How many keys do you have on your keychain right now?

That number indicates the relative level of responsibility you have in society.

In our premiere years on this planet, we have little to no responsibility. In reflection of this, there are zero keys entrusted to us. Simply eating sleeping and discharging waste on a regular basis is all the responsibility we can manage.

As we become old enough to stay home while the guardian is away on some important errand, an initial bestowment is made: a housekey. Not quite justification for a keychain, but a token of access that must be kept track of at all times.

Staying at home alone is one thing, but the responsibility of keeping track of this single key is quite another. Usually this key is lost and replaced many times before another is added to the chain of responsibility.

Once the driving-age milestone is achieved, another key is added, increasing the power of mobility and independence of the individual. This is a much celebrated key in our society, and symbolizes a certain degree of freedom hitherto unrealized.

As one moves away from home, a dorm/apartment/houseboat key is included in the set that is carried around at all times. The freedom level is increased, along with responsibility on multiple levels. The key must be kept track of, the residence taken care of, and rent paid on time if continuing to reside there is a short-term goal.

Quite a bit of responsibility to juggle.

In college, not only did I have a house key, a car key and a campus-residence key, I also maintained a laundry room key, a bicycle lock key, a collection of School of Music locker keys, and later on, keys to the campus computer labs, the Saxophone Studio, and the Catlett Recording Suite.

But since turning those access tokens back in to their distributors and moving back home with my parents, I've been whittled back to a pair of keys: house and car. It makes the size of the keychain I was using last year seem ludicrous; its extra, empty keyrings serve only as a haunting reminder that the access level I am currently granted is quite a bit lower than it was twelve months ago.

I suppose it's not a bad thing, per se. Fewer keys means fewer responsibilities. Fewer meetings to attend. Fewer people to disappoint when something doesn't go strictly according to plan.

But sometimes it was nice to whip out an eight-pound keychain to let myself into a restricted area. There's a certain amount of pride that comes with going through a door that reads "Authorized Personnel Only".

I'm authorized.

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