Toastmasters speech (How to say it) originally given on April 21, 2005
Award: Best speaker
Take your keys out of your pocket and count how many are on the ring.
What does your keychain say about you?
Does it have a fob that says you're the #1 dad?
Are you a minimalist with just a few keys?
Or is it large and jangly, because you like to have everything in one place?
My keychain includes four keys, an alarm fob, a pill case, and a mini Eiffel Tower. And in many ways, it's a reflection of the life events I've experienced in the past year and half.
The newest key
Last Monday, I added the newest key. It's the key to my new condo, the first home I've ever bought. When I got the key, it was so anticlimactic. Here it was, this simple piece of brass and nickel plating that had literally cost me $300 grand. I don't know why, but I somehow expected it to be gold or platinum. Anyhow, as I added the key to the ring, I took a long look at the rest of the keys and began to think about how they are a time capsule of sorts, a snapshot of what my life is today and what it has been recently.
The pill case
The case holds a few vitamins that I take during the day. The vitamins are antioxidants, because antioxidants contain powerful cancer-fighting properties. To make a long story short, I was diagnosed with kidney cancer nearly two years ago. I was lucky — my friends kept pushing me to go to the doctor when I complained about pain I had while exercising. A stage one diagnosis was followed by surgery to remove my entire right kidney in September 2003. Nowadays, I exercise six days a week and the only pain I have is minor muscle soreness from pushing myself that extra 15 minutes on the elliptical trainer or adding another 5 pounds to the bicep curl.
The big black key
The key to my Toyota Camry has a coat of green nail polish in the center. That's because I used to have two identical-looking Camry keys on the ring— one for my green Camry and one for my now ex-husband's grey Camry. I spent fourteen years with Eric, my high school sweetheart. We dated from the time we were 15, moved in together when we graduated from college, and then got married at age 25. Last year, we decided to separate and a good friend helped me figure out that Paris was as good a place as any to contemplate whether or not I wanted to be married.
Enter the Eiffel Tower.
This mini version of la tour eiffel is a reflection of my love of all things French. It's so cheesy, but so perfectly cool. I'm mad for the French language, cooking, films, and yes, even the people. You might say that I got to know them pretty well, because I spent six weeks in France last year on two separate visits. I've spent three years studying the language and my current goal is to learn enough French to have a decent conversation with someone older than a second grader. I'm working hard to become fluent because my five-year plan is to move abroad, ideally to Paris.
Why five years?
French labor laws make it hard to get a work permit unless you have a very specialized skill set and I determined that getting an MBA is the best way to improve my odds of becoming gainfully employed in France. Once I made the decision to get a graduate degree, I started looking for an employer that would pay for graduate school. I chose to apply for a job at _______ last September because they give their employees two free classes a semester.
I've been there for 5 months now, and I can honestly say that I love my job. The politics are challenging, my boss and colleagues are super smart, and I'm learning to trust myself professionally more and more every day. My commute is one third less time than my old drive to ________, I make more money, earn way more vacation, get two free classes a semester, and yes, I even have two keys to the building. Last week, I submitted my application for the MBA program. I haven't heard if I'm in yet, but I'm hoping for the best. And for another key to add to my keychain.
This seemingly mudane keyring says so much about my past, my present, and my future.
In the past year and half, I've beaten cancer, survived a divorce, and lived abroad. I've advanced in my career, applied for graduate school, and bought my first home. And today, my popi and I will move all my things into my new home. This Sunday, I'll celebrate my thirtieth birthday by having a housewarming party with my friends.
Take a moment and feel your keychain again.
Turn it over in your hands and think about this:
How are your keys a reflection of who you are?
What story do they tell about you?