If it doesn’t open, it’s not your door.
It’s early one August weekday morning. The sky is sunny and clear, the roads are quiet, still too early for the daily hustle to have begun. A 17-year-old me who’s barely slept the night before with nervous anticipation, quietly leaves her home to begin the journey towards the postal sorting office to intercept my coveted letter before it’s sent off on delivery. It’s leaving cert results day. The day I’d mentally rehearsed and fantastised about for so long, imagining all those endless hours of determined study would pay off, and that the piece of paper in my hands would tell me I was on my way to medical school.
I arrive at the post office and trembling, retrieve the envelope, make my way out, around the corner and up a little laneway, legs buckling under me like a newborn calf. I can barely steady myself enough to tear the envelope open. I’d done this before, this wasn’t my first rodeo. One leaving cert is rarely enough for those looking to score the highest of high points, and I was no exception. A whole 40 points kept me out of med school first time around. But this time was different. I was sure of it. This time, I’d trained and prepared with a level of fierce commitment and certainty. I would make sure I crossed that gulf between my results and those required to start a life in medicine. This time, I’d put my whole life on hold. Declined paid travel opportunities as a dancer, lost friendships, let hobbies slip. Medicine was the prize and my eyes were set firmly on it.
Time enters some kind of warped speed, where everything slows and whole scenarios are flashing before me. I unfold the piece of paper and start to simultaneously read the grades and add them in my head.
I see B’s. Why are there B’s?? This was supposed to be a clear A rundown. There are no room for B’s here.
Ok, focus Mar….
A1…100 points…A2, 90….B1, only 85….A2….A2….B3….my head is buzzing. One part is still counting, the other part has jumped ahead to the various scenarios. Am I in?? Am Is this enough?
I count again. And again.
It’s not enough. 530 points. It’s not enough.
A heavy weight bears down on me, a mixture of shock and despair. How has this happened again?? HOW? I’ve given my whole life to this cause, how has it rejected me again?
I want to help people so badly, I feel it in my bones, I’ve felt it since the earliest of days on earth. I’m here to help. People are hurting and I want to help them heal.
The reality sinks in. I walk home with tears flowing freely and unapologetically. My heart has been broken by this system. Again.
The rest of the day is a blurry mix of emotions. Sadness, confusion, exhaustion, even delight for my buddies who had made it. They’d fought hard too for their places as trainee doctors, vets, engineers….I feel genuinely happy for them. But it’s bittersweet.
Cut to some weeks later when I get to go review my papers with a teacher in an attempt to appeal my grades. English teacher looks though my paper and argues it should have been an A1, not an A2. A possible 10 extra points.
Geography teachers trawls through the paper in shock that it wasn’t at least an A2 and is staunchly confident the paper will be upgraded. What is he telling me? That I’m going to be 25 points better off?? I go to the bathroom to take this in.
The words swirl around in my mind as their related emotions echo though my body.
This means I’m in. This means I have enough to get into medicine. I’m in.
And then the strangest thing happens: I feel complete indifference. My mind is somewhat excited but my heart is not so sure. If it’s so right for me, I wonder, why don’t I feel….more???
Because it wasn’t the right thing for me. Medicine was not to be my path. Even when I was bumped up the points to make 540, it was still not enough, because it was never to be my path. Had I gotten into medicine, maybe I’d never have gotten to travel as an Irish dancer, work as a weather girl in Tokyo, be the event manager for UNICEF, work in TV and radio, teach English in Thailand, be a surf instructor in Donegal, become a life coach, train as a meditation teacher, help people to manage their minds and heal their wounds or meet a beautiful man in a surf club with whom I’d bring two of the most incredible little souls I’ve ever known earthside to share life with.
I was choosing the wrong path, so the right path chose me.
Helping people to heal is still why I’m here, I know that in the deepest fibres of my being. But it won’t be with needles and pills, but with words and energy.
What we sometimes forget, and especially when things don’t seem to be working out for us, is that life is not happening to us, it’s happening *for* us. We come here to Earth with work to carry out, with things we need to do in order for our soul to learn, grow and evolve in the highest way possible. The mind can’t always comprehend this though, and gets fixed on how bad things are, how life is not as we want it to be, how nothing is working out the way we want it to, all the while forgetting that life doesn’t always give us what we want, but what we need. And if we have the wisdom to pause and the courage to learn, we’ll see how much growth is possible in the murkiness of dark times, of disappointment, of loss and of failure.
Today, leaving cert results day, I look back, not with bitterness or resentment, but with gratitude for the growth my journey has facilitated and for the beautiful opportunities that came from the open doors all around that I could see once I’d taken my gaze off the door that had closed.
Because if it doesn’t open, it’s not your door.