(Apologies to Elbow.)
How much space does one need to come into one’s own?
Some might need hundreds of miles, perhaps even worlds, to find themselves. Others might just need a little space, nothing too big or extensive or distant.
Me, I just needed 20 square meters in a different city.
Five years ago—with very little savings, a few possessions, a shitload of personal issues, and all the courage I could muster—I moved out of a large three-storey home in Makati, into a tiny flat in Quezon City. Why? Well, mainly because I wanted to get away from my mother; also because I wanted to be independent.
It wasn’t easy, I tell you: For over a year, I had to live without a refrigerator; I used old cans of sausages for ashtrays, which I still used even when I’d already bought an ashtray (I smoked a lot); I only had three chairs for guests to sit on, so we mostly sat on the floor; and I “cooked” “meals” using only a breakfast-maker.
But then, slowly, my savings grew, and I eventually stocked my tiny flat with everything necessary to the survival of a troubled twentysomething. (Yes, cigarettes and alcohol included.) I also reached the point where I could afford to buy extra things, for whatever reason or purpose.
Financial stability, at last! But, man, those were the darkest days of my life. I was not happy at all. Not happy at all.
Eventually, I learned that financial stability wasn’t enough—or, rather, that financial stability was enough for independence, but it wasn’t enough for freedom. At that point, I felt that my 20-square-meter flat was a prison, and that I would be trapped in it forever.
But then I decided to be happy, and suddenly things changed. In my third year of living on my own, I began getting rid of many of the things I worked hard for to buy. Almost instantly, I felt lighter, I felt better.
Soon, the rest of my happiness project followed: I spent less time drinking and sulking; I spent more time doing worthwhile things, being with others; I let love find and surprise me; and I even quit smoking!
From my 20-square-meter prison, my flat turned into my haven. It became the starting point for all the good things that I did and that I let happen to me.
Now, however, it’s time to move on and out again. But this time, with a different question: How much space does a couple need to build a home?
Not much, really. As long as your plans are big and free and open to possibility, the littlest room would be enough.