The Story of One Foldable Couch: Why do we Care so Much About Personal Space?

Loving My City

I’ll be honest with you – I’ve been paying $free.99 in rent since June; my contribution toward having a roof over my head begins and ends with paying a couple of thousand rubles toward “Kvar. plata” (a nominal fee one pays in order to sustain an apartment that was once handed out by the government) and a little toward electricity, the rest of my savings have been blown to smithereens on cafes where I spend my days trying to recuperate whatever semblance of sanity I can piece together. Cafes where I sit and try to piece together what will become of me in the next couple of years, projects, dreams, ideas.

Giving up the idea that I will live in my own apartment over the next few months has been a sobering experience, to say the least – it’s one of those things that makes you realize and accept that you can either quip about not having enough room to move, dance, run around naked or come to terms with the fact that you’re lucky enough to have a family that is willing to put up with you and your decisions.

My $free.99 apartment comes with a basic new life starter kit – one foldable couch, two shelves with belongings, two suitcases packed for emergency evacuation, my grandma’s top, various bath supplies and a box of jewelry. It is an encapsulation of the material possessions I need and use frequently, if not daily. It is also the opposite of a solid, white-picket-fence kind of life and acts as a reminder that I am both ephemeral and shifting, changing, learning.

My friends’ reactions to this can be divided into two camps – one set praises me for my prudence and wisdom in coming to terms with transience and taking things as they come. The other thinks I’m plain nuts and tells me stories of “that one girl/boy who didn’t settle down and ended up miserable, cold, alone, in a dark city, with no skills or supplies.”

Sure, it sounds scary. But it also sounds mildly judgmental, I daresay even hostile.

“Sounds like you’re just looking to move all the time,” some say.
“Maybe you just need to get married?” others say.

liz

Between the two camps of people and my own ideas of how things should work for me, there always comes a point which looks a lot like frailty.

Some say that I act too tough, that it’s a front. While at the same time, if I dare show signs of weakness, ask for help or generally call someone to a quick pick-me-up, all I ever get is something to the effect of ‘get your sh*t together’ or some semblance of yelling which, to me, is proof that either I really need to get it together and move on or people are just so mean and vicious that there’s no point in asking for support when that’s really what they need from me…

I realize this life cannot be lived without dependencies, small interconnected stories of ritual, hard work, economic downturn, love letters hidden inside flower bouquets; all of these little nuances serve to build the foundations upon which our lives function. But that being said, is it really necessary for us to confine ourselves to notions which have little or no relation to our schemes of the world?

What are your takes on living within 20 square feet with your family after the ripe old age of 18? What’s keeping you in the company you work for? Why are you even working for someone? What is going on in your life that makes you want to jump up from bed at 6AM and run out the door and keep working till midnight and still not feel tired because you’re gunning for something so beautiful and profound, you can’t get enough of it? All questions we might as well face while we still can and have the freedom and mobility to decide to shift, if we have to.

For my part, I know there are multiple answers to those very questions and ones that I’m answering at the very moment, as I enter my third attempt at trying to find my space and time, in standing up to how I see my life panning out, I’ve come to realize that a good personal space (be it an apartment, a room or the space inside your head) is as necessary as the primal need for affection.


And so I will keep paying the monthly bill for my fall out shelter in the form of a couch, which, even though I’m incredibly ready to give up, is still going to hold me together until I find the very space I need and want to make my own.

I think of my friends, of my family, of the multitude of new loves in my life (this city and its mysterious people included), I can’t help but wonder – what will it feel like to be grounded again, to only know one constant place, one bed, one household to come home to.

What will it be like when I have both feet planted on the ground and have enough space to dance my dances in the morning and afternoon, to weed out ideas by drawing them on a white wall, to cook my own meals and have people over when I want them? What will it be like when I’ve moved into a space that can help foster growth and at the same time hold me rooted?

Giving up the idea that I will live in my own apartment over the next few months has been a sobering experience, to say the least – it’s one of those things that makes you realize and accept that you can either quip about not having enough room to move, run around naked or come to terms with the fact that you’re lucky enough to have a family that is willing to put up with you and your decisions.

As a wise person once said, “Live and love at your own risk, in your own time”.

About Elizabeth 8 Articles
Elizabeth has spent the last 4 years traveling and working her way through Asia and has come to live in Moscow just over half a year ago, and although the country is her second home, she is only just discovering what it truly means to “be” a Russian.

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