Space: The gap between yourself and you
Space has always figured big in my life, in more ways than one, but as I grow older, it has come to define who I am
The concept of ‘space’ lies at the core of who I am.
As an only child, albeit part of a dispersed, blended family, my childhood was filled with space.
A space many others will relate to that comes with the often absence of blissfully remarried parents enjoying a newfound relationship and lack of in-situ siblings.
But being the geeky kid I was, I found ways to fill that space.
Books were the primary space-filler.
I read from the earliest moment I could and haven’t stopped, with a particular fascination in fantasy and sci-fi.
From Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree, Tove Jansson’s Moomintroll tomes and Ursula K LeGuin’s Earthsea Trilogy, I progressed to works of the greats — Tolkien, Asimov, Bradbury, Pratchett, Herbert — and to some less-famous yet equally astounding writers — Stephen Donaldson, Julian May and David Eddings.
Within the safe and comforting covers of these writers (and an array of others), the space in my life was filled to overflowing with worlds they took me to.
I was never alone when I had a book with me, never bored or unhappy or at a loose end.
And then, at the age of seven, my space was filled with another space. It was a sci-fi world that I was not, at least initially, given access to by my parents, who maybe thought I was a little too young for it.
But as this story from a galaxy far, far away began gaining international traction and fame, my parents finally relented…and took me to see ‘A New Hope’.
I was a goner…hooked…and have been a die-hard fan ever since.
While this more literal (and literary) kind of space was important to me, more generally the broader concept of space — physical and emotional — became important to me as I grew from teenhood into adulthood.
So much so, that the concept of always being in control of the space I exist in has become critical to my identity.
I am fiercely independent (sometimes to my detriment as this has also made me something of a control freak) and have spent the vast majority of my life single, with the few stabs at relationships I have had mostly imploding because of my inability to allow others into the intimate personal space of ‘me’ that I hold so dearly.
This doesn’t mean I don’t have amazing friendships, solid family relationships or live like a hermit…well…at least not mostly…
However, space has become my most preciously held commodity, along with time.
The two, managed together and given equal importance, are what keep me feeling happy, healthy and in a space where I can offer my best to myself, my work, those around me and the world more broadly.
I can see why some would see this as a selfish way of living, although I prefer the term ‘self-full’.
I also understand that the choices we make can mean time and space are in short supply, which is why I have made choices — no partner, children or pet, being the main ones — to try and maximise both of these precious commodities.
This comes with an opportunity cost, of course.
I’ve studied economics and know that by making certain choices, while benefits flow from the choice, there are opportunities that are also lost as a consequence.
I don't (and probably won’t ever) know the security of having one person love me so much that they will do just about anything to help me get by in the world…although I do have an incredible array of friends and family who fill this void to a degree.
I’ll never know what it feels like to have the trusting hand of my child clasped gently in mine as we walk through a park on a winter’s day and I am bombarded with important questions about the world.
‘Why is cold so cold?’
(Because the angels are having a break today, so their wings aren’t flapping, which is what makes the wind a bit warmer and keeps the cold away.)
‘Where does dog poo come from?’
(From cans of dog food…that’s why it always smells so yucky.)
‘Will you still hold my hand when we go for a walk and I am very, very big?’
(Yes, always, forever, to the moon and stars and back and until I'm 99 and you’re old too…)
And later down the track when I’m in my twilight years (still some time off!), there might be too much time and space in my life such that I suddenly find myself in a vast, barren, lonely landscape of my own making.
Although, of course, having lived a life filled with space may also allow me to never feel the world is such a place and be more able to cope with it if ever it starts feeling that way.
For all of this, all I have is right now.
All any of us can do is live our lives in that now with a rear-view mirror image of a past we cannot change and only learn from, and an eye to a future we have little control over but can do some small things now to try and prepare ourselves for.
And in this right now, I claim my space.
I own it.
I relish and love it.
I have no regrets about it.
And I encourage everyone to think about the importance of their own space, and to find ways to claim some of it back, even if space is less available to them than it is to me.
Most of all, in whatever space you find yourself…
May the force be with you.
The only force.