Like most people my age, I've lived with other people (family, friends, randomized roommates) my entire life. For a while, I was even considering living with a roommate during my month-long housing search in Petoskey. But now, at 22, I'm finally living alone--and, on top of it, without friends or family in at least a 3-hour vicinity.
Some people have reached out to me recently, wondering how I'm handling these changes or about how similar our journeys are becoming. These conversations are what prompted me to post this today.
I'm a sucker for words, so here's a few quotes that illustrate good points about being alone and really resonate with me:
"Being alone & actually sitting with our own thoughts can lead to such growth and realizations that are rare in our
everyday busy lives." - Kourtney Kardashian (yep)
"It's an interesting combination: Having a great fear of being alone, and having a desperate need for solitude and
the solitary experience. That's always been a tug of war for me." - Jodie Foster
"Loneliness is, like, when you wish someone else was there, and solitude is when you enjoy being alone. I don't
always wanna be alone, but I definitely like pockets of solitude to recharge and come back to myself. I think that's so
important for everyone." - Jonathan Van Ness
"I'm the most communal person that exists and a very solitary person. So I think writing is a form of getting to the
community and being alone, and it's the best of both possible worlds." - Ariel Dorfman (love this so much)
Now, I realize these are general quotes about being alone, not necessarily living alone. However, I think most of us would agree that you usually can't have the latter without a significant amount of the former.
Living alone was never something I was scared of doing--at least, the logistics of it. Most of the time I felt pretty independent, and my anxieties about many of the regular "adulting" items had been soothed long ago out of necessity. I did my own laundry, meal prepping, and cleaning. I was always the one to handle rent and utilities, and for a time I wrote checks for my car loan. I took charge with contacting landlords, city management, doctors, etc., making appointments or meetings when necessary. I paid medical bills, had a 403 (b) retirement plan at Spectrum, and even had my own credit card! I also never lied awake at night worrying about my safety as a single young woman. If anything, my parents were the ones "scared" of me living alone, but that's just a parent thing.
However, I started to realize even before my roommates and I parted ways that, for me, living alone has two large drawbacks, things that many of us don't think of right off the bat and that I've personally struggled with a lot.
One: no accountability. I don't feel pressured to do anything--which is great, until chores start to pile up. Dishes in the sink? I'll get to them later. Mail? Maybe later. Laundry overflowing? Later, later, later. Without someone to keep you in check, some of us start to get a little disorganized.
Two: no social energy. I've always classified myself as an ambivert, which means I have traits of both introverts and extroverts (if you've never heard of ambiverts before, you can read more about them here). One extroverted trait of mine that is both a blessing and a curse is that I always feel energized with conversation. I can be having a terrible day in my head, but, as soon as I get to talk to someone wholeheartedly, my entire mood shifts. When there's people around, I start to fidget and constantly suggest activities to do or places to go. Last year, my roommates and I spent a lot of time together, which got me out and about more than would ever be possible by myself.
But now...let's just say most days I get home after work and do nothing until I give in to an early "bedtime," usually staying up until 11:30 on Twitter or scrolling through memes. Not having anyone to come home to and keep me feeling energized is a huge drag on my mood and personal ambitions, to say the least. I have an overflowing list of things I want to do, goals I want to accomplish, yada yada, but I'm lucky if ANY of it gets done when I hardly interact with people. I find myself tired all the time, wasting the day away, and/or constantly snacking to fill the social void. Don't get me wrong, I love solitude and spending time by myself. But going from constant social stimulation in college to entire days without good conversation can prove hard adjusting to.
So, what do I do to keep myself on track? Answer: be more intentional than ever.
Since there's no one else around, I've gotten better at listening to what my body/mind needs and recognizing the patterns. I've learned ways to halt negative thoughts or actions in their tracks, or delay them until the emotions pass. Music fills my space constantly now because it focuses me and motivates me to move. I have filled my studio with reminders of what needs to be done and what to do when I'm bored. I respond well to working through lists and checking things off--something about the satisfaction of completion, am I right?--so it's not unusual for me to make 4 or 5 lists throughout a day. Sometimes they never get completed. And sometimes they're nothing more than 1) meal prep, 2) shower, 3) do laundry, 4) sleep by 10. Little accomplishments are just as important to celebrate, especially when we can be so hard on ourselves or when it takes a lot of effort to get out of bed.
Of course, I'm trying my best to keep in touch with everyone back home. When I wrote this, I was spending a Saturday morning at Dripworks, enjoying a lavender oat milk latte, and writing out postcards to send out to a couple of lucky ducks (they ran out of my favorite design, but still hit me up if you'd like one!). I have also enjoyed phone calls with several of my favorite people. When things settle down, I also plan on taking a weekend train trip down to Chicago to visit a dear friend at Rush University. Whoo!
Other than that, and work, and hosting the occasional weekend visit from family or friends that actually make it up here, it's a one-woman show. I'm working on that part, trust me. I joined a gym, and two of my other bucket list items for 2018 are to make a new friend and to go on a date (we'll see if that happens).
I'm doing my best not to be hard on myself for going with the flow right now, getting my groove down, setting the mood. Being alone doesn't have to be lonely. I'm using this time to work on myself and my projects, and, although there are still rough days, I'm actually enjoying it.
I'm curious if anyone else has gone or is going through a similar process. How do you handle living alone? Like it, or hate it?
Until next time,