Turning in the Keys
I officially moved out of my apartment in central PA the day after Valentine's Day. I closed one chapter and opened another one all at once, not knowing what to expect, not knowing that there were any guarantees, but yet, somehow knowing it was the right decision. I had turned in my keys (or rather this incredibly expensive plastic key fob that I took great care of never losing for fear of giving up $100 I didn't have to spend on mistakes) and moved back to Pittsburgh, carrying all of my clothes, necessities, pride and strength in the cozy space of my Honda Civic.
Even though that day was a noteworthy decision and I truly shifted all of my gears from that point on, I still had pieces of me left in that apartment and in that town. Kitchen supplies, a vacuum cleaner, an ironing board, mugs, and stemmed wine glasses that always seemed overlooked in favor of their stemless sisters. A roommate and circle of friends, memories of pain and memories of joy, fading dreams and nightmares. With each visit, I took more of my stuff with me, but the intangible things still remained, both here and there.
This past weekend, I gathered the last of it. Ashlie was moving out by the end of the month and it needed done. It didn't really hit me until I arrived that it'd be the last night we'd ever spend there together and the last time I'd ever see it again. I still don't know exactly how to describe how I feel about it. Even as I'm writing this, I don't know if I should put a positive or negative or neutral spin on the whole thing. It's all-encompassing; it's every emotion in the book.
Because on one hand, this apartment is a symbol of pain and sadness, of stumbling onto the wrong path, of whys and what ifs. When I look around, I see moments of falling to my knees and pounding the ground. Of sitting alone and trying to talk myself into pushing forward. Of knowing I was going nowhere if I stayed there.
On another hand, I see so many moments of laughter, dancing, eating, and being silly. I see Ashlie and I sitting on the floor on our Christmas morning, drinking hot chocolate and eating buff chick dip by our baby tree, crying happy tears over the beautiful letters her loved ones wrote her and over the supportive connections we have in our lives. I see her climbing on top of the fridge as Elf on a Shelf and all the times I packed her going out purse so we wouldn't be late for the bus downtown. I see SO many nights of hot dogs and mac n cheese, episodes of Scandal and The Black List, jumping pictures taken via remote.
And somewhere in between, there were all of the things we meant to post about that lie somewhere between the very good and very bad. We never did get to share about that time our neighbors below us threw a giant party with a light-up stripper pole (we saw the box) and the cops came and we filmed the entire thing in a seven-part Facebook video series. Or all of the times we could hear EVERYTHING (and I mean everything) that our neighbors were doing. Or the two times we had to call the cops. Or that time when our apartment wasn't ready on move-in day or delayed move-in day or yet another delayed move-in day and we had to live in a hotel for a week. Or that time when our apartment complex opened the pool in October. Or how we had all these high hopes of meeting people and doing all sorts of fun activities and none of it happened.
I don't know the next time I will be there again. I know it won't be the last--my cousin is going to college there and my friends are still there, but Ashlie is moving to a town I didn't plan on ever setting foot in again (so, that will be interesting?) and none of it will be "my place." Instead of being a resident, I'll only be a visitor. And maybe that means the things that have stuck with me--the painful things--will stay in the past, serving merely as a reminder, not in a hurtful, condescending way but rather in a look-how-far-you've-come kind of way.
So even though I physically turned in my keys months ago, this time I was actually mentally hanging them up on a peg and walking away. And while I don't feel this giant flood of relief or load off my shoulder, I know deep down that things will be even more different from here on out and, well...that's okay. I have no way of knowing what is coming my way or what to expect, but I do know that I can decide what I will think and do and that's powerful.
I'm not someone who will purge everything that is associated in some way with a bad life event, but I will release the things that are unhealthy for me or for others. If there's something that's holding you back or bringing you down, maybe it's time to turn in the keys for good. Take an honest look at yourself and identify what makes you happy and what can take you where you want to go and pursue it with every fiber of your being. Set aside those things or people who are contributing negativity or pain or anxiety to your life and move forward. In the end, you walk away with more knowledge, more peace, more comfort in knowing you are doing what is right. Don't be scared, beautiful; be brave. It's time to trade in that stupid plastic key fob for a beautiful gold skeleton key. You were meant for bigger and better things.