The dimensions are simple: the room measures 30 by 15 feet. A small window sits in the middle of the long exterior wall. The other wall contains sliding imitation Japanese doors made by my father, though he is not Japanese but rather Irish-German from Long Beach, California. The door frames are a blond wood and slide smoothly along their tracks. One end of my room has glass doors that lead to the back patio. The opposite end contains my closet with mirrored doors that help make the room seem bigger. The largest item in the room is my queen-sized bed with its headboard of horizontal slats - simplicity is key. The dresser next to my bed is a dark wood with an Asian feel. Next is my futuristic-looking desk of metal and opaque glass.
These are the boundaries of my domain, my personal space. And yet, if you had walked through those Japanese doors not too many months ago, this is what you would have found: clothes draped over the chair and dresser; empty glasses and soda cans; math homework from two years ago, and many a McDonald’s ketchup packet.
Nagging from my parents was just like water dripping on a stone: annoying, yes, but its effect was negligible unless measured in centuries. The turning point came when I found one of my paintings covered in old papers; when I brushed off the rubbish, I found a half-finished pudding cup that had oozed onto it. I was shocked at first, and then devastated. I rushed to wash off the pudding but it was too late. There was a big brown stain on the painting I had spent hours creating. Standing there in the bathroom with my painting and a washcloth, I could almost see the glow from the metaphorical light bulb on top of my head. It was epiphany time. It is said that even animals do not soil their own nests. Was I worse than an animal?
I vowed to begin anew. It took me many hours but eventually all the clothes were folded and put away, gum wrappers and ketchup packets disposed of, and everything was tidied up and stored appropriately, with surfaces dusted. I could walk into my room without kicking a soda can or having a piece of ancient math homework stick to my foot.
The pleasure of this new experience - of living in an environment that I took pride in - made me think. Perhaps this is the way each one of us should think of our place on the planet. There is no cosmic mother nagging humankind to take care of their space and habitat. It is up to each of us to do our small part because that is all we can do - our small part.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.