Moving out and Losing Keys

Have you ever stopped to consider how much we put behind locks? The past 48 hours has been nothing but that thought running through my mind.

I normally like airports. I always have had an affinity to these massive buildings designed for such a singular goal: take as many humans as possible, with all their accoutrements, put them on airplanes and send them off. In a space where the architecture itself is made to get you to move, to leave, I find myself pausing anyway. There is a promise of hundreds of possible futures, one behind each gate. Sure, I’ve got a ticket taking me back home, but what if I tore it up, bought a ticket to Europe, and never looked back?

Its a sort of “call of the void”, a voice that whispers to you when standing at the edge of a canyon, saying “jump!” A sane person never does, but surely everyone has wondered. I get a sort of contact high just running the possibility through my mind, and its this wonder, this possibility, that permeates and overpowers any dullness in air travel for me, no matter how often I fly.

I suppose the universe has some mechanism by which it occasionally steps in and flings that sense of enjoyment in the gutter.

I landed back in Grand Rapids at 9:48 PM, ready to drive home and sleep in my own bed once more. I’d just returned from a lovely wedding in Colorado, but now the bride and groom were off to Maine, the guests had long since sloughed off jackets and dresses, and the everlasting moment of joy was quickly fading into another warm memory.

It was time to return to the normal rhythm of things. Having just graduated college, this pattern of life wears on my soul like some new pair of shoes. I know it won’t be long before things have stretched and compressed until life feels “regular”, but right now I was tasting the irregularity of regular.

No more late-night study sessions. No summer vacation. The weekend parties and spontaneous gatherings have dwindled. On the other hand, no looming unexpected deadlines, no juggling 5 different subjects, and no agonizing over the search for employment. I recall a thought flashing through my mind as I walked out of the jetway Monday night, “I hope this isn’t all there is from now on.”

The baggage terminal carousel is broken. A tired, harried fellow in an airline vest tries to get everyone’s attention, asking for our patience. It takes another half an hour before we see our belongings. I remembered my unspoken wish for future change and bitterly chuckled at myself.

In the economy lot, I stepped off the shuttle last. Ahead sat my car, an aging Buick that has been passed around my family like an unwanted holiday fruit cake. I don’t mind it, though. It runs well and has comfortable seats. Sure, the breaks squeal, and after a side-swipe in January the door doesn’t close all the way, but it went from A to B.

My hand slipped into my pocket for my keys, and instead of a jingle of metal and plastic, felt nothing.

Let me tell you, I was not enjoying airports while I had my belongings strewn across the asphalt.

Nothing. They weren’t there.

I called home. Maybe I left them downstairs where I packed? While I anxiously listened over the phone, Mom methodically turned the house inside out, and came up empty. Darkness was over the land.

I ended up phoning a local friend and crashed at his place that night. In the morning, I called into work and told everyone I was going to be remote for the day. Via text, phone, and email we widened the search radius from the house, to the cars, to the different cities we’d stopped in over my long weekend.

Nothing.

Maybe its silly, but some hours into this frustrating search I remembered the Sunday sermon, delivered by a guest pastor to my parents’ congregation. It focused on the end of the book of Job. At first I chided myself for the thought that I was like Job, a man who loses literally everything he had on earth, including his health. It’s just some silly keys, no need to sit in the ashes yet, right?

I had no car. If I could somehow get home, I couldn’t get in to my apartment. Less than 24 hours ago I had been explaining to friends how I “finally felt like an Adult”. In this moment, despite knowing better, I felt like Job.

Everything is a swirling mess right now. I’m sitting on a friend’s couch in my last pair of clean clothing as I type this, but my storm is already calming. I’m figuring out the next steps.

I’ve been thinking, everyone has a key chain of important stuff. Sure, literal collections of keys are in there, but its more than that. I’m watching family members who are facing an unexpected wall where they thought they had a career. I’m seeing parents grow older and the invincible aura they had when I was a child wane.

I’m wondering what I’m going to do when I find or replace all my keys. What lesson is being taught here in this short, intense period of life disruption? I guess we can’t find out while in the middle of the storm. Perhaps its time for me to get my head out of the clouds and hunker down the next time I pass through an airport, checking off my list of belongings.

Maybe I need to be more presentable. I have been simultaneously warned not to hide myself and not to share too much recently. I feel intensely lonely yet claustrophobic. I am afraid of looking up in twenty, thirty, forty years and seeing a winding trail of meaninglessness.

Did all this really come from losing a stupid collection of cut metal and plastic? Just once in my life I want to have grand revelations from God delivered the good old fashioned, Old Testament way, so the world outside my head can look as crazy as the inside.

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