Another rejection letter in my inbox begins like all the others that came before, “WE ARE NOT TAKING UNSOLICITED SUBMISSIONS AT THIS TIME.” I feel a bit numb but try to stay optimistic that eventually I will get my essays in front of the right people, and the right opportunity will present itself. I immediately call a friend for a distraction from the creeping eddy of self-pity, or at the very least, company as I drown in self-doubt.
My dearest friend who is a deep well of proverbs and inspirational quotes delivers. “When one door closes another one opens,” she says encouragingly. I will myself to listen to her inspiring words with an open heart, but my mind lingers on the insipid wait for this fabled “next door.”
I’ve heard this advice many times before. “When one door closes another one opens,” is often misquoted to inspire optimism by some, and faith by others, depending on who you are talking to. Optimistically speaking, it suggests—as my friend so kindly was saying—there are always other opportunities around the corner, we only must acknowledge that our current misfortune is temporary.
As a herald for faith, the phrase is the perfect allusion to “God will provide,” and we only need to believe the Divine Will to present Itself in time. There is implied impotence with both interpretations, as they paint us as mere bystanders in the equation of our successes.
In truth, the entirety of the quote by Alexander Graham Bell reads, “When one door closes, another door opens, but we so often look so long and regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which opens for us.” Bell, the famed inventor of the telephone was a scientist/ engineer as well as an accomplished author and popular lecturer.
He traveled the world inspiring scientists and entrepreneurs to continue their work searching for answers to the questions that plagued the field of biological and theoretical physics. Urging scientists, young and old, to not allow themselves to be blinded by their hypothesis if other solutions present themselves.
In the anecdotal world, this means our success lies within our ability to resolve our personal assumptions and disappointments. This immediately brings to mind many of my past relationships that struggled and eventually ended. The fresh wounds of a breakup always inspired me to glorify what the relationship or other person had been like. Suddenly, in my tear-blurred vision I saw them as not so bad, or the time spent together not so miserable.
Maybe if I had been more attentive, or they had been more understanding; confronting change makes me sentimental and at times downright delusional. With the mercy of the passage of time, however, I can see very clearly how wrong we had been for each other, and that closed door was a blessing for us both.
There are benefits to reflection in one’s life, but if we spend all our time looking back and longing for what might have been, we short ourselves of the lessons learned and the opportunity to heal our broken hearts and move forward. I remember the first time I lost a job. Devastation doesn’t begin to describe how upset and lost I felt. I was embarrassed and angry, with a growing resentment that soured many relationships I had built for years with this company.
I was so disappointed how things ended that I couldn’t see what a tremendous gift had landed in my lap. For months I had been working too hard and burning the candle at both ends. I brought the stress and anxiety home with me every day. Sure, I was hurt that all my efforts seemed to have been in vain. Yet when I recall that time in my life, I can be honest and say that I was miserable in that position. Knowing my personality, I would have continued to punish myself with the work just to prove I could do it. Losing that job saved me, for I now understand the importance of the intricate balance and boundaries within your professional and personal life.
We might not have control over certain events that affect our lives, but we certainly can exercise control of our minds and attitude. When we find ourselves reflecting solely on the loss in a situation it is impossible to see and experience anything other than unhappiness and frustration. We become blinded to the lessons we have learned and the inherent growth we have experienced.
Therefore, the quote “When one door closes, another door opens, but we so often look so long and regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which opens for us,” is really about the missed opportunity to understand ourselves and the world around us better.
I don’t know how long the wait will be between now and my next successful submission to other publications, but I do know that the time afforded to me is not wasted. There is knowledge and understanding that can be gained from looking in the past but directing my focus forward with eyes open wide allows me to be purposeful in searching for ways to better myself and my writing. So perhaps that next email in my inbox will be an open door.