"The world itself feels like one big childhood bedroom at the moment, a frozen bystander to our changing selves and times"Caitlin Farrell

Around this time last year, my parents replaced my childhood bed. I’d had the same bed since I was 5 and in both a literal and figurative display of growing pains, it finally gave way around the time I was 16. Whether out of busyness or laziness, two years passed before it was replaced. Two years, it is worth mentioning, in which the bed could have collapsed at any point whilst I was sleeping. Regardless of my parents’ lack of concern for my health, the old bed was eventually removed and a new bed fitted in, and two months later we were all declaring how lucky it was we had replaced it before doing almost anything became impossible – the bed, the last example of the tedious ease of our old world.

"New things are being put into old places where they neither fit nor belong"

Increasingly though, I have come to see this slightly dull anecdote as something more: a gesture from the past towards our present, where new things are being put into old places where they neither fit nor belong. You see, though my new bed is practical, comfortable and, ultimately, what was needed; it is an obvious eyesore in a room which had otherwise not been updated in six years. In my princess-inspired bedroom of predominantly white furniture, the black frame of the bed sticks out like a sore thumb. It is also much longer than my former bed, taking up space in a slightly awkward way by preventing drawers from opening fully and making it harder to access the bottom of my bookshelf, now snuck even more tightly into the corner of the room. My childhood bedroom had been updated and it was an update which didn’t quite work.

This wasn’t really surprising. Famously, the rules of both physics and 80s coming-of-age films dictate that the childhood bedroom ought to remain frozen in time – we had disregarded this rule and the clumsy fit was the price we paid for it. What was perhaps more surprising was that by March it wasn’t just the bed that was new to the room but I, myself, was too. I was just as awkward an occupant. A thing that didn’t quite fit in the room anymore, having perhaps once belonged in a previous state at an earlier age, but having now outgrown it. Of course, this wasn’t, and does not continue to be, a phenomenon unique to me. All across the world, with universities shut and small, dingy London flats making working from home impossible, young people have been forced by the pandemic to move back into their parents’ homes. In a world where everything seems to have changed, many of us now find ourselves stuck in the only thing that seems perpetually frozen in time – our childhood bedrooms.

"Life does not operate in a fluid narrative"

I’ve found myself reverting back to my mid-teenage habits, becoming a hybrid form of my past and present self in a desperate attempt to make sense of my surroundings. In the first days of lockdown, I tried to get back into my old club penguin account only to find it, much like my room, frozen and I decided to decline the rather pathetic option of starting a new account. I bought new watercolours in an attempt to fill my time with a hobby I had once loved but in front of the canvas realised I no longer knew the precise water to colour ratio that I had perfected as a child. I later picked up unfinished journals, read through old entries smiling at my naivety and then started writing in them again. The stark aging process from those old entries to my lockdown musings was clear and abrupt – my writing and thoughts were different, more pronounced in the mere turn of a page but I didn’t care. It seemed increasingly evident to me now that life does not operate in a fluid narrative and that we do not move seamlessly from one thing to another but rather back and forth.


Mountain View

Growing up Asian in a White Household

Though childhood bedrooms have always been frozen in time, there is something more melancholic about it now. No longer are the blue-tacked photos with friends or pinned concert tickets or postcards from abroad just memories, now they are utter impossibilities. Previously, we could rest easy knowing that though we couldn’t repeat the trip or the concert, we could go to another one and have a completely new experience. Now we cannot. My bedroom isn’t just a treasure chest of my old memories but of an old world. It is a world which did not gradually change into another as new generations made their mark but instead was forcibly stopped, the close temporality of my memories making their impossibility even more heart-breaking.

The world itself feels like one big childhood bedroom at the moment, a frozen bystander to our changing selves and times. It constantly reminds us of the possibilities it holds but is unable to present them. Instead, it watches on.