During the transition from junior high to high school, my principal emphasized the need to “keep your doors open.” When my mom heard this phrase, she glommed on pretty quickly. (Side note: Microsoft Office seems to agree that “glommed” is actually a word, and I’m a bit surprised.)
Our principal wanted us – for example – to take all the sciences we might possibly need, rather than just following through on the one discipline we liked best. And so, I took three years of chemistry, physics, and biology along with several other optional classes, rather than getting any spare blocks of time in my schedule. In the following two decades, I did not use any of the science courses, but that didn’t stop my mom from repeating the “keep your doors open” mantra whenever she thought it might fit. And I have to admit the philosophy has served me well.
As a short list of examples: Keeping my doors open meant I was able to turn my final undergraduate work placement into a lasting job – not just here in Calgary, but also in the U.K. Keeping doors open meant that when I bought a condo, I chose one that let me keep small enough mortgage payments to continue affording all kinds of travel and fun. Keeping my doors open also led me to a network of people who helped me land a life-changing job in the social sector. And then a few years later, as I shared in an earlier post, keeping my doors open saw me find a way to combine all my previous work experience.
But before we go giving my principal and mom too much credit, I have to admit there have been some tougher aspects to the “doors open” policy.
It’s possible, for example, that a lifelong refusal to commit to a cell phone contract has cost me some money. More seriously, anyone who knows my dating life has probably wondered a couple of times why I’ve kept some of those doors open…long after others would have shut and locked them. Generally speaking, I’ve probably spent far too much time wondering if I’ve chosen well in most aspects of life. I don’t think I’m alone in this existential angst, but I do wonder if my need to keep doors open has made decisions harder than they needed to be.
On the other hand, perhaps it’s all just a matter of timing. Seemingly out of the blue, I began realizing in the last year or two that I want to be in Calgary. Not in-and-out of Calgary (as has been my longing for at least a decade) – but just in Calgary. I wanted a house, even if it meant a bigger mortgage. I wanted a job that would be fulfilling, but also one I could go to on a fairly routine schedule. In short, rather than worrying about settling, I started to understand what it might mean to feel settled.
I’m not entirely there yet – and maybe never will be – but a few months ago, I sold my condo and later bought a 1950s house in a neighbourhood full of other 1950s houses. I kept my financial doors open by inviting a friend to rent the basement suite.
I bike, walk, or bus to work, and I listen to podcasts en route so I can learn from parts of the world I can’t experience firsthand. I no longer fumble over what to say when someone at the office wants to talk about the future of my career.
I still don’t have a cell phone contract. But I’m in touch with people from all previous stages of life and work, and I love hearing their ideas for themselves, or me, or us. But I no longer hear these ideas and feel compelled to try pursuing all of them. In fact, it’s far more likely you’ll find me in my new backyard, wandering around in amazement that I appear to be growing approximately 3.5 strawberries.
Like my doormat says in the photo for this post, this must be the place. If I can’t keep all the doors open for all the time (and I suspect both my mom and principal would say they never expected me to take the message quite so far), I’m pretty happy with this door. When it closes behind me each day, the questions about whether I should be somewhere else have faded to soft whispers.