Monday, June 25, 2007

A theme song in a popular kids show when I was growing up showed a hand puting out a burning candle with bare fingers; that line said "You too can change the end of the play". Ever since then, using my fingers to put out candle flames was something I craved and feared. When years later I found myself living in a house without electricity not far from the Thames, I cherished the opportunity to practice this art. I discovered that like in many things, if you falter, it will hurt. If you believe in yourself, do it quick and with determination, you won't get burnt. (Although licking your fingers before also helps). As my life was changing course and I was embracing a more precarious but also more rewarding form of existence , being able to put out the flames before going to sleep made me feel that I was not only handling the situation but also making it into an empowering exprience.

During my recent power breakdown I realized that being empowered not only means being able to deal with difficult circumstances but also not to get addicted to them. I didn't mind not having hot water for the last year, and living with limited - or no - supply of electricity, but life without daylight was too much. It made my body ache and my spirit low. Squatting is not a purpose in itself; it is not a trench i have to deffend. It was useful for me when I had no money to pay rent; even more useful to develop my thinking, it threw me into unexpected corners from which many former beliefs looked far less obvious; it helped me make many friends and learn about solidarity in a city that is too often alienating and lonely. But clinging on to squatting when it was doing me harm was sentimental. These are the final months of my thesis writing, a long last push of a four years journey. It was good to realise that I cared about this project and that it is something I wanted to put first. Once I have made up my mind, and was content to - god forbid - pay rent, life produced its usual magic, dropping pieces in unexpected places... And so, a new beginning.

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