“You have to admit, I don’t lose them nearly as much as I did when we were dating,” I shouted across the house to my husband who was undoubtedly rolling his eyes at me.
I opened up the refrigerator to see if I had placed my keys in there because, yes, it was a spot I had left them before. The toothpaste drawer, too, in a spirit of full disclosure. Oh, and hanging in the front door, just in case robbers wanted to enter our house quietly and use my vehicle to haul off all my stuff.
Think, think, think. I whispered to myself as I pondered all the possible locations my keys might be.
It really had been awhile since I last lost my keys. Thanks to my husband’s desire to see me overcome this key-losing problem of mine, (along with a strategically placed key hook he screwed into the wall by the front door) I only lose them about ten percent of the time now. Considering the fact that keeping up with my keys is something I don't come by naturally, the last thing I thought I would feel sad about when we uprooted ourselves and moved to a completely new country was getting rid of my keys. I thought I’d be happy to give them up when the time came. One less thing to keep up with, am I right? It’s almost laughable now to think back to all the times I was excited to gain a new key.
Long before I was of driving age, I desired to have a ring of keys just like my parents. I collected keys that my parents no longer needed, put them on a ring, and then put a bunch of random keychain trinkets on it. A lucky rabbit's foot, a little silver dolphin, my name made from some square letter beads – all the basic key ring necessities. Basically, I wanted to fill up my key ring so it jingled and jangled around in my bedazzled pre-teen purse, thereby making me feel important. And it did. Something about my ring full of useless keys made me feel like I was a pretty big deal.
Once I turned fifteen, I started to build a legit collection. I took away all of the useless keys and keychains and put a house key and my first car key onto the ring. Having a ring of keys at this point was like my first taste of independence. I was a licensed driver. It was a sign of maturity, as far as I was concerned—that and my visor full of mixed CDs I burned myself.
Flash forward to my eighteen-year-old self. The excitement of driving myself places had waned a bit but that was no matter – I was on my way to college. I gained another key, the key to my first home-away-from-home.
Several years later, I graduated and got a job as a first grade teacher. What did they hand over to me upon accepting the job? A key to my very first classroom. I added it to my collection like another little trophy.
At this point, I had a diamond ring on my finger with a promise of marriage in the future. In preparation for this exciting new life together, I needed to sign my name onto the lease of our soon-to-be newlywed home. What came with it? A key, of course. Several months and one holy matrimony later, my home became our home. Other than gaining the key to his heart (yeah, I said it), I also gained the extra key to his car.
So I had a key to my parent's house, two car keys, a key to our house, and a key to my classroom. That’s a total of five keys plus the keyless entry button to my car, one decorative keychain, and a little bottle of hand sanitizer. A bulky little collection, to say the least. How I was able to lose my keys so often is beyond me. But I did.
Then my husband and I decided to move overseas. This meant we had to start getting rid of things…a lot of things. While most everything had to be sold, some stuff made it into the “pack to take overseas” pile. Other things made it into the “store at one of our parents’ houses because I can’t bear to part with it right now” pile. However, if it was an item that belonged to a key on my ring, I had to bid it farewell. There were no ifs, ands, or buts about it.
It started with my classroom key after I packed up the last box of children’s books and loaded it into my car.
Around that same time, my parents moved so I removed their old house key.
Once we finally sold nearly all of our possessions and moved out of our house, I removed that key and placed it on the countertop for the next residents.
Finally, I handed over my car keys to my younger sister and returned my husband’s car key to his parents.
And that was that. No more keys.
Suddenly, I found myself mourning the loss of all my keys. For eight years I carried those things with me everywhere. My keys represented little pieces of me – the things I owned, the things I earned, and the things for which I worked hard to achieve. I wasn't simply getting rid of keys. I was closing doors I might never open again (both literally and figuratively).
Rather than gradually collecting bigger and better things and moving on up the career ladder, I found myself on the other side of the world with eleven suitcases and not even a mop or broom to call my own.
Relinquishing all of my keys in a span of six months caused me to do some major self-reflecting. Starting “fresh” can be both liberating and depressing. It can be incredibly daunting to recollect things you can’t even remember purchasing the first time.
Do you remember when you bought your current dustpan?
Did you even buy it or was it a hand-me-down?
Do you remember from who or where you got all of those Tupperware dishes in your drawer?
There was a point in my life when I wouldn’t have known the answers to any of those questions, but now I do. I bought my current dustpan in 2012 and I got my Tupperware dishes from IKEA. Some of the most boring purchases I’ve remembered making in my lifetime.
But it’s also exciting to get a fresh start and begin with a clean slate. To be able to reevaluate what my life goals are. To have the opportunity to reexamine myself and make sure I'm still being true to the person God has made me to be. And getting rid of all my possessions gave me the opportunity to really think about what was truly important to me. I once owned things and thought I simply could not live without them. And yet, here I am, trying to remember what I left behind.
“The bed!” I remembered putting my keys down while changing out of a pair of pants I was wearing earlier in the day. That was where they had been all this time. Not in the refrigerator, not in the toothpaste drawer, but right where I had left them, of course. Isn’t that always the case?
I grabbed the keys off the bed and let my husband know I was finally heading out the door. My keys jingled and jangled as I made my way to the car, bumping against one another to the same rhythm of my footsteps. I’ll admit, it’s a good feeling to have some things to call my own again.
But it’s also nice to know that it is possible to survive, even if only for a brief moment in my life, without a collection of keys and the thing (or life achievement) each one of those keys belongs to.