw the money I was “throwing away.” For some reason, that often clouds my vision and all the good fades away into nothing…sometimes unable to retrieve even if I try really hard. I know they are there but I can’t locate them.

After reading this book, all of a sudden I only saw the memories made. The really great memories we made over the years…many of them…

Our first camping trip in the second camper was to a state park. It was a beautiful park and we had this perfect spot…tucked away in a corner with a lot of privacy but next to a trail that provided just enough hi’s and how are ya’s to remind us we weren’t alone. The trail was lined with Trillium, a beautiful little flower, in full bloom. We relaxed by the fire, hiked, and watched a presentation about owls (I love learning new facts) throughout the weekend.

Our main hike was on the trail next to our camping spot. We set out with a map and destination. Somehow, along the way (we still can’t figure out how it happened), we lost our path. The trail always looked the same but we must have veered off because, all of a sudden, the trail ended at the river’s edge. We had ended up on an animal trail and had no idea where we were in the midst of some pretty thick trees.

After a bit of panic, thinking this was how we were going to die…deep in the woods…and me being upset at the lack of snacks I brought for the occasion; we hear voices up a hill. We yelled up to them that we were lost and could they keep talking so we could follow the sound of their voice to make our way out. They gladly obliged and, thanks to the kindness of strangers, we are alive today to talk about it.

We still laugh about it. As scary as it was for a moment in time, we weren’t really in any danger and the memories always bring a smile to my face.

I have lots of stories…memories…of camping. Some just Chip (my husband) and I. Some with friends and family. Some in the heart of nature and some in a casino parking lot.

And that’s what I see today. I see those memories. I laugh. I smile. Even at the ones that weren’t great. Because they’ve added value to my life. I wouldn’t want those memories to disappear and the campers made it possible. They say people come into our lives for either a reason, a season or a lifetime. Maybe this applies to everything, not just people. If you asked me now if I regret the choice I made with our latest camper, my response would be no. The regret I felt is gone. It feels neutralized. No longer is the purchase a good or bad one and no longer am I good or bad for having made it. I only see the richness having it added to my life and I’m grateful for that.