It’s said that if it doesn’t open, it’s not your door. While I understand the meaning of the expression, it’s not necessarily the best metaphor I’ve ever heard to explain that what is meant for us will come to us- and what isn’t, won’t. Because the reality is that we will open many doors in our lives. Sometimes we’ll discover lives and loves that enhance our lives, and sometimes we’ll discover that the door we opened is a threshold we would have been better not to cross. Some doors need keys in the form of education, experience, or simply being in the right place at the right time. Other doors should be locked firmly behind us, never to be entered again, once we realize that they aren’t for us. Those doors can hold toxic relationships, poor choices, and cycles of abuse to ourselves or others.
Whether or not the door opens has nothing to do with whether it is or isn’t for us. Oftentimes, we don’t know what is for us until we try it. For instance, I earned a Master’s of Arts degree in Community Counseling. I wanted to be a counselor because I’m passionate about helping others. It wasn’t until I was in the field that I realized that it wasn’t a good fit for me. That was after a 4 year undergraduate degree and the 3 years of graduate school, which included an internship in the field. It’s not that I wasn’t good at my work; I simply realized that in addition to wanting to help people, I have a bit of a rescue complex. Therapists aren’t meant to save others; they are, instead, meant to facilitate other people saving themselves. I found that it was emotionally draining, and having to be on call around the clock for my clients was preventing me from building the life that I needed. I chose self-care instead, leaving the profession to explore a passion that wouldn’t leave me depleted. That’s how I became a writer, although it was quite a bit more round about than that.
In fact, I opened a variety of doors between leaving counseling and committing to being a writer. I tried out a variety of roles, not trusting myself to depend entirely on the income from a creative life. I wrote in the evenings, around working and caring for my children as a single mother. It was a hobby, at first, a passion I could afford to indulge in during my spare time. Then, it became something more. But I didn’t immediately go from a counselor to a writer, and all the doors I opened presented me with different opportunities. I learned a variety of skills and befriended a number of people I likely wouldn’t have met otherwise. It was necessary for me to open all the wrong doors to lead me to the right ones.
I think that we often hold unforgiveness and shame for the wrong doors we’ve chosen in our lives. We think that we should have known better and chosen better. We look at our lives and wonder what might have been if we’d been a bit smarter the first time around. We see all the red flags to bad jobs and wrong relationships but only with the benefit of hindsight. We even look back and regret the wasted years where we killed time in bad marriages or jobs we loathed.
The truth is that we needed all of those choices to come to where we are now. Maybe our wrong doors weren’t wrong at the time. Perhaps they simply propelled us down a new path where we would make new choices. I’ve found those wrong doors can teach us about ourselves if we’re open to learning from them. After a recent wrong door, I learned that I need stronger boundaries in relationships. It was a lesson learned the hard way, but it was still a lesson. It’s also an opportunity for me to choose differently in the future.
What’s meant for us will happen. What’s not meant will never be ours. But all of those wrong doors may be just what we need at that moment in time. Maybe they’re not wrong at all. Instead of regretting all of the things that didn’t work out, we can make the most of each “wrong door” opportunity. We can form strong connections with others and learn a little more about ourselves. If we keep learning and growing, one day we’re going to find the doors we need.