From The Publisher


Dearest EXPLORE Reader,

It’s been a weird month for me.

That’s not unique to me, as I’m sure most all of us can say “This whole YEAR has been weird, Ben.” I’d agree.

But it’s been a weird month for me as I’ve closed a few doors and am having to open some other ones. Making tough decisions to close doors is always a traumatic situation, even when you know the decisions are the right ones you have to make. You’re left staring at a closed door, knowing exactly what is on the other side and actually wanting what is on the other side. But instead then you walk down the hallway, open another door and enter it without really even knowing what is on the other side. You just carry on. Even though it’s scary.

I think it’s also exhausting.

I’m tired of making hard decisions. I’m tired of closing doors and trying other doors. Let’s be honest – what’s the common denominator in every door-closing situation I’ve experienced? Answer: ME. So recognizing that I probably played a large part in these situations makes your shoulders slump a bit and you kick rocks on your evening walk.

I’ve read the quotes about taking these times of change in one’s life and recognizing them as great opportunities for growth and development and frankly, I just want to groan out loud. I also want to move to Belize and live out my days in a hammock on the beach sipping Coronas and hitting on rich tourists. Totally realistic, I know.

But as every reader here can relate to, I’ve closed one door reluctantly, and now am standing in front of a new door with my hand on the doorknob. A deep, tired breath, and away I go with a turn of the handle.

I’m not unique with my fatigue or my reluctance to start new chapters but necessity is a demanding master. But into the void of “new beginnings” I go.

Sometimes I think resilience is simply the act of moving forward in whatever way we can. It doesn’t have to be pretty or clean or smooth, but simply closing a door is moving forward. And opening new ones is a bigger act of bravery than sometimes we give ourselves credit. I mean, it would be really easy to close a door and then stand there staring at it for years.

The details behind my door closing are unimportant, though I’m sure they’re relatable. Broken relationship? Career that is sucking your happiness? Marriage that is killing you? Family problems that you simply can’t sustain? These are all doors that you CAN close. Never easy, but the choice is yours.

I’m a big fan of exhausting every option to remedy a situation. I can’t stand when people go to their friends for advice on their marriage, and over their 3rd glass of wine, the friends all pipe in with advice such as “Girl, you deserve to be happy! This is too much!” or “Bro, she’s not worth the energy!” I have learned that the people that will give you this advice are not the ones you should be seeking your sage wisdom from. They’re lazy and, I have often suspected, they WANT to see you go through the drama so that you’ll feel as bad as they do. But then you have the friend that calmly listens to your concerns and challenges, and instead they force you to self-reflect. They ask you questions, challenge your thinking, and make you find the truth in your feelings and make sense of them.  They can help you through your thoughts to where they eventually can ask you “So what do you want to do?” and then you smile and blurt out the honest truthful answer.

And then you know how to handle your “door”.

I suppose that certainty of decisions is where the strength for closing doors ultimately comes from, as you’ve certainly wavered about closing it before. But at some magical point, that good friend asks you “So what do you want to do?” and you finally know with certainty what the answer is.

I suppose the point of my ramble is that we all go through chapters of life – some good and some bad. Some could even just be boring. Some are happy. Some are horrific. But you will go through these chapters and be charged with the decisions about what is allowed into your life and what is not. And then you will find the courage to make those choices in the bravest way possible.

I started writing this letter about a month ago just as I closed a door. I slowly closed that door, grimaced at the heartbreak, and then wrote out those opening words “It’s been a weird month for me.” I then put together the first few paragraphs and stopped for a while. I’m returning to finish it with a month’s perspective in my rear view mirror and am smiling, because I can confidently say that I made the right decision. And it wasn’t easy.

Tough decisions rarely are.

But as we begin to close out 2020 (which is just about the stupidest year EVER), I hope that it’s a door we can all close as well. I hope that we all have good friends in our lives that don’t like seeing us embroiled in drama, that they want to help us make good choices for our lives, and that if you don’t have people like that, I hope you find them.

I also hope that you, dear reader, know that it’s ok to struggle with your decisions. Each one is unique, but they all have a myriad of variables that must be considered and weighed and it’s a tough exercise.

But, in the end, your heart will guide you well.

If you’ll listen.

Welcome to October – this was a fun issue to put together with our BEST OF winners, and I hope you enjoy. I also hope that you pick 3 of these businesses to patronize. Small business has been crushed this year, and they need our love locally. May you spread the wealth locally, may you make some new friends, and may we all close the door to “this year” and move on to better days.

Benjamin D. Schooley