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Don and I were recently watching a Netflix show, “Locke & Key,” about a family whose ancestors created keys with magical abilities. For instance, the angel key enables the bearer to sprout wings and fly, and the anywhere key transports the holder anywhere in the world they visualize as they turn it.

One of the Locke children, an anxious teenage girl, uses the head key to enter her own mind and pull out the part of herself that is fearful. The fear then becomes a creature of its own, living outside of the girl, while she becomes reckless and borderline cocky without the fear that had been holding her back.

There is a mending key and a hercules key and one that enables the holder to take on another person’s identity. While the show isn’t perfect, it’s wildly creative.

“If you could use just one of those keys,” Don asked me, “which one would it be?”

Without hesitation, I said I would use the one to remove my fears, just like the anxious girl in the show.

“You don’t need magic to do that,” Don said.

While I know he is right, I also know I have difficulty mustering the strength necessary to take on things I find frightening. Being fearful has prevented me from experiencing treetop ziplining and whitewater rafting and singing in front of my friends. It has caused me to linger in bad relationships and tolerate mistreatment and stay put when I’m longing to leave.

But then, every once in a while, I’ll surprise myself and do something brave.

For the past few years, I have been settled down rather comfortably working as the executive assistant to the head of a large recruiting firm. When I first took the position, I was warned it was stagnant. For a time, there had been plenty to learn, and the pace was fast, with constant side projects to fill any slow points that might appear in my schedule. The busy-ness of the job was enough to keep me satisfied with the idea of essentially running hard, but in place, until retirement.

I knew the role inside-out, knew all the people, knew what to expect and when to expect it. While my job was generally challenging and fairly fulfilling, there began to be times when it wasn’t. When I felt little flickers of wishing for more.

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During one of those times, a recruiter reached out to see if I might be interested in a position she was trying to fill. There was something about the way she presented the firm that enticed me to listen. I went to the company’s website and read every one of their bios, noticing in the process that it wasn’t just the top dogs who were featured, but every employee.

The more I read, the more I felt myself drawn in that direction. The interview process was long and involved and even included a three-hour psychological exam, but at the end was an offer.

One I chose to accept.

Breaking the news to my boss was difficult, and then awkward. It felt as if I had just told my husband I was leaving him for another man, and then we had to live under the same roof for another two weeks. But he was classy and kind, and my coworkers made me feel valued and loved.

And now, most have seen the ugly scrunched face I make when I’m trying hard not to cry.

I thought by this age, I was beyond being new. Several of my former classmates have already retired, yet here I am, rejecting one outfit after another for what feels like my first day of school. Fighting fears about whether my new crew will like me; whether I will say something dumb or blunder about in a way that causes them to regret bringing me on.

If only I could turn a key and be done with these worries. If it was as simple as that.

But magic isn’t required. Pushing myself is.

And from it will come a sense of pride I might never experience without forcing myself over these bumps in my road.

Karin Fuller can be reached at

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