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The keys to growing up

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As a child, I always wondered why there were so many keys on the same keychain. I just needed one key — the one to get into the house! But I could never find it because there were always six to seven other keys attached to the keychain loop. I never understood why there were so many keys. 

Approaching the end of high school, I got my license and started driving. I then had two keys — one to get into my house and one for my car. But I still didn’t understand why my parents’ keychains had a bunch of keys on them. What else did they need access to? I didn’t care too much about it, so I never really asked. 

When I got to college, I started with two keys: one for my dorm room and one for my bike lock. It didn’t seem any different because it was the same amount of keys I had as a high schooler. One week into school, I got a P.O. box and another key. With each key came an additional sense of responsibility. Now, I had a key for a P.O. box, which I also had to manage and monitor. A P.O. box, a bike and a dorm room — three keys, three responsibilities.

The summer after my freshman year of college, I worked in a research lab at Stanford. To get access to the lab space at any time, I got a key for the lab. A P.O. box, a bike, a dorm room and a lab key — four keys, four responsibilities. By this point, my keychain was starting to look more like my parents’ keychains.

Although I am still short of having my parents’ keychains by a few keys, I have many more keys than I thought I would ever need when I was a child. I currently have four keys on my keychain, and with each key, I gain a responsibility.

My keychain, a Star Wars lanyard laced with images of porgs, reminds me that I am growing up. I have a circular gold key for my P.O. box, a thick gold key for my lab space, a ridged gold key for my dorm room and a black key for my bike U-lock. Each key represents an additional space or property that I must regularly manage and take care of.

My keys unlock the doors to my adulthood and greater responsibility. They bridge the gap between my formative and current selves.

Contact Vilina Mehta at vmehta19 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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