After spending half my Saturday glued to Fallout: New Vegas, the crack cocaine of interactive video entertainment, I realized that although I had gorged myself thoroughly on radiated rat meat and such within the game, I had neglected to eat any real life food. Embarrassed, I asked my brother if I could borrow his car keys so that I might venture out for some Vietnamese. Food.

“Sure,” he said. He jammed a hand into his pants pocket and produced an enormous, unwieldy entanglement of metal.

Thanking him with a smirk, I received the metallic jumble and made my exit. By the time I pulled the Chevy out from the driveway, I’d already realized that these keys carried a metaphysical weight far heavier than the physical one assigned by Earth’s gravity. Though multitudinous and jumbled to the point of hilarity, these keys were a symbol of my brother’s growth, each one representative of a single responsibility he’d taken upon himself–a milestone in his life. Among them: the key to his Chevy, the key to his wife’s car, two keys to the house he now owned, and a key to the office where he worked. Supplementally, a cast iron bottle opener key ring–seemingly a reminder that amongst all these responsibilities, there must still remain times for merriment. These were the keys of an established, well-rounded adult.

I took out my own key ring to compare. A single, borrowed house key with a note still attached from when I’d lost it earlier in the week, and the same iron bottle opener. The visual impact was mortifying. My twenty-six years had culminated in this, a physical embodiment of my lack of responsibility or commitment, of an existence where drinking and living bore equal weight. Today’s menu would be phở ga with just a hint of my own bile.

On the other hand, life experiences, girlfriends, and world travels don’t have keys. Yet.