4 Lessons Learned from My Key Ring

I slipped the silver key off of the metal ring. Then the one next to it. Then the one after. I wouldn’t need these anymore. I no longer lived in the homes they unlocked.

For whatever reason, when I’ve moved, I’ve kept the duplicate keys on the ring. Each time I moved, I left plenty of extra keys for the new renters, so I never thought to take mine off. Illegal probably, and hopelessly nostalgic. I always figured I’d take off the keys a few days after I moved – when I was ready.

The time for being ready never came naturally. In fact, it rarely does.

A couple of days ago I looked down at the key ring and it felt heavy. Physically, but also emotionally. I considered the possessions I carry with me every day. What does it mean if my keyring is overstuffed, if my wallet is overfilled with receipts and hair ties, if my purse contains unnecessary bags of tea and phone chargers and eight pens? What does that say about the other things I am carrying on a daily basis.

I recently moved to an new apartment, packing up all my little possessions on this Earth and carting them across town to a new space with new roommates. Though I downsized immensely, taking box after box to Goodwill, it still doesn’t feel like enough.

Once I started to pay attention to the extra things in my life, I now want to whittle it down as small as possible. Any additional weight feels immense. And so – the necessity of winnowing.

Today, I took one last look at those keys on my ring. The keys from my childhood home, which we sold last year. The keys from my first shanty 1-bedroom, the first time I lived alone. The keys from The Hostel, the cozy duplex I shared with three of the most incredible humans on the planet.

There is much to learn from the process:

  1. Holding possessions does not make the experiences linger, it makes us live in the past.
  2. Giving away those possessions does not mean I care less about those experiences; it means I care enough about the present to let them go.
  3. A key is a key, and it would be silly to keep them forever. Do I want to be 100 years old and have forty keys on my keychain? I think not.
  4. The process is necessary, but it still isn’t easy.

Even as I sit here, the keys now off the ring, laying strewn on the desk, I still have an urge to put them back on. Don’t let go of them yet, my brain pleads. Remember how much you love those places? Remember that time Katie tried to fix the fire alarm? Or how the floor slanted in the Meinecke Ave. apartment? Or how you’d open the door to the wafting smell of freshly baked zuchinni bread? Remember, remember, remember?

But then I remember the mission: this year is about letting go of what I can no longer carry. I will always remember those people, those homes that made my life so stunning.

That’s the beauty of memories – I do not need a key to unlock them. I do not need a key to call Kelsey on the phone, to remember the chatter of friend gathered around a table, to hear the whir of the coffee grinder rattling the kitchen countertop, to feel the calm of my south-facing window portraying the white-headed dandelions populating Kilbourn Park. I do not need a key to validate my experiences there.

Today, finally, I took the keys off. And also, I glued those memories in a little tighter. I repeated my mantra to myself:

Keep what is necessary.

Let go of what is not.

Today is one more step toward lightness.

Posted by

nurse. writer. poet. (414) born & raised.

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