Lessons From My Key: Ties That Bind


Handing over my giving key marked the end of my friendship with Monica. I wore this tangible piece of hope around my neck everyday and felt she was the best person to pass it on to. I imagined the gifting of the key to be a tear jerking spectacle full of laughter, crying and with enough heart filled drama to be from a young adult novel. Boy, was I wrong.

Monica and I worked in a small medical clinic in a small Texas border town next to Mexico. I worked in the IT department and she worked in Dental. Dental was the only section that had a snack bar so I made frequent trips there to grab some quick eats. Monica would be eating her lunch, I would be having mine, so naturally we made acquaintance with topics - usually on the men in our life.

Monica has had a long history of abusive relationships and sexual harassment in her life. She didn't trust men, and she ended up dating men that would only validate her mistrust. Understandably, she did not have an enthused opinion towards the other gender. She has battled and survived cancer and walked in Relay for Life, an extraordinary feat that amazes me.

From the beginning of our friendship, I could sense that she had been living with a lot of pain in her life. Many of our conversations consisted of the mistreatment she received in her past relationships, it was heartbreaking to hear - and very frequent. As a kid coming from a happy home with nothing much to complain about, I always admired others that had come through the depths of the darkest parts of the world. She had gone through so much, and here she was still alive and marching on. "That's strength," I thought to myself.

Fast forward to the day she was moving to North Carolina. We partied in San Antonio, we partied in Austin, and it was time to say goodbye. I wrote out a long letter doing my best to not sound critical. I wanted to help Monica let go of her troubles, and to me (at the time), that meant to stop discussing them in high amounts. I printed a copy of the lyrics to "Last Thing On Your Mind" by Lights, a positive song about lifting someone up who's down. I attached my giving key with the word "Kokoro" engraved on it. Kokoro is the concept of heart/soul in Japanese. It serves as a constant reminder to take actions with compassion at the root. I explained that this key helped me to remember what matters, and I hope it would help her in a new path.

After she departed, she texted moments later that day saying that she didn't agree with my comments. It ended up becoming a battle of the egos and we ended it with "Have a nice life." We were both filled with anger and hadn't spoken in months.

Fast forward to today and we have happily reunited with a friendship that is stronger than it had ever been. We discussed forgiveness, love, and agreed that struggles in any relationship only serve as opportunities for the ties to be tighter. And that's what I learned from giving away my giving key.