We can choose how we take up space. Sometimes. We take up space by being, by existing. How much of that we experience as choice depends. Depends on what? On which spaces we’re talking about; depend on which boundaries and containers apply. On how that space or those spaces may be shared and with whom. What are the conditions for occupying space, for identifying a place as our own? Who gets to decide and when?
To write – that’s a way to take up space, to claim space on the page, I suppose, but ultimately and ideally in the mind of the reader. When we read we are offering space to someone or something. We create and occupy space simultaneously when we read our own words, I guess. How we may feel about taking up space definitely depends. On how we were raised, on what were told was our place and to what degree we accepted, rejected or negotiated those parameters. How we feel about taking up space is inevitably tied to messages we’ve internalized about who is entitled to more space and where we stand in relationship to them. How we feel about taking up space has a lot to do with being a boy, a girl, neither or both. How we feel about taking up space depends on our worst experiences more than on our best experiences I’m willing to bet.
It’s possible to create, hold and/or share space. I know. I’ve done it. Sometimes I might even be good at it. Who opens up space for you? Who welcomes you warmly into their space and how do you reciprocate? When do you recognize the need to create space by removing yourself? Where have others held space for you? How did it feel? I mean, sometimes we’re invited to take up space among or alongside others. On certain occasions we may be asked to stand in the center of attention; we are given the floor but we do not own the space. Which spaces do we/can we own and whom does it serve and how?
How do we choose to take up space in public? How do those micro and macro decisions come about? Taking up space in public is a social endeavor and therefore fraught. Place and space all have these intricately woven, visible and invisible structures/boundaries that are deeply contextual. How we show up in one instance may not translate well to a different instance. There are rules upon rules and still we make up our own to be on the safe side.
How I choose to take up space depends. It depends on what the stakes are. For me. Depends on the weight and composition of expectations that permeate the space and the occasion. Depends on what I believe I can afford measured against my fears of what I imagine an absolute failure might be. How I choose to take up space is always a calculation.