I’ve opened and closed a lot of doors in my life.
When I was a boy, I wanted to be an artist. A comic book artist, specifically. I spent hours copying the covers of my favorite Batman issues and selling my renditions to family and friends for a couple of quarters, sometimes a buck. I went on to excel in my high school art classes, and participated in numerous gallery exhibits in malls across Hudson County. I even outshone my fellow students in drafting class, which incorporated math into the equation (fractions and geometry, of all things!)
When I got to college, however, I took my first real art class, which ate up four hours of my Friday mornings. That’s when I realized I didn’t love drawing and drafting all that much and shut the door on the path to Picasso.
While in high school, I started playing the guitar, and with the help of my friend Marc Tolliver, I learned everything from Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” to Bush’s “Glycerine.” I ultimately hooked up with a drummer named Ralph, my good friend Rob Sandman, who’d just started learning the bass guitar, and a strange fellow named Sal, and together we formed my first metal band, VexXxed, and jammed out in Ralph’s basement for three years before our first (and only) actual gig.
I wanted to be a rock star, so I invested thousands of dollars in electric guitars, a dozen or so effects pedals, top notch amps, and vocal equipment, as well. I even started playing briefly with a more alternative band called As I Am, and memorized their entire 20-song repertoire in six hours the night before my “audition.” After that, I was gigging with them, too.
But venue after venue, I realized that I didn’t want to spend my time lugging around this heavy equipment and practicing four nights a week just for a six-song set at Love Sexy, a tiny little club in Hoboken that featured bands that played original music. The fact that I also needed money to pay my rent after my Dad died was also impetus for me to sell off all my equipment at Crazy Eddie prices. The metaphorical guitar lay smashed on the path I’d hoped would lead to Pearl Jam.
And at New Jersey City University, after I ditched the art major and was easing myself out of the music scene, I signed on for the journalism program and learned all about writing news stories, features, and op-ed pieces. And despite giving me one of the greatest gifts ever –– getting to know my Dad more intimately than I had as a child by writing a feature on him for my final exam –– I saw that I wasn’t very interested in news to actually make a living writing about it. I wanted to do more creative kinds of writing. Luckily, the year I decided that the Hunter S. Thompson path wasn’t made for the soles of my Dr. Martens to tread on, the English Department launched its creative writing program. Another door closed, but another door opened.
This sort of thing happens to all of us. A great example is Jim Morrison, who was studying to become a filmmaker before he became lead singer of The Doors. Sometimes we have to close some doors so we can open others that might possibly lead us to bigger and better things. Sometimes this means shutting them forever; other times, it’s only temporary. The doors that constantly lead us to the same places in a loop of the same old stuff, for instance. These doors are not necessarily roads to nowhere. They may just need a little drop of oil on the hinges so it doesn’t make the same old squeak each time you open it.
It’s all about growth in the end, both as an artist and more importantly as an individual. Everything I’ve done, every door I’ve opened and eventually shut tight behind me has helped edge me up to this point in time. One change, and now would have turned out differently, much like in Ray Bradbury’s short story “A Sound of Thunder,” in which one simple act –– stepping on a prehistoric butterfly –– ripples through time and effects the world from which the time travelers have trekked. If we are not changing, if we take a step backwards instead of forwards, if we’re staying the same and not getting any better at whatever it is we’re doing, we owe it to ourselves to close that door that leads us around in circles and open up a new one.
I still strum my Takemine guitar once a day; I still practice my art skills on storyboards for my films or just to better be able to write out a story more visually; and now, twelve years later, I actively use the skills I learned during my brief stint as a journalism major at NJCU. Shutting yesterday’s doors and opening tomorrow’s doesn’t mean we should forget what we’ve done before. It doesn’t mean we can’t ever go back and pay a visit, and it certainly doesn’t mean we should ever regret anything. It just means that it’s time to try something new on for size, because, like the size sixes we wore as children, things won’t fit forever.
A new door is simply a new gateway to the grander story of you. Go on. Open it. And when you return, you might just be able to add a little oil to the hinges of all the others, and open them as if they were brand new.
* * *
What doors have YOU shut in the past in order to open other ones? Share below –– I’d love to read your thoughts.