It Isn’t Hard to Master

“The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.
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Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.”
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~ Elizabeth Bishop, from “One Art”
     Today on my run in the park near my Kollegium, I lost my room key. Four days from leaving Copenhagen, and I lost the intrinsically valuable and overwhelmingly expensive to replace – piece of metal that somehow, all of a sudden, was one of my most essential possessions. The cost of replacing the key was enormous, so I spent the day tracing and re-tracing my route. Running the paths up and down, peering into shadowy crevices I’d never noticed before, my heart leaping every time I saw something glint on the side of the metal pavement. A Carlsberg beer cap. Good.
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    The world is not a wish-granting factory, I realized, sitting down on a beach and letting out a long sigh after the fourth failed run-through of the park. The author John Green had it right. And while I knew that in the scheme of things, my lost key and the lost money associated with it were small matters in light of the everyday challenges and tragedies that so many others are experiencing around the world, I was still so angry at myself. The art of losing isn’t hard to master. I’ve mastered it alright.
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   I was lost in Brussels, riding the confusing metro system back and forth, missing my stop multiple times. I was separated from the tour group in Istanbul for a substantial period, wandering the paths of the Topkapi palace and scanning for my class. And who can forget the time I walked over twenty minutes in the wrong direction from DIS in the first week of classes, finally stopping to ask a security guard at the Christiansborg Palace for directions. The five minute walk to my hostel becoming a thirty minute exploration of every side street off of the bus stop. I am lost perpetually, and I also seem to lose things on an equal basis: coins in my change purse, my printed directions to the hostel, pens and pencils and to-do lists.
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   But I remember small, arbitrary facts about people: that a friend at my Kollegium likes brownies, but only the ones from a mix; that my roommate loves the colour turquoise, and that one of my friends at school orchestra collects old maps. The fact that my SRA here in Copenhagen loves M&M’s, but she only eats them every other day because she wants to make them a special treat, not a daily habit. And how the girl from Manchester that I met in Prague, who had run out of pages in her travel notebook, loved to manually write everything, not type. I remember exactly how my friend likes her coffee: no sugar, skim milk. That the favourite flavour of ice-cream of a family friend is Cherry Garcia, and how a new friend in one of my classes at DIS collects little Buddha figurines from every place she travels. I’ll remember the favourite band of someone I just met on the plane, but ask me what street I walked on the other day to get to DIS? I will have no idea.
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  There’s a certain freedom in being lost, I have to come to realize. A sense of daring, a sense of risk. I had hoped, upon coming to Denmark that I would get lost, so to speak, leaving what I knew behind and immersing myself in a different culture. I don’t know if I accomplished this completely. It’s hard to tell in just four months. But ultimately, I think that getting lost and losing things over the course of this semester taught me an important lesson; in losing directions and in losing items, I was forced to fix the problem that I had created, one way or another. By getting lost in a different culture, I saw both the similarities and the differences in the way people live their lives, in communicating and interacting with one another, in showing emotion, or, as I found often to be the case in Denmark, keeping emotion inside. In a sense, getting lost was a way towards achieving the vivid memories I have of the places and the people I met this semester.
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   There are two ways of approaching being lost or losing something: to dare or to not dare. Kierkegaard writes that “in the eyes of the world, it is dangerous to dare, and why? Because you can lose. But not to dare, that is considered wise. And yet, by not daring you so terribly easy risk losing what you did not lose by daring, no matter how much else you may have lost.” There are gradients to the art of losing: to dare and to not lose, to dare and to lose, and to not dare at all. The latter is the greatest risk, because in Kierkegaard’s view, by not daring at all, you lose so much more.
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   In effect, many of my decisions leading up to and throughout this semester were based on this gradient, a projection of “what-ifs” that I hadn’t considered at the time. What if I hadn’t applied to study abroad? What if I hadn’t come to Denmark? What if we stayed the weekend in Berlin? What if I borrowed a bicycle and biked around Copenhagen today? What if I had put my key in an armband instead of my pocket? The possibilities are endless, and while I need to let go of some of the “what-ifs” in my mind, I am thankful for the others that I had, because as I look back on the semester now, I hope I did dare. More than I normally do, more than I thought that I could. And that broadening of perspective, that daring and gaining of newfound knowledge, has made this chapter in my life so meaningful and one that I will always remember.
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    My key is still somewhere in that park by my Kollegium. Or maybe it’s in the hands of someone else. Perhaps a child playing in the playground found it, thought it was pretty, and wanted to keep it. Maybe an older man on his daily walk through the park picked it up and added it to his collection of lost things, pondering the item’s story. Maybe that’s just what I’d like to think. I hope it brings that person good luck. I hope that it travels the world. I hope that it can spend some time in each place, getting lost and being found again.
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