Lessons From Living Alone


Living alone has probably been one of the strangest things I’ve ever experienced.

I was gung-ho about it in the beginning. After five years of perpetual roommates, minimal fridge space, and the limited ability of walking around with no pants on (I mean hey, some people have guests), I was burnt out on a major level. I fantasized about it, really. I thought I’d hole up in my house for days on end, re-enacting some of my favorite introverted characters in movies and books. (I work virtually, so it was definitely possible to do so.) But it changed when this was actually possible, and I was faced with a long, sunny afternoon and nothing to do.

It stretched out in a scary way. I found myself clicking my phone on just to see if anyone had texted me. I didn’t really want to talk to anyone, and I had nothing of importance to actually say, but I hadn’t spoken to a soul all day and I felt strangely compelled to interact with someone, anyone. I found myself walking to the grocery store and literally beaming at a stranger who said, “Excuse me.” Speaking took me aback for a second. My voice sounded small. I tried another sentence, and it felt a little more normal. I realized, then, that I hadn’t said a word in over 7 hours.

Lately, I’ve been talking to myself. Don’t get alarmed — I know that no one’s actually there. But I find myself holding entire conversations with people in my head. It’s actually pretty fun, and I’ve found that speaking unperturbed, without the censure I usually feel in real conversations, is refreshing. I’ve worked a few things out. I’ve come up with a few ideas. My only real concern is my neighbor (I think he already thinks I’m nuts, and he’s probably right).

But it’s weird, you know? Living alone, existing primarily alone. I don’t dislike it, but it’s allowed for a good amount of me time, and I’m discovering a few things about myself.

For instance: I really like to take bubble baths during the middle of the day. Three p.m. is the best. As I said before, I work virtually, which usually means from home, so after staring at my computer for a few hours there’s nothing better than the midday bath with lavender Epsom salts.

Another thing: I’m a two-day leftover girl and that’s the limit. I like to cook, and I also like saving money, so I try to cook at least two meals per week. On the flip side, I’m terrible with math and couldn’t halve a recipe if my life depended on it. Solution? Cooking meals for four and trying to eat the rest throughout the week. However, on the second day of leftovers, I’m officially over it. I start resenting whatever yummy goodness I’d worshipped a day or so ago. I haven’t come up with a solution, yet.

And finally, I know my limit for social interaction. I’ve always known myself to be an introvert. I’m an INFJ and while we do like people, and can exist pretty well in most social situations, I definitely like my alone time. However, I am still susceptible to loneliness. One weekend, I didn’t see a soul except for the people at Jimmy John’s and maybe a cashier at Walgreens. I hated it. I felt myself slipping into a sadness that terrified me, actually. After that, I realized I have a two day minimum for “going solo.” Three days is just too much. I’m glad I know now, though. I’d never known how much I actually relied on society until I went three days without it. I think realizing your limit is good –even healthy.

But it’s a strange thing, and I’m glad I’m doing it. If anything, I’m a lot tidier, now. I can’t stand looking at my dirty dishes in the sink, when a year ago, they wouldn’t have bothered me. I do laundry like a fiend, I maintain a healthy reliance to my glass of Pinot in the evenings, and I’m learning to live with myself. What if I don’t change out of my pajamas till noon? What if I sleep with my bedroom door locked? And what if I sometimes dance around to Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” blaring from my earphones? These are things I’m willing to accept about myself.

The main struggle is when I want company, and when, for reasons beyond my control (i.e. my friends have lives), I don’t get it. There have been rough nights when I’ve needed to hear a familiar voice, to be touched, to have someone else’s body occupying a space somewhere in the living room. It’s these moments that are hard, but I’m coping, and it’s gotten better. Loneliness is always kept at bay these days, but she’s getting a little more familiar, and not as scary as I once thought her to be. She’s merely something to contend with, and I’m okay with that.