We live in a world that is dominated by amazing growth. Even in economic downtimes, the excitement that permeates the air in a developed society like that of the States is contagious.
And yet, it begs the question - what is your space? And what does that even mean in a world so connected?
Types of space:
- Work // Play.
The past year has seen an evolution in the way I view space and the way I understand my own space.
When I worked at Apple, I learned that, beyond just being a progressive design organization, the company also has innovative and forward-thinking policies. Among them is a total ban on any kind of smoking on company premises. Don’t believe me? Try lighting up at Apple? Good luck.
Why do I care? I had a lung collapse when I was 5, and have a few pretty severe asthma/allergies. Contrary to pop culture, I’m not triggered by exercise, the cold, or stress (thank God). Rather, a few potent allergens take me to task: dust, some dogs and horses, and smoke: firewood, cigarette, and pretty much any other kind of smoke besides candles.
Cigarette smoke is my most potent allergy. I can smell if someone has smoked in the past 12 hours from 6-7 feet away. I can smell if someone where they live smokes. Call it a spider sense. But it crushes my health. If I’m around it, not only do my airways constrict immediately, but I also feel extremely lethargic and demotivated (breathing is a little important).
And though I could rant about how I would demolish the cigarette companies one by one - and I would (something about profiting off the suffering of others never seemed so savory to me), I will use this example primarily as a way to discuss the idea of space.
I’ve been listening to friends and fellow startup people lately. Those that haven’t hit this one quite as head-on yet, will ask. ‘My parents // My friends // My boyfriend/girlfriend… want… ask… need… X, Y, or Z… and it makes me uncomfortable.’ They use different words, and they say it in a different way, but it all boils down to the age-old adage of boundaries.
For me, it means that my new music//design studio in Austin, won’t have any smoking allowed - 1st, 2nd, or 3rd-hand (ie. you smoked earlier). If I smell it on you, you have to go shower and then come back. Do I care if you smoke? If you’re a good friend, yes. If not, I hope you don’t, but it’s your life. But - don’t you have the right to smoke at my studio?
No. Why? Because it’s our space. We worked hard to build it, and the health of me and my friends that help with the studio is hugely important to me.
I had an instance recently where someone brought pot into my studio. It was a mistake on their part, and they apologized when they learned of my rules. And I’m not upset at them.
But - I felt that the presence of such an allergen really violated my space. I and my friends have been working day and night for the past month (and before that) to make this a reality. I sleep in the back, and I have been admittedly spending a bit too much time in the studio, and with a lot of TLC, the space is really shaping up.
And so - what is the conclusion to my story?
1) With the pot//smoke, etc. If you come into my space, you play by my rules. I should have (and did in the end) gotten rid of it because it made me uncomfortable. No other explanation required.
2) Your space is yours. If it’s a group space, it’s the groups. Beyond regulations, building codes, and prior agreements, far be it from anyone to violate that. And if they do, whip out your wand and say - ‘Hey!!! That’s my/our space!!! Chill out or find another space!
3) This discussion applies to social media as well. If you want to form an alliance or friendship with someone, then clue them in to your boundaries (I failed to do this in this case) - no one is a mind reader. AND - BONUS! If they’re actually a good friend, which I have been so blessed with, and I hope the same for you - they will actually respect those things. If it’s something you’re not comfortable talking about or broaching, or if it’s something that you would actually like to bring up more often, they will respect that.
Our lives our more accessible than ever because we make it so. Is this a bad thing? Not at all! I met our summer intern on Facebook through a group I’m a part of - wow! A native Ohioan, she drove down from Minnesota last week to Austin, TX to join us. Wow. Good luck doing that with the Pony Express and the railroad.
And yet, at the same time, it therefore remains extremely important to set and maintain those boundaries. Why? Because it’s important that your space is a sanctuary. A place where you can create and invite others to do the same. Because when your space is sacred and others respect that (again, communicating that is not easy), I believe you do your best work.
Though I admit there is some perceived social awkwardness in being hardcore about anti-smoking, I believe that the benefits far outweigh the 'costs’. And the greatest benefit of all is that feeling of comfort that comes with laying down expectations for yourself and others.
Then - you can begin to worry about the more pertinent things - like running a business, your interpersonal relationships, or learning.
I wish you all the best with finding the space for you and creating it to your liking with a sense of security that can, I believe, only stem from knowing what you want and having the gusto to stand up for it. It’s your space. Support it. Know it. Protect it. And make it thrive.