I’ve been thinking a lot about safe spaces. They come in the unlikeliest of places. You have purposefully manufactured safe spaces, like LGBT bars and therapist waiting rooms. But for me, it’s my Starbucks.
I came from a very small town where brand chains were a foreign concept, so when I moved to the Edinburgh to start university, I became a tad hooked. I’d always had this idea in my head. This image of sitting in a Starbucks, sipping my tea, in a big woolly jumper and reading a book. It was such a basic concept, but to me, it signified some sort of arrival. A change in my life that I had strived to achieve throughout all of my childhood.
Over the years, Starbucks was always a backdrop. My one was directly next to campus and I had friends that worked there. We’d all grab one in the morning, study there during long breaks between classes or on the run-up to deadlines and we’d hang there at weekends, sometimes nursing hangovers, sometimes sitting scrolling the internet or reading together in content silence. It wasn’t until I moved that I realised how much I missed it. That one place where everyone knew my name and I never felt out of place. As a person with serious social anxiety at times, I never realised how much I relied on that. On the routine and the comfort.
But I moved and I don’t regret it in the slightest. Other things in my life had fallen out of sync and, simply put, I wasn’t happy anymore. But I didn’t have that space anymore. At least for a while. I live in the city centre, so finding a cafe that didn’t have constant, distracting foot traffic was hard. But one day I stumbled across it, ten minutes from home, perfect distance for studying first thing in the morning (my favourite time to study), my Starbucks.
The fact that it was a Starbucks really is irrelevant. It was the fact that I had my safe space back. I never felt out of place, I always recognised the staff and I have a favourite seat. It’s the small things, but it makes everything a bit easier. It takes away the stress of finding somewhere to study, when the library is too quiet or too loud (yes it really can be both), where it’s always quiet enough for me to find a seat, where I can study for hours without getting uncomfortable. It’s mine.
Or it was.
I recently had a run in with my stalker. Which is honestly a problem I never thought i’d have. I can’t help contemplating the fear women have to deal with in the meer presence of a man, but that is a story for another day. I’m not interested in telling it today.
Today, I would like to stop looking over my shoulder. Looking over and making sure he isn’t sitting there again. I would like to stop blowing it out of proportion in my mind and to stop wondering if I have to worry that he will come back. Come here, to my safe space.
I want my safe space back.