There’s Always A Key

9 Apr

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s that there is always a key.

When I was a kid and I went to visit my grandmother’s house, I would spend hours playing Chip’s Challenge on her state-of-the-art Compaq desktop PC.

16-bit video games: teaching kids about unrealistic physics since 1989.

I never got past level 30.

But you know what?  I learned a thing or two about finding the key.  Finding the key was everything in that game- the keys opened the doors, which let you collect the chips, which let you open the portal, which let you progress to the next level of Melinda the Mental Marvel’s Clubhouse.  What’s more, you had to find the keys in the right order.  Opening the green door before the red door could mean you’d never see the other side of the blue door.

As I got older (and computers came with better pre-loaded games), I moved on from Chip’s Challenge.  I started collecting my own set of real-life keys- the house key in 4th grade, the golf cart key when I turned 14, the all-important car key when I turned 16, and the dorm room key and mailbox key when I hit college.  Each key signified a rite of passage- a sign that I was being recognized with some new responsibility.  Just like in Chip’s Challenge, I had to earn them in the right order.

It turns out that I’m still collecting those keys.  Over the years, I’ve had two golf cart keys, three car keys, four dorm room keys, two mailbox keys, a bike lock key, a school swimming pool key, numerous filing cabinet keys, keys to the houses of families that I’ve nannied for, keys to neighbors’ houses, keys to my own house, keys to houses that I can no longer identify, keys to two separate churches, and for some mysterious reason a key to a steamer trunk that does not open any such trunk in my house.  (I chose to believe that this key in fact opens the trunk from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, but that’s a different story.)

Each key given to me has been a sign of trust- trust that I will not total a car, deface a dorm room, use my school mailbox to send/receive illegal items, fill the school pool with Jell-O, “borrow” the church’s crayons for my personal use, rearrange the contents of a filing cabinet in accordance with the Klingon or Elvish alphabets, or most importantly that I will not allow any harm to come to the children (and houses) that have been left in my care.  I am proud to say that I’ve only failed in one of those things. (I’ll leave it to your imagination as to which one, but a hint- it wasn’t the children… or the houses.)

Yesterday I received a set of new keys (six, to be exact), and with them a lot of new responsibility.  I was given keys to the store at which I work part-time.  I now have the responsibility of shift manager, and can open and close the store by myself.  Added to the three physical keys and numerous virtual keys that I have for my other jobs, and you could say that my inventory has reached maximum capacity.

You know it's bad when your computer not only starts talking to you in metaphors, but in perfectly-timed metaphors.

Here’s the thing.

I’m not sure I want all those keys.

Having these new keys means that I’m eligible to work more hours at the retail job.  Since a full-time coworker just left, there are now 40 extra hours per week on the schedule.  For anyone else, this would be a good thing.  More hours up for grabs plus shift management capability means more shifts.  More shifts mean more money.

For me, more shifts just mean more time constraints as I try to juggle five jobs.

Four of those jobs are things that I can see myself doing for a long time.

Three of those jobs have the ability to become full-time jobs.

Two of those jobs make me truly happy at the end of the day.

One of those jobs has just received a renewed commitment from me to work my maximum allotted hours each week in hopes that it might become a full-time job (or at least get another major contract extension) at some point in the future.

There are still just 24 hours in the day.

You see the problem here, right?

The worst part is the uncertainty of it all.  What will happen if I leave one job and the other jobs can’t pick up the slack?  What happens six months down the road if the stars don’t align and no contract is offered and I’m left with no job at all?  Even if I don’t intentionally leave a job behind, I’m still left with questions.  What if I make a mistake and get fired?  What if the store closes due to poor sales?  What happens when the children I care for go to elementary school in the Fall?  What if budget concerns cut my monthly stipend?  What if  the new project/ fifth job that I’m so excited about falls through and I am left with nothing to show for all my efforts?

I think that all this work-related anxiety  is a common problem for my generation- we no longer live in a time where people will stay with the same company for 50 years.  Businesses fold, jobs change, dreams shift, and entire careers take sudden left turns.  We aren’t offered the same job security that we watched our parents live with, and it terrifies the living hell out of us.

I know that there’s a key hidden here somewhere.  There’s a solution to all of this, and I think I may already know what it is.  The hardest part is that this is real life.  There’s no password that will let me skip this level.  If I chose the wrong door, I can’t hit control+R and restart.  If I use the wrong key, it won’t come back to me.  And there is certainly no video walk-though on YouTube.  (Believe me, I’ve checked.)

So while I continue to write pro and con lists, sketch time management pie graphs, stare blankly at an electronic calendar, and just generally pray for either some clear guidance or a meteor to throw off the planet’s rotation just enough to grant us an extra four hours a day, I can at least draw comfort from the fact that video games can still teach me valuable life lessons.

Oh, and the fact that Chip’s Challenge 2 has to be released to the public someday… right?


3 Responses to “There’s Always A Key”

  1. Laura-Ashley April 9, 2012 at 9:37 am #

    I LOVE CHIP’S CHALLENGE! <—Random, I know.

  2. Cherilyn April 9, 2012 at 10:29 am #

    Praying you get your keys all sorted out…in the right time…and that if you need a key ring…or just an older friend to sort through things with, you know I am always around. Loving you on your journey!

  3. Barnabas Cleave April 10, 2012 at 3:09 am #

    If you like the idea of Chip’s Challenge 2 you should check out Chuck’s Challenge:

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