Monday, June 02, 2008

a room of one's own

The title of Virginia Woolf's famous essay, which according to Wikipedia means "any author's need for poetic license and the personal liberty to create art." For me, it means personal liberty, having a space (concretely or abstractly) that is truly one's own and no one else's.

I'm trying to find that here in College Station. Motivated by loneliness and a need for connection, I've spent a lot of energy pursuing community and relationships with others. I'm still pursuing these things, but lately, I've had an urge for personal freedom, and for creating my own world here. There's something really freeing about doing something purely because I want to, not because someone invited me, not because I was asked to do it, not because I'm hoping to impress someone, but simply because I chose to do it. I'm such a social creature that I don't have a lot of these things. When I describe how I spend my time, it all revolves around people. Sure, I have hobbies and interests in music, movies, theatre, art, traveling, but most of how I choose to spend my time revolves around other people. It's not a bad thing and I don't resent that. I love people, so I'll take any excuse to be around people I enjoy!

Every Saturday at 5, at a park in a low SES section of Bryan, there's a group of students who host a potluck for the people in that community, some of whom are homeless, and most of whom are in poverty. Since I heard about it back in January, I'd been wanting to go, and about a month ago, I attended it with my church small group. I went to it again, without my small group, this past Saturday. No one invited me, no one was expecting me, I just wanted to go. I had decided to go early on in the week, but when the actual day arrived, I was tempted to skip. I had slept in, and hadn't started on my paper due Monday, but I'd already bought groceries to cook. The idea popped into my head that maybe I should cook the food and deliver it to someone's house who I know is going, but stay home and work on my paper. But I couldn't do that. I had other motivations for going, to connect with people who are different from me, to serve, to build God's kingdom, to be loving and giving. But my tenacity in going really came down to the fact that this was the only thing all week, or all week perhaps, that I had purely chosen to participate in. Everything else I did this last weekend was because a professor had asked me to do it or a friend had invited me to do it. Sure, I still had a choice in those matters, but going to this potluck with the one thing that I had made up my mind to do by myself, without being asked. And there was no way I could give up that kind of freedom and empowerment!

So, with school being less demanding, and me being single and not tightly connected to group of friends, I definitely have the freedom to pursue things that I enjoy and that are important to me. Looking back on my time with Andrew, I realized that pretty much the entire time we were together, almost everything we did were things that he wanted to do. This wasn't a bad thing, this wasn't any weakness of mine, or me conforming and changing myself to a guy. It was simply the circumstances - Andrew had a set group of friends, and I didn't. He's lived here longer and knows the things he likes to do, and I'm new here and haven't quite figured out what I like to do around here. Like I said, it wasn't bad, I don't regret that aspect of our relationship, but when I date, I'm used to having a life other than the guy. I'm used to and prefer bringing him into my life while he brings me into his, instead of just me joining his life because I don't yet have a life of my own. Maybe I'm exaggerating a little. It probably wasn't that way 100% of the time, but it definitely was the majority of the time and that definitely was the trend that I see.

So, here's to freedom and finding my own life in Bryan/College Station! Here's to having a room of my own! When I'm not working, studying, writing, seeing clients, running errands, or doing household chores, there's lots that I want to be doing. I want to be asking people to meals, having friends over, hosting sleepovers, swimming in my friends' pool, inviting friends to movies and concerts, cooking for homeless people, cooking for myself, biking, drinking wine, drawing mandalas, going to yoga classes, going to prayer meetings, reading for fun, and whatever else comes to mind! And then maybe, the next dating experience I have, I can say, "Hmm, Saturday night. Well, I've got this potluck that I'll be going to from about 5-7. We could hang out afterwards, or you're welcome to join me." I'd be cool with that.


if walled in climb up said...

Oooh, this is such a thoughtful post. I can relate a lot to your feelings of needing a room of your own. Like you mentioned, it's so easy to get caught in the swing of allowing others to run your life. You may not even realize it. It feels so good to break away from the things people say you have to do and do what you alone want to experience.

if walled in climb up said...

Sometimes you don't have to even leave your house to do it. You can catch up on that book you've been meaning to read but always gets crowded out or grab a bowl of ice cream. : )

Ben said...

I'm trying to figure out where my own experience touches on yours here.

I suppose I'm enough of an introverted, socially awkward weirdo that I tend to think of being in my own room (to hold onto the metaphor) as a default state rather than something I need consciously to seek out.

Or maybe that's mostly a means of justifying the fact that the things I do on my own initiative - wander around the city alone, hit up coffee shops and get really wired and write inane blog posts, noodle around on guitar - don't tend to be, well, feeding poor people in the park.

I suppose I'm just the sort of misanthrope who, if he's not going to be guided by the initiative and interests and desires of other people, would just as soon dispense with the other people entirely.

So I really admire, anytime I'm actually in a group doing something like this, the person who shows up not really knowing anybody, the person who has decided to do whatever we're doing without consulting with us first. There's a bravery there that I mostly lack.

crackers and cheese said...

I'm such a people person, that being with others is just my default state. I don't really require a whole lot of alone time (though I do still need it), but it's been good to recognize this need to dothings on my own initiative, and to experience how wonderful and freeing that can be!

Goodness though, I'm no saint who goes around feeding the poor all the time. Like you said Britt, I have found that I can eat some ice cream, drink some red wine, and watch half a movie or read a book before bed to find a room of my own. Or go shopping by myself and buy a floppy summer hat or browse through a bookstore. Most of the time, I'd rather do stuff with people, but these things that bring me to life don't always have to be with others, and don't always have to be self-sacrificing either. It's important to balance giving to others and giving to oneself.

Britt, I think most of the time you do a pretty good job with self care and exploring what things you enjoy doing, so thanks for that example.

Ben, I imagine that somehow, the things you do on your own initiative, that you do for yourself, possibly recharge you and make you the Ben who you are who is able to serve others and be with others, even if it's not a default state. I don't think one default state is better than the other, but extremes of both are probably unhealthy.