Life is a Hallway

I go back to work next week after a month-long vacation. I bought a house, traveled, read often, and wrote a little. Then I spent a lot of time thinking about those things. In particular, I spent a lot of time thinking about the choices that made me a homeowner at twenty-four, that also put me on a week-long beach vacation. I started writing again to help condense, clarify, and record trains of thought like these, so today I want to start with my thoughts on life and choices.

I like to think of life as a series of hallways. They have many doors at first, but fewer the further you go. Some doors open with little effort and lead to worthless corridors; behind the toughest lie the greatest opportunities. Many peoples’ hallways connect — some for a moment, and others for a lifetime.

We all start in different places — or hallways — faced with different options — or doors. We have lots of options at first, but each choice leads to a hallway with fewer doors. This does not rule out major changes later in life, although it does mean those chances come around less often and at ever-increasing costs. We also all choose between the easy route and working for the hard one, and realize rewards — or suffer losses — based on that choice. I like that this analogy acknowledges that people will come and go, too. Some will stay for a moment, others for a lifetime, and each of them has a chance to influence us. Surround yourself with successful people, to pull you toward the successful hallways on your good days and carry you there on your bad. My analogy also implies two things: our lives are the product of our decisions, and if you find yourself in a bad hallway, it may take a lot of time, effort, expertise, and skill, but you can build a new door that leads to a path of your own making.

// A college degree does not mean you cannot pursue a trade, but student loan debt might make taking that path impossible, no matter how much you like the work. Coming from the other side, you might wake up after a decade in a trade and want to change careers, but the life you built in that capacity may not permit it: from familial obligations to bill collectors, any number of things might make that path impossible.

// I started working for a painter during high school. I worked for a great boss, with good people, doing a skilled job that made me good money and took up 40 hours a week. I walked into work, picked up a paint brush, and worked all day; nine hours later I walked out of work and did not think of it again until the next day. That was the easy route. Instead I chose to go to college for four years and join the Army, but I have been rewarded for the difficulty of my path. I work longer hours now but make twice as much and own a house at 24.