What is Personal Space Anymore? by Sequoia Hack

In writing, I often find myself probed to investigate my deepest insecurities, expose any secrets I keep silent, and dive deep into my inner psyche. I’m told that these topics—the ones that make me digress from self-discovery to self-loathing—are the topics most enthralling to readers. In the era of the pandemic too, when I’ve spent more time with myself than I ever have before, I have little inspiration from the outside world to write about anything but aspects of my life.

Frequently I write with the intention of the final piece being read by peers, and not with the idea that I’m writing for just my eyes to see. I find this ironic for one reason, primarily. Writing is one of the purest forms of self-intimacy and vulnerability but nearly all the writing I’m doing is shared with others, my inner life subject to the judgement of those who will never see how I see or think how I think.

Now I know that reading writing about the pandemic gets old quickly. Like, yeah, we’re all living through this era of pandemonium, what more do you need to say about it? But I promise you, this is relevant to my story. 

Many of us used to have a clear separation of personal life and work/school life due to a difference in location, community, and time of day occupying that given space. But as months have progressed over the past year, at least I have found it increasingly difficult to establish a distinct boundary between home life and school life. I do labs investigating the Earth’s core in the same space I used to only relax in. I’m learning about logarithms and statistical significance  with my cats in the backyard. I’m planning our graduation in student government while sitting at my kitchen counter. 

My sanctuary of a room, smelling of lavender and birch, has become a type of anechoic chamber. The voices of my teachers are all I hear, lessons loud in one ear flowing silent straight out of the other, day in and day out. The people whose presence I associate with a space opposite that of my room are suddenly being drummed into my head as I fidget out of restlessness at my desk. It feels so wrong, every day I log onto class, to have the awareness that I woke up not five feet from where I’m attending AP U.S. Government or English class. 

When I combine this invasion from online classes with also having to write every day, I’m left with the feeling that none of my being is any longer reserved for just me. My physical personal space, infiltrated by school, alongside my own headspace, repeatedly exposed to vulnerability through writing, has left me feeling more exposed than I’d ever like to be. 

Will I ever be able to sit in my room without worrying if my laptop has enough charge to get through class? Will I ever be able to write without feeling like all that there is to talk about is how my ice cubes melted too quickly in my coffee or how my laundry hasn’t been done in four days? When will I be able to abandon this invasive daily cycle?

Sequoia Hack, Class of ’21

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