My room has always been an important space to me. Growing up, I continuously jumped between sharing a room with my brother, to my own bedroom, to temporary situations of renovation. I have shared dorm rooms and apartments in college, bedrooms in relationships, and lived in shitty studio apartments. For several months, I shared a room with two others as an intern when I was 23. I moved back into my room in my parents’ house until I was 24, when I moved out on my own.
As an adult, my room has become my safe space. Simply, it contains most of my possessions. On another level, it is a carefully curated installation that represents me. The walls are decorated with my personality and my day-to-day. I think throughout my life, my rooms have always been organized in a way that was familiar to me, and no one else. A slight messiness, but with many or most things having a very specific place.
This past year, I began cognitive behavioral therapy for the first time. That sounds way more serious than it is – I began voluntarily going to therapy/counseling once a week. My insurance co-pays sucked. I’d developed various types of anxiety in the past five years, with what I would call mild panic attacks happening at different times from different triggers. It’s the kind of thing that I’m still constantly figuring out. In one session, my doctor said he thinks that I’m a perfectionist. This seemed absurd to me. In my creative endeavors, whether musically or artistically, I tend to rush things and settle for minimal efforts. When it comes to writing, I have rarely ever reread or edited anything, generally submitting or publishing any and all first drafts. That doesn’t sound like a perfectionist to me.
At my first therapy session, we talked about how I had snapped at a few of my coworkers one night – I work as a server and a busy night in a restaurant can be stressful. We talked about the different jobs I’ve had and my work habits. I’ve always been a bit particular about my workspaces and sharing them with coworkers – I’ve always been stressed at my jobs, often angry with specific coworkers for specific work habits of their own. I realized that in small, every-day ways, I am a perfectionist. I need a certain level of control over my workspace, my room, and my day-to-day. And in recognizing that need, I also learned that I must recognize the need to let go of that control.
There are days when I yearn for my room. It is my refuge, and the place where I can deconstruct the day, hide away from the world, or delve into the odds and ends that make up me. I’ve cultivated a comfortable space here, in my third floor bedroom of a nearly 100-year-old house. But there are also days when my room becomes a prison – four walls and an impenetrable doorway, windows that separate me from the world, and the same hours wasted, surrounded by things. That love/hate relationship has been apparent in every bedroom and place that I have lived.
I am not a perfectionist, but maybe a particular-ist. I am a creature of comfort, and the older I become the more I need my own space and my own room. And in that room, all of my things have their own place. Even the things that are out of place are in their correct place. It’s something that makes complete sense to me, and no one else. It’s a form of control.
My room is my comfort zone, and I’m sure that’s true for many people. A big part of beginning therapy was getting out of my comfort zone. The hardest part was finally making the phone call – I swear, I rewrote the instruction to myself on so many Post-It notes. And whether my room feels like a haven or a cage still varies from day to day, but I’ve learned how to feel comfortable in more places than one. I’ve learned to accept things as imperfect, and often not exactly how I would like them to be.
There are still random Post-Its scattered across my desk. There are messy piles of things I have yet to ‘get to.’ There is a balance to all of it that is completely me – my room and my habits, my behavior and how I let things affect me. I’m proud of the steps that I’ve taken this past year, but I’m also learning to not apologize so much for what I need, whether it is time alone in my room or help from those around me. All of the different rooms I have lived in have seen unique phases of my growth and development, including the one where I sit now, writing this piece. And yes, this is the first draft.
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