I never had a lot of privacy when I was growing up. Privacy wasn’t always possible in a crowded three-bedroom home with eight siblings and two parents.
Sufficient and adequate housing on First Nations is a problem. People are happy merely to find any place to call a home for their family.
At a very young age, I remember having to share a large single room with five other brothers. We all slept relatively comfortably, on two large bunkbeds and a wide queen-sized bed. These beds filled the room and there was no space that we could call our own. We shared the room and everything in it.
As the years progressed, we left home, one by one, to attend high school. That meant that there was a little more room in the house. This did make our living environment a bit better but in a large family, I was always sharing my space with many and there were the constant visitors coming and going. At one point, our family did grow smaller when older members moved out to marry and start their own families.
We had it better than most people did in Attawapiskat in that we always lived in warm and cozy homes. Still there really was not much privacy to speak of. It seemed just normal to me and to everyone else in our home that everything was to be shared and that was all there was to it. I never felt as though I actually owned anything. I guess in a way it was like living in a commune. In addition, people were always in a state of excitement and chaos. There seldom seemed to be any moment of calm or peace.
From a young age, I never seemed to be able to find time to myself. I found myself leaving home often to be with friends to escape the confines of home. School was a refuge because it provided some privacy and individuality in the form of having my own desk with my own little possessions. I also looked forward to attending church services because it was a time and place where I could be with others in moments of silence and calm.
When I was a teenager, I worked at trying to keep some time to myself and even some form of privacy. I enjoyed spending quiet lonely evenings by the water to just listen to the night sounds of animals and birds. I felt a sense of relief in being able to ride away on my snowmobile to the opposite bank of the river to watch the lights of Attawapiskat from a peaceful vantage point.
At times, when everyone was out, I found it relaxing to just sit at home in silence without the blaring of a radio, the sound of the TV or the noise of a dozen people in the house. I seemed to be always trying to find a quiet place to read a good book.
I enjoy being quiet now and the private time I create for myself is very important to me. The work that I do as a writer involves me with many people on an ongoing basis so it is really critical for me to have some privacy and do things I want to do for myself.
I have also learned to respect the privacy of others. A friend of mine has a saying – “If you want to have good relations with your neighbours don’t get too close to them.”
This doesn’t mean to ignore them completely, as it is important to be good to your neighbours and to be there to help when they need it. However, it is a good idea to let people be and live their lives in peace.
I find that this way of living is very healthy and respects people’s space. This results in the best relationships with neighbours and friends. At this point I would never think of just dropping into a person’s home if I did not know them very, very well. I appreciate when people recognize that I like my privacy and give me some space.
Privacy is also a big issue these days in our modern world. We live in a time where our personal lives are continually surveyed by government and business. We are more and more becoming mere numbers and statistics. It seems harder and harder to have any privacy at all.
I guess it is necessary to take a stand once in a while in my quest for privacy. In the long run when I manage to enjoy time by myself it just makes it better when I see family and friends and I share a meal or visit with them.