When I started high school, my dad gave me his old combination lock to use on my locker: a vintage Dudley. It stood out among the identical modern Master locks that most of my classmates had, and I was proud of it.
That lock followed me to college, where it sat mostly unused until I decided, some time in my senior year, that I was getting flabby and needed to start exercising. At that point I began swimming laps regularly, and I used the lock to keep my swim things in a locker at the gym.
I graduated, but I remained at college for work, and I started dating Andrea. (Today, that woman is my wife.) She took more and more of my attention, of course, and I got to the pool less and less often. Still I kept my swim things in the locker there.
At the end of the spring semester, 1989, everyone had to clear out their lockers for the summer. It would have been easy to do − my office was just on the other side of campus − but not yet having learned how to balance work, girlfriend, and other responsibilities and pursuits, I kept putting it off. When I finally got to the pool I discovered I was too late. The lock had been removed and the locker emptied.
I didn’t care about the swimsuit or the towel. But I was devastated to have lost the lock. I thought of it like an heirloom and was consumed with guilt. I live with the echoes of that feeling even today.
The good news is that that lesson is part of what helped me shape up into a more responsible adult.