I call my key the “key to laughter”, partially because its message is “laugh” and partially because it came to me at a time when I most desperately needed it. It was gifted to me by one of my closest friends on my nineteenth birthday. Usually nothing so significant happens at nineteen—it’s the last year of being a teenager, big deal. For me it was. I was suicidal—there’s no pretty way to put that, so I’ve stopped trying to romanticize it. Two months before my nineteenth birthday I almost took my own life. To make it to nineteen and to be semi-healthy was like breathing a huge sigh of relief (more for my family than for me). However, there was a crucial part of my essence that seemed to have taken an extended vacation: my laugh. Ask anyone who knows me well and they’ll tell you that my laugh is my defining characteristic. It’s not pretty or dainty or cute-it’s one of those unbridled, obnoxious laughs that fills an entire room; more than that, it fills my entire being. My mother tells me that when she looks back on my suicidal days, the silence in the house that had usually been filled with my laughter was just plain eerie. The day my friend gave me that key is the first day I laughed in months. It was real, natural, delicious laughter that took over my whole person. Maybe it was the Miyazaki movie that made absolutely NO sense to me, or maybe it was the small piece of rugged metal that symbolized that someone in this world still cared. Whatever the cause, I laughed uncontrollably and for the first time in months I found myself thinking, “you know, maybe moments like this are what make life worth living”.
The message is simple and necessary. I could walk down my street and find someone who needs a little more laughter in his or her life. You want to know the reason I haven’t given it up? I’m not finished with it. Laughter and I have some unfinished business to attend to. We struggle on a daily basis. Sometimes, she (because in my mind laughter is a she) leaves me behind to deal with my own emotional demons. Thanks to the key, I know she’s only a touch and a memory away. It reminds me that the smallest action has the power to break someone, or the power to keep them alive. It helps me remember that two years ago someone forced me to see the beautiful things, no matter how small. I remember these lessons every day when I put it on, running my fingers over the jagged edges and when I leave it behind by accident, I can feel that a vital part of who I am stayed with it. Someday maybe I’ll be able to remember that life is worth living without having to wrap my fingers around the cool, grooved metal for reassurance. In this same alternate universe I won’t need it to remind me that there are people in my life who care about me enough to remind me that my laughter is a vital part of my being. Until then, I’ll keep the key to laughter around my neck.