So this is the story of how I received a giving key that a friend gave me, engraved with “CUNSEOUL”. The place where I work has interns come and go every spring, summer and fall term, and this particular friend was one of the interns I met last spring. She and I grew pretty close, and there was a point in our friendship where I opened up about how I am terrible with keeping in touch with people. I talked about how my whole life I had gotten used to just cutting people out and severing all ties with them because I don’t want to deal with taking the emotional risk of getting hurt. One of the things I am most afraid of is grasping onto a long-distance friendship that fades and deteriorates into nothing. I have had that happen to me before multiple times and it just hurts too much to deal with. This friend pushed me and encouraged me to take the risk, and she convinced me that it’s just a cliff one has to jump off of, with the faith that there’s somebody to catch you at the bottom. The key was a reminder that, in the symbolic sense, her door was always open to me, and it was her symbolic confirmation to me that our friendship was something she would want to maintain as well. This reminder was meant to give me the strength to reach out to her and keep the friendship alive, which is what I wanted to do, but I might have been too afraid to do without her key. She and I keep in contact today and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

As far as the actual meaning of the engraving goes, it’s actually a secondhand key. It was given to her by one of her exboyfriends, and she had explained to me that its meaning and significance to her had changed enough to the point where she felt like she was ready to give it away and “give it new life”. I suppose CUNSEOUL could be a promise to see each other in the future, or a general promise to reunite. Seoul is also the capital of South Korea, and the workplace where we met is a North Korea-related human rights nonprofit, so there is a loose connection there.

Ultimately it was the key itself, more than the engraving, that spoke to me and gave me the strength to overcome my fear of being hurt. It gave me the courage to fight to keep my friendships with her, and others far away from me, alive.

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