My sister and I saw the movie Brooklyn today. Before I even get started, it’s a beautiful heartwarming story, and I’d go see it again in a heartbeat. But, next time, I’d bring Kleenex. It was very moving… or maybe I’m just a little raw with my sugar withdrawal. Whatever the case, I enjoyed the story, the costumes and the characters immensely.
The story begins in Ireland and is the story of a young Irish girl, Eillis, who immigrates to New York because there is no work and very little chance of a good life there. Her sister arranges for a job and a contact in Brooklyn, and shy Eillis boards a ship to her new life. I have always been amazed at people who immigrate to a new country. How much courage it must take to board a ship or a plane and head off to a place where everything is different and all is unknown. Before technology was pervasive, other countries were really just in the imagination and in the few pictures in magazines. Immigrating for someone like Eillis would be a complete step in the dark.
When she gets to Ellis Island and finishes her paperwork, she walks through a light-filled doorway. My sister and I both took in a breath as she walked through. Wow! What it must feel like to walk through a door on the first day of a new life on your own in a new country!
Life is full of doors into the unknown. Some people avoid them. “Nope,” they say. I’ll never leave what I know. Others walk through but have to bring someone else from the past with them. Others boldly walk through in the hopes that what’s on the other side will make all the difference. Walking through doors can be scary, exhilarating, hopeful, spiritual and downright paralyzing.
I was thinking of the times in my life when it felt like I was entering a new country. I thought of the time I walked through my parent’s back door to move away for the first time … when I exited the door of the Knox Country Courthouse after my first divorce…. when I was circling the space needle in a jet headed to my new life in Seattle … when I arrived in Memphis on an early morning train and the neon lights of Beale Street flashed through my window … Those were big doors that were almost blinding to my psyche. Sometimes I had someone with me crossing the threshold, but, most of the time, I was alone.
I don’t know how most people feel when they walk through doors into the unknown, but I have always been cognizant of the gravity of the situation. On very few occasions have I hesitated. I know that by the time I get to the door, and it opens, I am meant to walk through it. I believe my life – and the doors I’ve walked through – were designed for me, and I was born to walk through them at the time that I do. Even so, I know that, on the other side of the threshold there will be trials, pain, joy and tribulation. It will be a smorgasbord of stuff I don’t like and things that I love. I know it, and I walk through anyway.
In the movie, Eillis walks into America alone, and she has to adjust. I related to all of her adjustments. There is the elation of it all, the downer of missing what I left, the eventual acceptance of where I am and the forward momentum of starting a new life. Even when I’m in the deepest pain and worry that I did the wrong thing and I want to go back, I can’t. Because with every step past that door, I change. And with every change, I am a different person than I was before I walked through that door. The person I was back then no longer exists, and I know there is no going back.
Eillis has to return home for a family emergency, and her beau is worried she won’t return. “Home is home,” he says. She replies that she doesn’t know if she has a home anymore. I felt like that when I moved away. The longer I was away, the more I changed, and I didn’t know that Louisiana was home anymore. Yes, it was where I was born. But, I was a different person with every year and every moment lived elsewhere. They say you can’t go home again, and in so many ways, it’s true. Home changes and you change but in different directions. Neither is the same upon return.
I sometimes wonder who I would be if I hadn’t left home. It was the first door I walked through. Would I have been able to walk through the others? Would my subsequent doors have been different? If my life lessons are predetermined – and I believe they are – is it even possible that I wouldn’t have left. As a little girl I knew that I would move away and live all over. There was no doubt in my mind that I would be gone as soon as I could get out of school. And that’s exactly how it played out.
As I was watching that movie today, I wondered if I had many doors left to walk through in my future. I’d hate to think that my adventures into the unknown are over, and it makes me sad to think they might be. I want to feel that wave of courage well up in me to crack open that door, pick up my bags and walk through into the blinding sunlight. I crave the overwhelming excitement of that moment on the other side where I say to myself, “Today is the first day of the rest of my life,” having no idea what the future holds and embracing it anyway.
What doors have you walked through that made all the difference? What was that like for you? Did you know at the moment how momentous it was?