“Can we arrange a FaceTime soon?”—this unprompted text from my mother sent a jolt of fear through my very being. Naturally, my first thought was oh God, who died? We’ve already lost our cat, Stanley—a chunky orange legend we’d had since I was 12. I scanned my brain for breadcrumbs of information that could lead me to a deceased or unwell relative.
As it turns out, she merely wanted to get my blessing on turning my childhood bedroom into a “guest room”. The relief coursing through me was enough to make me agree immediately. She proceeded to gut my room of all the novelty fairy lights and trinkets that never made it to university with me.
As soon as my childhood belongings were stashed safely away in a storage unit, I was swept into a depressive episode that forced me out of London. Like a sickly Victorian woman, I retreated to the countryside, where I could safely languish until the storm passed. My hometown sleepily awaited my arrival, ensconced as it is within the rolling hills of the Peak District.
I found my bedroom (or “the” bedroom—for it no longer belongs to me) transformed, grown-up-ified. A few childhood relics still haunt the space; my bedraggled and beloved teddies sit forlornly on the shelf, Blu Tack marks linger stubbornly on the white walls…
The bed now sits in the middle of the room. There’s something inherently grown-up about a centralised bed. It takes up vastly more space this way and implies that this room is for sleeping—it is not for hanging out, agonising over boys or hormonally spiralling. There’s no space for such juvenile activities.
My room is me; I am my room.
Meanwhile, my bed in London sits in the far corner, with a nightstand on just the one side (because there is only one of me). If guests do stay over, they have to settle for a lack of nightstand and must awkwardly clamber over me if they wish to use the bathroom in the night. The same, I’ve noticed, is true of most bedrooms of London residents in their twenties.
With the rental market and economy being what it is (shit), space is a rare commodity and house-sharing is the norm. Even out and about, your personal space is constantly invaded by jostling bodies—there is little in the way of respite. I’m lucky that I share my home with three of my closest friends; everyone does their bit when it comes to keeping our communal spaces tidy and we are a peaceable house. We share medicines as well as germs, and give one another fair warning before we take an extended shower in our single communal bathroom.
Regardless of how fond you are of your housemates, though, you likely still require your own space to retreat into whenever the outside world gets a little much. For me, my bedroom is my sanctuary. It is filled with books, bizarre charity-shop finds and other kitsch objects that reflect who I am as a person. I even have a hot-pink cast of my own tits hanging above the mantlepiece. Each time I tuck myself into my far-corner bed at night, I gaze adoringly at the shrine I’ve created around said anatomical sculpture.
My room is me; I am my room.
My room is such a personal space that I feel taking a partner into it for the first time a pretty big step. One guy I was dating last year was aghast when—after three dates—I took him home to meet my housemates (and my bedroom). He compared the space to a museum; a carefully curated and arranged array of objects set up to educate the viewer on a given subject. In this case, the subject is me.