Sometimes I think of my life as a long hallway of doors.
I don’t know why, but my hallway isn’t overly bright and all of the doors look really different (think: conglomerate of styles and shapes, like a slapdash door museum).
Certain doors are opened for you. I think I can make the argument that the culture and religion you are raised in slips the keys to those doors on your key ring. Throughout childhood, you accrue more keys to more doors. It’s interesting and simple, unlocking all of those doors and going into all of the rooms opened to you by location, your family structure, wealth or poverty, the generation you happened to be born into, and so on.
As I get older, I’ve started walking past old doors. Some I’ve even locked back up and slipped the key underneath. With more discrimination, I started turning different handles and searching for the matching key. I went to college. I moved to Minnesota. I walked down hallways. Sometimes I get lucky and stumble upon the key I want, sometimes I have to earn it, some I’m patiently waiting for.
Some rooms open into other rooms, especially as you travel further down the hallway. In my life, the running door led me to the trail running room, led to races, led to best friends, led to travel, ultimately led to a new culture of health, which led to more rooms. More doors. More keys to find. Some friends led to other places and I had to retrace my steps. Some rooms led to different cities, and different cities are each their own hallway, too.
As I get older (and because in this age information is plentiful and accessible), the magnitude of this infrastructure rattles my skull. Should I go down the hallway of mountaineering, of having kids, of waitressing in Portland, of volunteering overseas, of pursuing a doctorate, of moving to Alaska, of, of, of.
Relationships – who you socialize with and how you judge yourself – open and close doors. Intellect, courage, and experiences, too, as vague as that sounds. I don’t want to go back into the hospital room with a sanitized bed. I want to go down the doors that lead mountain peaks and hidden lakes. I loved the door that led me to the wrought iron railings of the French Quarter. I grew tired of walking down the door that led me downtown.
There are doors I wished I’d walked further down and doors I wished I’d left alone. Doors I’ve gone back to, only to find the handle locked.
I’m not sure that the goal is to unlock every single one. Enlightenment isn’t omniscient. There is prudence to this process. I don’t believe there are right doors or wrong doors. I don’t know how you would judge something like that; it would have to be very personal and very biased. I think the goal (for me, at least) is to find the doors that lead me to my values, to health and happiness.
But every few weeks, or months, I have the same existential crisis. I slam all the doors and run back to the start. We have this one life, and it is terribly short. It seems important to me to go down the best hallway.
This is where it gets grey. Or gray. Both. This is where I start to go back (ironic, no? Start to go back) and define my needs, my wants, my ambitions, my skills. I try to map out the blueprint and measure everything from my start and remember the way to get there. I’m so afraid that if I deter (even though it’s hard to deter from a map that doesn’t exist), I’ll wind up deluded. I know I’m following something.
Delusion is the Tim Burton room that locks behind you when you enter it. Have you ever seen someone’s life disintegrate because they refused to turn around in the hallway they were in? I’d bet most of us have. It hurts.
I’m terrified of making the same mistake. Of going down the wrong hallway for too long until you can’t remember how to get back. It seems to me that one doorway might lead to another hallway, another relationship, another experience, and down the maze until you dead end.
To complicate it further, I believe that the hallway you started in isn’t necessarily the best hallway for you to continue down. The start isn’t the answer, nor the end (not unless you embrace the religion or culture piece). In this era, fewer and fewer of us do. We are no longer confined to our location, our social milieu, our economic status. Depending how you interpret it, this can be an advantage or a disadvantage to our mapping.
The feelings sometimes grow overwhelming and constricting. Making decisions and trying handles, fumbling through pockets stuffed with key rings makes me crazy. I forget where I am or how I got there and panic because I can’t look at the big picture. I am the mouse in the maze.