One little room and the biggest of plans

(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.


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