I believe in doors closing, or at least I do now. For a long time, I was embarrassed by how long it took me to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, wondering what people must think and why everyone else seems to have it figured out before me.
In high school, my friends made decisions about college months before graduation, while I signed my letter of intent and had to ship it overnight. By the end of my first semester of college in Washington, D.C., I found myself crying in a counselor’s office as I realized that the school wasn’t the right fit and I couldn’t believe a door was closing. I was terrified as I made the decision to leave.
I found myself at TCU as a sophomore, still scared I had made the wrong decision. I had to work to find my niche on campus, but a door finally opened and I found my place. I still remember the moment when I stood in Dr. Grant’s office while he signed the paper to allow me to change my major to religion. I felt for the first time like I had truly made the right decision. Maybe not on my first or even third door, but I finally found the right door. I thought I had finally figured it out.
Then, I started social work graduate school and by October, I realized that I had made another mistake. I closed the door and left after a semester. I was embarrassed and desperate to hide this mistake, but relieved because it would have been a bigger mistake to stay. The following year, I started anew at Vanderbilt Divinity School and loved it. I still managed to close doors while I was there, but I started to realize that these doors being closed behind me were helping me find my path.
After graduating, I taught civics and world history. I loved discussing pivotal moments in history and how my students had a part to play in shaping their world, but I knew I hadn’t found the right door yet. In 2011, my husband and I moved to Chicago. I didn’t even know what doors to look for, and then my husband told me about a non-profit in town whose mission is to make interfaith cooperation a social norm.
It’s now been almost 3 years since I began working at Interfaith Youth Core and every day I have the privilege of doing work that I deeply believe in. It may have taken me a while, but I’ve finally realized there’s no need to be embarrassed. Parker Palmer wrote, “there is as much guidance in what does not and cannot happen in my life as there is in what can and does — maybe more.” On paper, I’m still a mess and I know there are doors yet to be closed, but I finally know that’s okay. This is why I believe in doors closing.
Cara Doidge Kilgore holds a Master of Theological Studies from Vanderbilt Divinity School and earned her B.A. in religious studies with a minor in social work from Texas Christian University, class of 2004. She works for Interfaith Youth Core and manages their Interfaith Leadership Institutes and the operations of the Better Together campaign, a national network of student-led interfaith action on college campuses. Cara lives in Chicago with her husband, Billy, toddler whirlwind, Henry, and canine whirlwind, Jolene.