• Helen Ferguson

Hello Personal Space!

I started off writing a quick post on Instagram, in celebration of our New South Wales kids returning to school after 4 months of lock-down, and a little shiver went through me!

The bliss of waving my Teen off to school for Face to Face learning cannot be underestimated,

but the delight of reclaiming my own space in my own life was Huuuuge!

I'm an outgoing person, I can walk into a room filled with strangers and get on with the business of socialising, but then I really need a lot of privacy and alone time to balance that out.

The older I get, the more protective I become of my personal space.

Craving Space

In my early 30's, due to an unpleasant ending to a long-term relationship, I found myself in the unexpected but grateful position of renting a room in a friends house.

A share-house with 1 bathroom......

At an age when most of my contemporaries were stretching out into the luxury of their spare rooms and patios, I felt that I had been catapulted backwards into my college years of bathroom schedules, kitchen sinks with 3 days worth of dirty dishes and fridges with mysteriously disappearing yoghurts.

I appreciated the safe haven and the hilarious company, but lordy lordy did I crave my own space!

Hiding in the Bathroom

Raising small children means that you have zero personal space.

Add in a couple of dogs and you struggle to remember a time when your body wasn't used as a Climbing Frame, a Bouncy Castle or a Sofa.

During those years, a trip to the Supermarket unaccompanied was a treat.

My daily commute, headphones at the ready, was the closest thing I had to alone time.

As for using the bathroom without interruption or an audience, that one was tough.

I remember when my son, aged 6 at the time, had a friend over for a play-date.

When I thought they were happily occupied in a world of Make-Believe, I snuck away silently, gently closing and locking the bathroom door.

Within a minute they were tapping on the door demanding to know why it was locked and how long I was going to be.

I reassured them that I wouldn't be long, but it would be lovely if they just left me alone for a minute.

I heard whispered activity for a little while, and then a scrawled note was slipped under the door.....

"We want a drink please Mum"


Social Distancing

Social Distancing;

how do I love thee?

Let me count the ways.

Whoever came up with the concept of social distancing has my utter gratitude and devotion.

It's a rule, a law, that says that people have got to get out of my face!!!!

What is not to love?

That person who breathes right down the back of your neck in a queue - Step away mate!

That person who has to start chatting to you the minute you open your book for a quiet read - Off you pop!

That dog walker who decides to tell you their life story when you've just stooped down to Pooper-Scoop , now isn't a good time!

I'm a sociable girl, but State Mandated Personal Space is my most favourite recent invention.

Shared Work Space

I've been Self Employed for 11 years now, and it is one of the best decisions that I have ever made.

Leaving the Corporate world came at the right time for me.

The introduction of the 'Hot-Desk' or the 'Open Plan Shared Space' was the most frustrating work environment I'd ever experienced, and this is coming from someone who has worked in Harrods on the first day of the January Sales!

The need to wear headphones just so that you could concentrate on your task seemed counter productive.

The constant air-conditioning that never found a comfortable temperature for the space, so that the Reception Team wore their coats indoors in Summer and the Menopausal Women were regarded as overly dramatic and difficult as they flung windows open in search of some relief.

And so to today.

The return to school.

The realisation that I was about to get some of my most prized personal space back.

Melbourne and Victoria, I do not know, for the life of me, how you have done the multiple, extensive lock-downs that you have endured.

For our part, we had almost 4 months of Lock-down this year in NSW.

My son completed all of Term 3 and part of Term 4 from home, with 2 lots of School Holidays.

We started off strong with a shared work space at the dining table, so that I could be there to answer questions and keep an watchful eye on the amount of effort being put in.

This quickly became unworkable:

  • Multiple Zoom Classrooms clashed with my phone calls to clients.

  • Sports lessons requiring me to be the Cinematographer for the latest Basketball Challenge.

  • Treasure hunts for items beginning with every letter of the alphabet sent a 15 year old Man-Child hurtling around the house at breakneck speed.

  • Endless breaks in concentration to witness dog training or to remove abandoned smelly socks from the seat next to me.

We came to an unspoken agreement that the Dining Table was defunct.

My beautiful Home Office became disputed territory.

I was under the impression that it was mine, but much like the poolside sun-lounge with the towel draped over it since dawn; first come - first served.

The outdoor table on warm enough Winter days became the next frontier.

Followed by my bed with my laptop.

Everywhere was shared workspace.

Nowhere was my personal space.

I repeat: Melbourne, I don't know how you've done it.

But here I am, in my Home Office.

'Hello Personal Space xxxxx'

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