In the Absence of Keys

Nov 7, 2017

I’m sitting in the Charlotte airport terminal, on one of the benches just past security. I’ve slipped my feet back into my hiking boots and started a mental inventory of my things. Making sure I haven’t left anything in airport security’s clear plastic tubs, I recite the timeless mantra my father gave to me, his forgetful daughter.

Phone…Front jacket pocket.

Wallet… Front jacket pocket.


I pat my right pants pocket, where I always keep them and find it empty. For a moment I panic, but just for a moment. All too quickly I remember leaving the two small keys, one for the apartment, and one for the mailbox. They are sitting in our apartment, in the center of the dining room table.

This wasn’t an accident.

I left my keys behind because I don’t live there anymore. Technically my name is still on the lease along with Alex’s, but I won’t be laying my head down in that place ever again.

I loved living in Wilmington. This warm, gusty town felt idylic, like my life had stumbled into a summer beach read. The fresh salty breeze rounding out the edges of my problems so they could be quaintly rapped up in 200 pages. It had the beach, a community, and the man I love.

Things were pretty great too. I moved in with my college boyfriend and I found myself falling in love on another plane of existence. Before we were two distant people in love on the weekends, then we started to appreciate simple things together, like deciding where to put the desk, or how to remember to pay bills. We went to the beach as often as we could went to breweries and town events, field days with college friends. Life on the coast had all the trappings of greatness.

The one thing life didn’t have was a job.

Okay, you’re right, I could get a job anywhere, selling insurance, or waiting tables, and I did. I got a job at a donut shop. They paid me enough, and I enjoyed it for the first week. Then the early hours started to pull at me. Working a low level job didn’t feed my ambition or make me excited to go to work. I was doing this just to get by.

A certain darkness started to bleed into the edges of my perfect life.

I upped my job application game. Started allowing myself to apply for positions in other places. When the perfect internship came up on my internet search I applied, thinking I would never get it. I could just use the application process as practice for future jobs as I was working my way up in the industry.

The day I accepted the perfect internship I cried, and not from joy.

When I told Alex he cried too.

This beautiful life we had carved out for ourselves, going to the beach, brewries with friends, soccer games on Thursdays, was all going to change.

It had to change, because it was perfect but it wasn’t stable. I was starting to hate my job and the little money it brought in. I was irritable and obstinate more often than I should be. Little things were starting to grate at the edges of life, a wave of inevitability threatening to overwhelm and flood our little tidal pool.

So I did it.

I bought a ticket, packed up the stuff in our apartment, packed another small bag for myself and here I am sitting in the airport terminal with no keys to my name.

I’m going to live with someone who I only met once. Tomorrow I’ll start work at a company which I’ve never seen. It’s all pretty… unstable, risky, scary, necessary?

When my mom said I was brave for doing this I brushed the comment aside, but sitting in this airport these are the thoughts I cling to. Words like brave, unflappable, dynamo they are my bulwark, protecting my phsyce from risky, unstable, and lonely.

Pinterest told me: “Don’t be sad because it’s over, be happy because it happened.” Though the positive person in me likes this idea, right now I’m mad at pinterest for trying to tell me how to feel.

I feel sad leaving the life I love and I’m going to let myself feel that.

But I will not let myself be overcome.

Arriving in New York I set to work unraveling the puzzle that will transport me to my subletted room. There is an old pop song playing in the background at JFK, my ears catch Michael Jackson’s voice singing “go girl” and I hold on to that.

I become absorbed in getting settled. The next day I dive into learning the ropes of a new company. On the weekend I throw myself into museum, and walking the city. I get a library card and read insatiably.

Slowly but surely I dig my hands into the dirt of this new place, carving out a space in New York’s dark, rocky soil. Another space for myself and my dreams.

Jan 22, 2018

I’ve sent out a few roots since then. Touched and coiled around a few places that I now call mine. My favorite museum, my reading spot, the place I work, the breakfast cart that gives me free scones (sometimes).  Though things are not ideal, and I miss the beach, I am good here, better than I thought I’d be.

I still don’t have a permanent set of keys, but I find that I need them less and less. don’t know what will replace them, but I’ll keep you updated.

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