It’s a big wide world out there – one that we all do our best to navigate by assuming responsibility. One of my earliest recollections of understanding responsibility started with a key. On my first day returning to summer camp, my mom informed me that since I was 12, I was old enough to be in the house without parental supervision. This meant I would get my very own key to the house. The significance of the key was not lost on me. I clutched it in my palm all night, phoned all my friends with the good news, and had a difficult time falling asleep.
The school bus picked me up that morning and dropped me off as it did every summer before. But this time, I would have the house all to myself: What TV shows would I watch? What would I secretly snack on before dinner? As the bus pulled up to my house, I rifled through my bag. My key, my very first house key, was nowhere to be found. A symbol of responsible youth, and I had lost it. I was stricken with embarrassment, and didn’t want to let on that I was missing my key. “They won’t notice,” I thought. “I’ll just walk up to my house, pretend to open the door by turning the knob, and the bus will drive off.”
I walked up to my house, turned the knob, and alas, the bus, its driver and passengers were still there. I slinked back to the bus, and watched as every other kid got dropped off at home. I would be the last stop that day. By the time the bus driver finished his rounds and circled back to my house, my dad was home from work to let me in. A twinge of fear crept in: Would I be deemed too irresponsible to have another key?
Then, there it was: sitting on our living room floor, where I was the night before, calling all my friends in flurried excitement.
As the years pass, my responsibilities have increased, and somewhat exponentially since moving to China. It was in Beijing that I learned about the rather cruel nature of landlords when it comes to deposits, the difficulties of life with a roommate who is otherwise a stranger, and the intricacies of hiring a trustworthy ayi. The unexpected can happen, so it never hurts to be prepared. Consult our guide (p47) this month on preventing and handling situations like car accidents or house break-ins. We also delve into the world of ayis (p51), because life with one can either be a blessing or a nightmare.
Although I lost my first house key on the first day of owning it, I was never reprimanded for it. I am still the owner of that same key, and now, I always hold my keys in my hand when closing the front door, and keep a spare key with a friend to prevent future lockouts. Sometimes accidents happen, and in the end, we are all the better for learning from them.
photo courtesy of Kara Chin