People often ask, “What’s your key to success?” I’ll shrug my shoulders and say, “I don’t know, I can’t even keep track of my car keys.”

Merely utter these words, “I lost my keys,” and I watch others respond with heightened alert and a bit of sympathetic panic. I add, “Don’t worry – it happens about six times a day,” and then I see relief. I’ve lived in this state of anxiety ever since I got my driver’s license, so it has become a normal part of my day. Despite living in the same house for 22 years, I have yet to determine a designated parking space for my keys when I return home.

And on my regular stomping grounds, those who know me have gotten accustomed to my chronic key losing. When they see a stray set of keys lying around, they’ll track me down. At the end of a large church function, when a loudspeaker announcement says a set of keys has been found, people will ask, “Where’s Karen?”

My family is used to me getting ready to leave, and then rushing around the house trying to find the keys. “Here we go again,” says my husband, “Why don’t you find a place and always put them there?” This is the same question he has asked throughout our marriage. To which I reply, “It’s the only way to get the kitchen counter tidied up before I depart.”

Ninety percent of the time, my keys are on the kitchen counter buried under all the other stuff that lands there. So I guess it is fairly safe to say that the kitchen counter is my designated spot. When my keys migrate to other parts of the house, my lost key antics are not so funny.

When my son got his driver’s license, he immediately determined a designated spot for the keys. Fortunately, he has followed in my husband’s footsteps. After he has driven the car, I know exactly where to find the keys.

This past weekend we went to a few graduation parties – one for a friend, the other for my nephew. Sitting at the kitchen table at my nephew’s party, as he ate, his grandmother handed him a gift to open. I was curious to see what she so eagerly wanted him to have. The package, roughly the size of a small cereal box, was light in weight. He opened it slowly, and then looked at it with great interest. Meanwhile, relatives, many of them, high school teachers, were complaining about so-called helicopter parents, who won’t let go of their kids even after high school, calling college professors and deans to check in and advocate for their kids. Because parents are footing the bill, colleges are accommodating parents’ requests. With the high cost of college, careers are being steered and carefully monitored by parents – there seems to be little room for any wrong turns.

It seemed ironic that my nephew’s gift was a global positioning system. “So,” I asked, “do you type in your GPA, your career interests and have the GPS navigate you to the appropriate college?”

I have a love-hate relationship with my GPS. It seems to come with an expectation that I have no excuse for getting lost. Much like my husband saying there’s no excuse for lost keys, I should know better, or, at least accept that the GPS knows better. But does it really? Aren’t the twists and turns along the way more interesting than the long, straight path?

So, ask me my key to success, and I’m also inclined to respond, “What is success? A good-paying job with a designated parking spot, a happy marriage, a home and family, a heavenly journey?”

Of these thoughts, a heavenly journey stands out most in my book. And this journey is paved with wrong turns, twists, unknowns mixed with both sorrow and joy. Without the disappointments and the lessons learned from them, there would be no joy. You have to have both. So embrace the journey in its entirety. Don’t be afraid of wrong turns or lost car keys. Everything in life happens for a reason. And congratulations to the class of 2008.


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