My living situation in college was pretty nice for the most part (flashback to the ramen recipes I lived off of, don’t worry my recipe knowledge has since improved). I lived with my best friends and we were all pretty much at the same point in time of our lives. We were college kids finally out on our own to be who we wanted and do what we wished. We were having fun but we were also very aware of the reason we were there. These “roommates” of mine became more like family throughout the years. I went to school a state away from my hometown, so I often saw these girls more than I saw my own family. It was great, it often felt like getting to have a sleepover every night, with your best friends. Talking and laughing over glasses of wine, sharing clothes when you swear you had nothing left to wear, and having someone around even when you didn’t want to admit you needed someone around. I think my college living experience is somewhat comparable to the closeness other college kids would use to describe their time living with friends. But then, we graduated and we were faced with a pretty big decision of where to move and with or without who?
I think initially the idea of living alone scared me. So what did I do? I moved to Chicago with my boyfriend at the time and we shared a 1 – bedroom apartment. (PROTIP: never move in with someone for the first time, while also moving to a brand new city/place. This may be a given but in case you’re like my younger self, maybe it’s not). I’m sure you can all guess how that ended. There I was, a year into living in the city, still trying to figure out the L to make it downtown for work in time, single, and now looking for a place to live. Alone.
Alone | Separated from others; isolated.
I was grateful for the friends I had in my life at that time. The ones that offered me a place to stay, to look at new apartments with me, offer me advice on locations, but ultimately I decided to live alone. For the first time, completely separated from others. I was enjoying my job, I loved the city and the thought of moving home never really even crossed my mind. I can understand why so many of us fear the idea of being alone and I have felt the feeling of isolation – it is not one I’d easily welcome. But is it necessary?
The first night alone was the worst and I couldn’t stop thinking, did I just make a horrible mistake? What if I couldn’t do this, what if I missed having someone around? What if I couldn’t pay my rent or groceries? Up until this point, I’d always had someone close in my proximity to lean on for help with the things I thought I couldn’t do myself. Now, I was up to me to figure out. (Side bar| I have a bunch of family and friends who have always told me to call if I ever needed a thing, so I knew I wasn’t ALL alone. I also know I’m really bad at asking for help so I wasn’t going to have to get REALLY bad before I did.) It’s amazing what can happen when we are forced to make it on our own, to create and reinvent our own (adult) lives.
Here’s How Living Alone has Inspired Me Into Adulthood.
An opportunity to find myself | This is in no way implying that I was a lost soul in need of being found. However, I will say the person I was when I started college at 18 had dramatically changed by the time I was living by myself in Chicago at 24. The first month living alone was, well really lonely. I was bored and I had no idea what I even liked to do, on my own. For the past 2 years, I’d been doing everything with my boyfriend and before that, I’d been doing everything with friends. I had no hobbies or things I really did alone. I didn’t even think I liked doing things alone. I hated going to the gym and now that I lived alone I didn’t have much money to splurge on a membership so that was out. I did have a bike, and it was summertime in Chicago so I started riding my bike, a lot. There’s something nice that happens when you just begin to do something, it doesn’t even really matter what. This time riding my bike gave me a lot of time to think which made me realize I needed to get reacquainted with myself and enjoy doing things on my own again. I started remembering the things I did in my free time in college like writing, volunteering, painting, and reading. I started asking myself what I wanted in life and tried building a plan to get there. It wasn’t overnight and there were some days I still felt lonely but now I was beginning to enjoy it, little by little.
Something to call my own | I moved into a studio apartment in the city which felt more like a box with a bathroom but even though it was small, it was completely mine. The responsibility I had to pay rent was a nice reminder that I could pay rent, all on my own. There was a pride I felt in having responsibility for that and it was the first time I began to enjoy cleaning, in decorating and thus enjoying my own space. I now realize how important my environment and home life is to me. Something I never paid attention to before. Maybe you won’t care about decorating or cleaning but living on your own really opens your eyes to the things you do care about and what you’re willing to invest more time in to make better. What do you do in your space to make it more enjoyable for you and can you call it your own? Not only did my place begin to feel more like mine but so did my life. I spent time figuring out what exactly my “style” was what shows I enjoyed watching because I was the only one who had a say. What music I enjoyed playing in the morning getting ready because it’s what I wanted to hear. My life became my own and it’s something I can confidently share with others.
Reliant on my own | The fear I felt that first night alone is still a fear I feel at times but it’s different now. I’m still afraid of whether or not I’m making the right choices in life but now, I don’t have to wonder if I’ll be able to get through it if I don’t make the right choices. Because I’ve taken the time to get reacquainted with myself I now have a better understanding of what it is I want in life, without anyone else’s influence. I’ve had the time to think about what I like, what I don’t like and what I have to offer. Living alone taught me that I CAN be alone, which for some people they may think, is sad, but for me, it’s a great thing to learn. Now instead of having relationships with people for the mere sake of having them, I try to surround my self with people who speak to who I am as a person. People who are also very aware and enjoy who they are, who appreciate who I am and encourage me to do better. When we become reliant on only ourselves for the day to day responsibilities of our lives we then can start to hold ourselves accountable to the way we FEEL. I’m still working on this one but I realize I am the only one who can face the insecurities I feel in my life in order to improve them, and that sometimes we blame others for the way we feel in hopes they will solve our problems. This is not the case, we are our own problem to understand, nurture, and improve.
I can understand the hesitation in living alone and maybe it’s better for some than others, but you’ll never know what you never try. My time living alone was hard and short-lived but looking back it was a key turning point for me in my life. It would be dishonest to say I’m looking forward to living alone again but I can say I look forward to continuing to get reacquainted with myself.
A.Lipp – on living alone.