“When one door of happiness closes, another opens, but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us.”
— Helen Keller
Life can be described as a series of doors and passageways that lead us to new and unknown places. As they swing open and close, some of these doors invite us in only to swiftly kick us out. Other doors may take us someplace where we are kept lingering for what seems a long times. Whatever, we can be sure that no two doors are the same; each opens for a particular reason and brings its own unique life lessons. Some serve a symbolic purpose. For example, receiving the key to open a door can signify a change in status, perspective, self-awareness, and provide a general feeling of inner growth.
With a distinct sense of warmth and an abundance of happy feelings, some doors open to all things pleasurable. They lead to passageways that you wish could last forever. Other doors, however, may appear dark and dreary. They may fill us with a distinct sense of pain and unhappiness, so deep and overwhelming it may seem impossible to overcome. Despite feeling not so pleasant, this type of door presents a greater purpose when we are open to learning a critically important lesson. A lesson that is vital if we are to move forward, to a new phase in our lives. As difficult as these times are to endure, they present us with an opportunity to enrich our lives. They are not doors to be feared.
We pass through such doors throughout our lives. Some open freely to us, whilst others remain stubbornly closed, leaving us feeling frustrated and uncertain. Some doors surrounding us may be yet to present themselves. These doors will only open when we are ready to receive the lessons they offer or the challenges they present. There’s more to a door conceptually than we may see. Yet, the act of moving through an open door and acknowledging the closure of another door, unbeknown to many of us, plays out continuously, from the day we are born.
Consider the quote by Helen Keller (1880-1968). Helen was a political activist, author and human rights advocate. Sadly, as a result of childhood illness, Helen was left blind and deaf from a very young age. However, the loss of sight and hearing did not deter her from working hard and continuing to appreciate the very things she could no longer see or hear. Instead, the obstacles she faced drove her to work even harder to overcome the great adversities. When the time was right, all of her hard work and persistence paid off. A life transition began to take place. Doors began to open, one after the other. Suddenly, Helen’s life presented endless opportunities. Reading Helen’s story inspired me with this idea of doors and passageways that lead us through various positive and challenging stages of life to fruition.
If, like me, you want to sit and contemplate Helen’s quote, allow time for the meaning to sink in, and you will experience a lightbulb moment of understanding. To more fully appreciate this inspirational woman and how her life story unfolded, I delved a little deeper. I discovered that Helen Keller symbolised the human spirit; she was a person who despite having the odds stacked against her, continued to overcome obstacles that life insistently threw her way.
Despite losing the senses of sight and hearing as a very young child, Helen worked tirelessly to adapt and grow in the face of unthinkable hardship. She held the firm belief that doors are highly representative of the experiences and challenges faced by us within our lives. This powerful quote suggests what is not essential in our lives should be left behind without regret or a lingering sense of yearning for it to return. Accordingly, as individuals, this quote suggests that looking forward towards the future is far more beneficial. That is, it is best to move on in pursuit of another door containing the next of life’s lessons. New doors will always emerge before us, probably when we least expect them, sometimes when we are most in need of them, but always when we are most prepared for what they have in store for us. Switching doors may mean we’ll soon find ourselves heading in a completely different direction to where we were previously headed, but on a path, that is for a good reason.
Life Beyond 2020
As a society living throughout a prolonged time of immeasurable change, sadness and distress, our ability to overcome hardships and obstacles has been tested in 2020. In line with Helen Keller’s wisdom, we have two clear choices.
- We can accept the current circumstances (as hard as that is to do), follow the directive, and maintain a sense of gratitude for what we do have. By taking this path, we’ll be considering our health and well being. Importantly, we’ll also be considerating the health and wellbeing of society in general. We may also emerge from the other end sooner.
- We can resist – the options here are endless but not desirable.
- We can complain
- Attend protests
- Leave our home following a positive COVID-19 test
- Burn our masks
- Give the police a hard time and
- Vilify the people who ultimately, believe they are acting in our best interests (whether this is true or not).
In the second scenario, we are putting the health and wellbeing of everyone at risk. We are also doing everything we can to ensure this cycle of lockdown continues.
The choice seems obvious. Yet some people will continue to choose the second door. Glancing backwards, seeking that old door containing our past, the way we remember life to be, and insisting the life we’ve had little choice but to leave behind is our right and should re-open immediately. There’s no denying, this scenario would be all of our dreams coming true at once. A world with no restrictions and no COVID-19 would be amazingly exciting. Unfortunately, such a scenario is highly unlikely to eventuate.
Looking back at the life of Helen Keller and the immense loss she would have most certainly felt on all levels (physical, social, emotional and cognitive), maybe we can learn from her. As was the case with Helen’s sight and hearing, the life we previously enjoyed isn’t coming back. COVID-19 will continue to impact our lives for an unknown period. Scientists are working tirelessly to produce a vaccine to lessen the risks. Where does this leave us? What steps should we take next?
Helen Keller is a prime example of how beneficial it can be to adopt the right attitude, maintain a sense of determination, work hard and be flexible. In doing so, she overcame great misfortune; but it would be untrue to suggest she accomplished this alone. With the help of another great individual, Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller learnt a new method of reading, writing and communicating. She went on to complete university, published several books that to this very day, continue to be a source of inspiration. Helen became a significant voice behind the American Foundation for the Blind, advocating and paving the way, not only for greater understanding but also real tangible help and change. Helen quite literally, opened doors that led her to a new way of living. Maybe her most significant achievement, was that she inspired a great many people who may not have otherwise received such opportunities in life. And so, with all of her achievements, one message comes through repeatedly, loud and clear. The person who ends up happy is the one who adapts best to changing situations.
Execution of plans always encounters difficulties. A successful person must be able to adapt. Maybe by applying a similar way of thinking, to the challenges we have faced throughout 2020, may see us living in a world that is significantly different from the one we knew before the pandemic. Maybe there won’t be such a strong sense of frustration and anger. If this idea of always moving forward through a never-ending series of doorways became a well-known concept, I wonder, would we continue to witness the same old and sometimes irrational behaviours? Would we continue to see the ongoing occurrence of protests, during a time of high vulnerability, protests that ultimately are dangerous and irresponsible? The same chain of thought may apply to the act of rioting. Would we be witnessing an increase in this reckless behaviour? Does the act of rioting, represent the act of taking positive steps forward, or dwelling on past mistakes? In light of the quote, ‘when one door opens, another closes’, I think our world will be a very different if we focus on what lies ahead of us, rather than what’s done and dusted.
If Helen Keller were here today, I feel strongly that we’d be encouraged to stop looking back. Give no more attention to that dreaded door through which COVID-19 sneakily travelled a few long months ago. Instead, focus on moving forward and discovering what the next door leads us to, will better serve all of us. Stop the blame game, stop the objecting and abusive demeanour, and let our real potential shine through.