The safe space concept has a pretty bad reputation, in all my 3 and a half minutes of research I managed to find upwards of two examples where they were derided. I should point out that there’s a bit of a job share going on here. There are a couple of different uses for the concept. In higher education a safe space is a place where universities, in their quest for
loads of cash knowledge, stop people talking about certain things in certain areas. The other kind is typically reserved for mental health sufferers who physically or mentally go to a place in which they feel safe. Hence the appropriately named ‘safe space’.
The safe space can be a life line, a place to regroup and recharge. A place to block out the catalytic aggressors, whoever or whatever they may be. These spaces can be anything or anywhere; a wonderful view from a local mountain for example, or a secret spot on a beach that only you know about, or in my case; my parents downstairs toilet.
So I don’t go in there for the view, which is just as well because the only window is about 30cm square and frosted. I don’t even go there for the toilet, I suspect 70%* of my visits to that room are not bathroom related. It is also really small, a new-born baby may be able to have a stretch, but once you’re passed the age of 17 months I think that’s it, the yoga days in that room are over.
So it’s small, has no view and is a toilet, which I don’t use.
What it does have going for it though is that it is right at the back of the house and is connected to nothing but a garage and a utility room i.e it’s quiet,
too quiet*. I know when I close that door no one and nothing will come by. The garage is just full of everything my parents don’t want and the utility is for utilitising, so its hardly a hub for social engagement. Plus, it is a toilet after all, so my family aren’t likely to pick that moment to see. I’m also released from the shackles of mobile telecommunication, because who wants to speak to someone on the toilet?
The natural downside is that you can’t really spend too long in there, otherwise people will start getting suspicious. You also can’t go too many times, otherwise your mum will have the doctor round checking for diarrhea. Interestingly though, had I told them I was depressed, I suspect no one from the medical profession would be rushing over.
I actually left home 10 years ago and I make it back about once a year or less. So naturally, I’m missing a safe space.
That was until I started working for a family who lived just outside of Vienna. It is a tiny village with gravel for a train station and a cow for a neighbour i.e it’s quiet. When I finish work I need to get the train back to Vienna, it’s usually evening – like tonight – and there’s not a sound, spare the crunch of gravel under foot maybe*. Then there’s the blinking of safety lights on wind turbines far in the distance. Sometimes I imagine they are in fact just hundreds of people stranded, sending out SOS signals but I ignore them every day because it’s beautiful.
I get to that spot usually about 5 minutes before the train, and that’s it. That is the moment. That is my safe space. Its cool, quiet and there’s no phone signal. Its life on hold, a pause. A much-needed break. Like a sailor surviving in a downed submarine, the safe space is my little air pocket. Deep breath and get back in there.
Then the train arrives, the people get on, I get back into Vienna, amongst the other million or so people, and get on with my life. The pains return, the calls and messages start coming in and as Tony famously didn’t say ‘Hunger Strikes!’. Got to try and raise this submarine from the depths.
*These figures have yet to be verified and the research has not yet been peer-reviewed.
*Best sound ever.
P.S Go follow me on facebook, because I rely heavily on the vindication of strangers and it really helps me out.
Probably during paragraph 3 of writing this I was sat on the train that picked me up from the place I described above. I then proceeded to somehow get off the train and leave my wallet and all my earnings for the past week with it. So needless to say for a person struggling with finances and depression, my mood has somewhat diminished.
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