Deaths and Entrances

People instinctively resort to aphorisms when they’re trying to cheer you up or comfort you. After I told friends that I had lost my job, a lot of people lifted my spirits by quoting a variation on the theme of, ‘When one door closes, another one opens.’ I was amazed at how that saying has embedded itself in so many different minds, and it made me think of an aphorism written by a friend of mine:

“Every death has a door if you can dance.”

Losing your job unexpectedly, like any major life transition, is a kind of death. A part of your life is irrevocably gone, and you yourself are gone from the working lives of your colleagues. The process of coming to terms with unemployment is also like bereavement: shock, disbelief, anger, grief, acceptance. The link was enhanced for me when, just a few days after I lost my job, I heard that a mentor of mine—the man who had pointed me in the direction of my first job in journalism, in fact—had died suddenly. He suffered a heart attack while out riding his bike, and that was it. How weird, I thought, that the man who helped me get my first journalistic job should pass away just as I lost the best journalistic job I ever had. I felt shocked, sad, forlorn. I’ll never have the benefit of his advice again.

But I can imagine exactly what he would have said. He would have sat me down in a comfortable corner, rubbed his hands together as if he was about to enjoy a sumptuous meal, and then peppered me with questions about what happened, what I thought about it, and what I intended to do next. He would have had a thousand different ideas and suggestions and a list of names and phone numbers to go with them. He would have said that the occasional professional death is no bad thing. Mourn if you must, but keep dancing—and don’t wait too long before starting on your next incarnation. Sometimes, you need a door slammed in your face before you can hear opportunity knock.