Sometimes along the journey through life, we come to a place where it feels like we’re pounding on a locked door.

Maybe we come really close to getting our dream job, but they hire someone else. Or our partner leaves us unexpectedly. Or we pour our hearts into a campaign and lose.

The time I most felt like I was standing at a locked gate, unable to open it, were the long years we spent applying for my son’s dad’s visa.

We were married, had a child, made the best argument possible to prove our hardship, gathered every possible document, hired a lawyer (an enormous privilege), and spent countless hours preparing our application.

And yet, the final decision lay in the hands of an anonymous administrator using arbitrary criteria over two thousand miles away.

The first time we applied, we were denied. The second time, they told us we needed more documentation.

It took us over six years to finally win the green card. Many people do not have it so good.

During that time, I took refuge in an image of myself navigating the twists and turns of a high-walled unicursal labyrinth, with one path into the center and one path out. Of course I was disoriented, unable to see more than a few feet ahead, uncertain of how far we’d come.

All those years, I could not choose our outcome. My only choice was to do my best.

Sometimes, all the gates we wished were open to us are closed—we keep getting rejected from potential jobs, relationships, or opportunities we wish we had—and the best we can do is keep putting one foot in front of the other in the hopes that we’ll find a new door or path we have not yet imagined.

As Rebecca Solnit writes, “Hope is not a door, but a sense that there might be a door at some point, some way out of the problems of the present moment even before that way is found or followed.”

So, as you journey, please be kind to yourself. Do not try to convince your disappointment or frustration to go away. Countless travelers have felt the same way you do now.

Remember that sometimes, we need to lay down and rest a while, sheltered by the labyrinth walls. The Spanish word for wait—esperar—is the same word for hope. There can be power in waiting, knowing that if we keep showing up, unexpected gifts may emerge.

And, when you feel ready to get curious and face the chasm between where you are now and where you long to be, I invite you to ask yourself the following questions:

  1. When in my past have I faced locked gates but made it to the other side? What helped me then?
  2. What gifts might be presenting themselves to me now, even though most of me might really not want them?
  3. What do I love so much that I’m willing to keep assuming responsibility for it?
  4. What possibility am I willing to take a stand for, even though there are no guarantees and the odds may not be in my favor?
  5. What does the part of me that knows what to do even when I don’t know what to do want me to know now?
  6. What itsy-bitsy, teensy-tiny step might I take in the direction of my longings?

Then, choose one step toward honoring your needs.

Your next step might be making popcorn, wrapping yourself up in a warm blanket, and watching a movie. It might be giving yourself a hug, taking deep breaths, or drinking a glass of water. It might be setting new goals, making a phone call, or clicking send on that email.

Whatever your next step may be, please know that I’m rooting you on. It is an honor to be by your side.


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