Okay, so I fully realize that this lady tip isn’t possibly for everyone. Maybe you live in a city where it’s financially impossible to live by yourself, or maybe you’re in a long-term relationship and you can’t exactly just move out. But still, I think living by yourself is an experience everyone should have.
Part of my belief in this is that I am not good with roommates. I wish that I was, because I’d love nothing more than to have a wacky sitcom life where my house is always full of weirdos and crazy situations are always happening. But, much as I love sitcoms, I don’t actually want to live with Balki. I’m like Cousin Larry, but if he never had a Balki to lighten him up. I’ve had good roommate experiences–for example, my freshman year of college my terrible roommate moved out and my friend Liz moved in, and we had a semester of non-stop (for me, anyway!) fun with her then-boyfriend and our BFF Dan. Honestly, I think back on that experience as one of the most fun times of my life, and it happened in a dorm. But overall? I’m not a good person to live with. I need massive amounts of alone-time. I don’t like anyone watching me, knowing what I’m doing, or judging what I eat. I want to listen to the Doobie Brothers loudly if the spirit moves me and, frankly, I don’t want to be judged for that. I like to leave my stuff everywhere, but I don’t want anyone to touch my stuff!
So when I had the chance to live by myself post-college, I jumped on it. I had to live with my parents for the first six months out of college, and that was really a great lesson in Why I Should Never Live With My Parents. They are great people and I like them a lot, but our lifestyles are really, really not compatible. I could’ve moved in with H., but he was living about in hour away in a town that he hated, and I wasn’t super-keen to move there just so I could hate it, too. So I got a tiny, weird apartment all by myself as soon as I got a job. It was wood-paneled (yikes), my neighbor smoked so much that the hallway smelled like an ash tray constantly, and the oven was so tiny that my cookie sheets wouldn’t even fit in it. But did I care? No way.
Because it was mine. Just mine. The feeling of having your own place that only you are responsible for is hard to explain. It’s liberating and scary all at the same time. If something breaks, you have to fix it (or live with it, as the case may be). If your next door neighbor is having sex and bumping their bed against the wall that your bed is also against and the vibrations actually wake you up, you don’t have another person to commiserate with. You have to pay all your bills and all your rent. If there are dishes in the sink, you can’t blame anyone else. If it smells like brussels sprouts, well, that’s because you decided to roast brussels sprouts. Every problem is yours.
On the flip side…everything is yours. The total silence when you come home from work, the food in the fridge, the girly curtains. No one’s going to stop you from watching American Idol in your pajamas. No one’s going to make fun of you for eating an egg sandwich three nights in a row. No one’s going to move your stuff.
And in those long, quiet nights, I can promise you, you will access reserves of strength you didn’t know you had. And I don’t just mean because it’s scary to hear noises and not be able to send someone else out to check on them. But because it’s lonely, sometimes, to live on your own. You don’t have someone else to talk to. You don’t have someone to share your opinion with after you watch a show. You can’t read that Jezebel article out loud to anyone or share your leftovers or steal someone else’s deodorant if you run out. When you turn to talk to someone, you’re only met with yourself.
I’m very happy to live with my husband now. I lived by myself for about four years, and I was ready to have another person around. But I’m so absolutely glad I lived by myself for as long as I did, and I know I would’ve regretted it if I didn’t. It was often hard to explain to people why I lived by myself, when I could’ve (probably should’ve) lived with H. The benefits of being alone, of sometimes being lonely, can be hard to explain. So, yeah, I’m happy here where I am, writing this blog post on the couch as I hear H. walking around upstairs. But I wouldn’t give up those years of living alone for anything.
Image of man who can play his violin AS LOUD AS HE WANTS via Flickr