I’ve noticed something about human nature. We often feel trapped and controlled by events and other people, and we don’t see that we have more choices than we realize.
I saw this point illustrated powerfully in two very different contexts, in two very different stories. Caution: there will be spoilers!
One is in the Sesame Street picture book called Grover and The Everything in the Whole Wide World Museum: With Lovable, Furry Old Grover by Norman Stiles.
As the book opens, we see the beloved Muppet character Grover running up the steep steps to a museum, saying, “Oh boy! I am going to see everything in the whole wide world.”
He walks in, he’s standing in an entryway with doors leading to all different galleries, like the “Things You See in the Sky Room,” “The Things You See on the Ground Room,” “The Long Thin Things You Can Write With Room,” “The Small Hall,” “The Tall Hall,” “Things That Can Make You Fall Hall,” and others.
As we come to the end of the book, Grover says, “You know, I have seen many things in this museum. But I still have not seen everything in the whole wide world. Where did they put everything else?” He’s looking around for more doors, more signs.
Then we see him stand before enormous doors beneath the sign “Everything Else.” He pushes opens the door—and we see that he’s back outside, in the big, beautiful world outside the museum.
The other place I saw this point made was in one of my favorite TV shows, Game of Thrones. In it, the character Arya has traveled far to the city of Braavos, to knock at the door of the House of Black and White, to seek admission to train as a Faceless Man. She waits, and eventually, the door opens, and she confronts the doorkeeper.
Here’s their conversation, during which she shows the almost entirely silent doorkeeper a coin of power that was given to her by a Faceless Man she befriended, a mysterious person named Jaquen H’ghar.
She knocks, and the doorkeeper opens the door, she explains that Jaquen H’ghar has sent her—but the doorkeeper shakes his head and starts to shut the door.
“Please,” she stops him, “I crossed the Narrow Sea. I have nowhere else to go.” His face expressionless, the doorkeeper answers, “You have everywhere else to go,” and shuts the door in her face.
I’m haunted by that exchange: Arya says in despair, “I have nowhere else to go,” and he reminds her, “You have everywhere else to go.”
We can remind ourselves that if a door is shut to us, or if we don’t see the door that leads to whatever we’re looking for, we can go on; we have everywhere else to go.