On keys

Keys, funny little things. Can I ask you about your keys? Go down your key ring, one by one. I’m serious, do it! To what do they grant you access? And what if you did not own each key: how would your life be different; what do you lose and what do you gain?

These questions are in my mind as I look at my key ring. They have jingled in the bottom of my bag for many years now, and they are much heavier than you would think. Each one comes with weighty responsibility.

However, they will all be gone in a week. Office key: gone Wednesday; little bike key: Thursday; house key: Friday or Saturday; gym key card: same. I will no longer be required to show up for work, I will no longer try to make my bedroom a cozy place, no more concerns about flat tires on the bike, no more guilt about skipping the gym. Free. No more keys.

Well, except one. The car key. To me, this one is the heaviest. In my opinion, car ownership asks more of the owner than it can give back. Thankfully, three weeks down the road, I will turn this one over to my mom. Thanks mom, and good riddance to cars and carburetors! I will hold on to it just long enough to trek across the US while filling up on pretzels and Cliff Bars and bananas. Long enough to trip over 70s rock CDs and maps and wrappers all clumped together on the passenger-side floor. Just enough time to squish myself and two German dudes into that confined space until we won’t notice each other’s smells anymore. Only then will I be done with that key.

This will not be the first time in my adult life that I will be keyless. One week when moving from the west coast to the east coast, four months when thinking that I would move back to the west coast… and now two months when moving from east coast to west coast to Mexico. This means that for more than 6 months of my adult life, my life has been in utter upheaval. My pockets have noticed the absence with a scintillating sense of lightness. Even lighter is the sense of responsibility that rests on my shoulders.

Transitions are full of opportunity, adventure, freedom, and flexibility. However, let’s not also forget the flip-side to that coin. There are inevitable costs to key-free living.

Instability Sometimes it is fun and freeing, but other times it is frustrating and stressful. Think about this: I have no idea nor control of where I am about to live. None! I will carry suitcases around – egh – and pack things – double egh. When confronted with instability, I combat that nasty feeling in the pit of my stomach with my “roll with it” attitude. I remember that life keeps on and I will make a home and build a community again soon.

Loneliness Uprooting means two things: 1) you miss out on those seemingly small, insignificant moments that make up the meat of close relationships, and 2) you are conspicuously absent from bigger milestone events in the lives of current loved ones. You’re simply not there. While keeping in touch (see Contact Me) is a welcome substitute, it is not the same as being present with you, dear reader. My coping mechanism for loneliness: I remind myself that even if I was your neighbor, I could not be there for everything all the time. That I need to live my life too, that makes me honest. Those who know me have already shown that they respect that.

Feeling like you are not building something Many people in my peer group have long-term careers/marriages/commitments to children. These take time and effort to build, meaning that key-free living tends to be detrimental to them. For those who have built something significant, can you imagine living without it? I think that I should also give myself a bit more credit. I am stepping toward building a career. So I am building something! Everything else comes with time, if at all.

To me, keys are like roots. Extending this simile, I recently clipped the roots of a Peace Lily while transplanting it. The results were near-fatal to the plant, but with love and nurturing from me and O, the plant has recovered and is doing well in its new home. Please, dear friends, share the same kind of support to me as I jump into a keyless few months.

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