Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Space of One's Own

Until about a year ago, I never fully realized the importance of having a space of my own. Not necessarily an entire apartment or even the absence of roommates, but a space in which to stretch out, leave a mark, close the door and leave the world behind- a place which mirrors my own personality and makes me want to be there.

When I loved to The Hague four years ago, I lived in a small studio apartment complete with my own kitchen and beautiful french doors leading to a private little balcony where I could spend hours, and sometimes days, in complete and blissful solitude or with friends drinking tea and smoking clove cigarettes. Everything from the dark wood furniture and cream colored carpeting, to the deep red wall and huge windows in this place screamed 'me' and I felt extremely lucky to have found such a gem among the sea of student flats and sorely modern rooms the city had to offer.

In my third year at uni, I finally came to terms with the fact that, while I loved my place and detested the idea of living it, the rent was simply too high for a student struggling to make ends meet. And so, when my best friend Kasia left for six weeks for a trip to southeast Asia, I packed up my things and moved into her room on the other side of the city. While our tastes are quite different (in many areas), I've always thought her place was lovely. With its high ceilings, bay windows and minimalist decoration, it was easy to feel comfortable there, but even after moving a few things around and lining the shelves with my books and pictures, it was still very much her room. Probably better, in hindsight, because as I said, I was only there for six weeks and it would have been a shame to become attached to such a place and then have had to leave.

The six weeks flew by and after Kasia returned home, I gathered my things once again and moved into yet another apartment. This time, that of another friend who was moving to Paris for six months. Here I once again had my own kitchen, a view of the lovely courtyard outside, three enormous windows to perch next to and read, and a beautiful little park just outside the front door. But even after Kasia came over and helped me to rearrange furniture and unpack my things, I couldn't seem to make the place mine. The lime green wall and oppressive black carpeting made me long for the bright airiness of my old place, the lack of natural sunlight left me feeling lethargic and lifeless and in the end, I spent probably no more than six weeks of my time there actually living in this apartment. I opted, instead, to pack a bag and live a quasi nomadic lifestyle, sleeping at friends' houses in The Hague and Delft and spending weekends in Amsterdam with my boyfriend.

I suppose a valuable lesson I learned during this time was about the profound unimportance of stuff. I'd never given it too much serious thought before, but somehow just assumed that I really needed all of the things I had been accumulating over the years. There's little that can show you just how false of an assumption that is like living out of a a single weekend bag for nearly half a year. Still, while my material possessions were far from my thought during that time, the aching for my own little spot was more accute than ever. I dreamed of my old room, of a new one in which smelled and felt and even tasted like home.

As the six months drew to its end, I was warmly invited by a very good friend of mine, to come share a room with her in the huge student apartment where she was living in Delft and use that as a home base until I could find another, more suitable place after returning from Hawaii. I hesitated for a moment because sharing a room with someone, no matter how close you are to them, doesn't come without it's drawbacks. Furthermore, my friend is known for beinga bit overly generous at times, a fact which I certainly didn't want to exploit. After weighing scenarios in my head, however, I decided it was a lovely plan and hence I packed up once again and moved to Delft.

For just over a month now I've been sharing a gorgeous split-level room with Mel, who has proven to be an amazing roommate. The apartment is complete with seven kitchens, a balcony terrace and about forty housemates. An eclectic mix of architects, designers, musicians, artists and students, they have been astoundingly hospitable, open and overall a great bunch to know, much less live with. My days there are filled with laughter and spontaneous get togethers, and the nights with huge dinners, wine and endless chatter. Every person in the house is unique, creative and adds a slightly different flavor to the mix, making the whole experience of living there a profoundly new and exciting one. As expected, sharing a room can be a bit inconvenient at times, but it's brought Mel and I closer than ever and I can't deny that I've gotten quite accustomed to always having someone around to share a silly joke, moan to about this or that, or just spend a few hours in silence with. It's like having a sister after 25 years as an only child. I absolutely love it!

There is a room freeing up in the apartment at the beginning of April and I would like nothing more than to claim it. The idea of remaining a part of this awesome jumble, of Mel being just down the hall, and of finally having a space which I can, once again, make completely and utterly my own, makes my heart skip a beat. The vote-in is on the 9th. Keep your fingers crossed for me. 'Til then..

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