I recently finished reading the book ‘Room‘ by Emma Donoghue. You may have heard of it, especially as it was made into a film recently (I haven’t seen the film myself). Room is a story told through the perspective of 5 year old Jack. Throughout the book we learn that his mum was kidnapped when she was 19 years old. That was 7 years ago and she has since been kept in a shed converted into sound proof and inescapable living quarters. We also realise that Jack’s biological father is therefore his mother’s kidnapper although Jack has no knowledge of this himself.
In this 11 square foot room, Jack’s mum has tried her best to provide Jack with the happiest and most nurturing upbringing that she can in her circumstances. Part of this meant telling Jack that ‘Room’, where they live, is in fact the whole world. Outside of that room, it is outer space. All of the people on TV are not real. Everything he sees on TV, if it is not in Room, it is not real. This is what Jack believes and in his situation it means he doesn’t long for all of the things he doesn’t have. He doesn’t long for the outside fresh air, other children, toys, grass, parks, space. He is content with everything in Room because that’s all he believes there is. That’s all that is real to him.
When Jack and his mum escape, Jack has to deal with facing the reality that in fact there is a whole world outside of Room. There are billions of people. He has to learn how to interact with other people that aren’t his mum. He has to deal with everything that is completely not normal for him and yet it is normal for everyone else.
This whole concept really made me think. In a way, we all live in our own ‘Rooms’. Not an 11 square foot room, but the rooms we make. We interact with the same people, or the same type of people. We live in the same areas, in terms of demographics and economic status. We have the same jobs throughout our lives, again limiting the people we interact with. We don’t venture outside of our rooms to engage with people that don’t exist already in our rooms.
We only see the world through our own perspective and our own understanding. Essentially, we refine ourselves to a bubble, to a room. We can’t understand the world as it is for people outside of our own room because we are limited by what we have or have not experienced.
We all have different experiences in our lives, we all choose different limits to our rooms. The more we venture, the more we learn and understand about other people. We won’t always agree – we can’t! We might not understand one another’s beliefs or choices but that doesn’t mean your room is the only room.
Let’s open the doors to our rooms and open our minds.