So, I live alone. I haven’t felt like I have for a long time seeing as me and my boyfriend have been self-isolating together for over six weeks. But, I got a litte PMSie and decided to withdraw myself from our cute living situation for a week. I just didn’t think it was fair to him, poor guy. And now, I’m sat in my apartment by myself watching How To Lose A Guy In Ten Days with the gorgeous Matthew McConaughey and I’m wondering why I got so mopey and sad by myself before. For some reason, it suddenly hit me this week just how empowering living alone is. The fact that I’m also living by myself ABROAD adds another layer to the whole situation, which I’ll explain below.
WHY LIVING ALONE IS GOOD
1. Hello, independence!
The obvious reason why living by yourself is the best thing since sliced bread is the sheer independence you get. Like all the time. You can do what you want in your own space whenever and however you want. You can do the classic walk around naked. You can cook what you want, or just eat cereal for dinner with no judgement. You can actually date without having to skulk around any nosy housemates or concerned parents. You can bring said date back to your apartment if that’s your vibe. You can stay up late and get up late. Whatever you want, pretty lady!
2. Your mind has space to think
Sometimes, when your surrounded by other people, it can be hard to actually think. It sounds silly, but do you remember the last time you were in an empty room with no music on? The silence feels so empty, right?! That’s what it feels like living alone. Suddenly, your brain isn’t taking in the normal noises that come with a busy household. Instead it can focus on what matters to you. Since I’ve been alone in the last week, my creative juices have never been more juicy. I’ve had ideas about my career that I’ve never even considered before. And, my mind has just been more chilled.
3. You don’t have to talk to ANYONE
Of course, when you live by yourself, it’s just you. If you switch off your phone, you only have yourself for company, and it’s weird at first, but it really is great. When you live with someone, there’s always this readiness you have to have to talk to your partner, family, housemates, etc. But I noticed, after a day of being home alone, that I no longer had that hyper-alert feeling that I had to interact with someone. This might not be a good feeling for extroverts, but for introverts, it’s bloody lovely. The only interactions you have to decide about is if you answer a phone call or a text. The ball’s in your court.
4. Your living routine is under your control
The one thing I hated about living with housemates was people not cleaning their dishes ALL WEEK, leaving food in the fridge until it started to smell like death, people stealing my food from the fridge, people using the oven when I wanted to use it, people using the bathroom when I wanted to use it, and people just generally being in the house when I wanted to watch Friends and chill by myself. I feel like you have to go through this at university and early in your career to fully appreciate the freedom of having your own place later on. And oh man, do I appreciate it now. I can go to bed at night knowing that I won’t wake up to a sh*tstorm in the kitchen in the morning. Likewise, if I leave my plate on the side, I won’t have anyone complaining about it the next day. Would I go back to sharing? Only with my boyfriend. You’re welcome, babe.
5. You have your own sense of home all day
There’s nothing quite like having a sh*t day and knowing you can go home and vegetate in your natural habitat with no disturbance unless you request it. For me, as an expat, having my own place has been like a home away from home. You can fill your cupboards with treats from home, put pictures up wherever you want, even photos of landmarks from your home city. You can even put a flag up, why not? And now, sorry Mum, but my flat has been bumped up the list to be considered my actual home. I used to always think of my Mum’s house as home. But now, when I go back, it doesn’t feel like that anymore. And when I get back to my flat in Wroclaw, I’m like ‘ahhhhh, my own bed’. I never thought this day would come, but it has.
6. You learn things
When something goes wrong, only you can sort it out. Power goes out? Get those candles burning, girl! Got a leak? Call a plumber! Since living by myself, I’ve learnt things because I’ve had to. For example, the dishwasher. This is something I just thought you put dishes in and then took them out when they’re clean. I didn’t even realise you had to clean the thing! And oh wow, is that a gross job. I’ve found myself Googling how to get stains out, how to clean an oven and how to clean a mattress (don’t ask).
WHY living alone is weird
1. Nobody is there with you
Similar to number one above, you have independence but the trade-off is that nobody is there. Nobody! And it is weird. After a while, you start craving social connection (even if you are an introvert) and you talk to yourself sometimes. I definitely talk to myself, but hey, if I can’t talk to myself, who can?! I also struggle at night when I’m done with work, and I’m watching TV by myself. I grew up chilling in the evenings with my mum and sister. So when I’m sitting alone watching TV at night, I can’t help thinking about what they’re doing. And it’s a sad moment.
2. Your mind has TOO MUCH space to think
That’s right. Having space to think can work wonders, but it can also make you think about things unnecessarily. I liken it to when I was a lifeguard: When you spend eight hours a day on the lifeguard chair watching an adult swim class in a baby pool, meaning there’s pretty low risk of anything bad happening, your mind tends to wander. And, let me tell you, when you shout at kids to stop running and clean changing room floors for a living, you question your life choices a lot. Similarly, when I’m filling in my Passion Planner, I find I have so much free space in my week that I start to add unnecessary, unattainable goals. Why don’t I do yoga three times a week? Why don’t I have more things to do, dammit!? Then I fill out the whole week from Monday to Sunday, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., and I’m disappointed with myself when I didn’t do my laundry between 3-4 p.m. on a Sunday. Why do I do this? Too much space! The quietness of an empty apartment has the same effect. Thinking about one thing quickly spirals into a whole internal debate in your head, and it gets weird. When you’d normally think your consumption of ice cream is just fine, you might start worrying about it unnecessarily when you live alone. Add in hormonal birth control on top of that and you have a cocktail for crying episodes and anxiety right there. While you eat said ice cream.
3. Nobody is there to hug you
This is a hard one, especially if you grew up with daily hugs from your mum like me. When I was younger, I used to crave having my own place so much that I didn’t stop to think about the fact that I wouldn’t have anyone to hug. Obviously, I got over it. And now I have a boyfriend, I have more access to hugs now than I used to before. But now I’m alone for the week, I’m starting to miss those cuddles.
4. You’re actually in charge of your routine
As I mention above, not living with anyone means everything in your place is just as you want it because you left it like that. At the same time, you have the freedom to use every room in your house whenever you want, however you want. This poses a problem though. Because I have this freedom, sometimes I get a little lazy. I might leave dishes on the side longer than usual, I might not hoover for weeks, I might not shower for days (don’t judge me), and I feel kind of crummy when I succumb to these habits. It sucks. And then I have to find the motivation to get back on top of my game with the chores and self-care. When your mum isn’t screaming at you to wash up, motivation is looooow. And do you know why I feel crummy when I turn into a lazy hermit? Because I love having a clean, organized house. So when I’ve been too lazy to clean it and put my damn stuff away, I start getting anxious and snappy. Mostly directed at myself.
5. Sometimes your own place doesn’t feel like home
Although my place feels more homely than any shared house I’ve lived in, it doesn’t quite have that 100% homely vibe, mainly because there’s no family there. It’s just me. Most of us grow up in some kind of family unit, and we take all those cosy moments for granted; playing board games with your siblings, watching TV with everyone in the living room, cooking together, eating together, etc. It’s magical stuff. So when I eat dinner alone these days, it feels weird. To make myself feel better, I watch family vlogs on Youtube.
6. You realise you don’t know anything
So you have to learn how to do something, whether it be fixing something or how to pay a bill, but first you have to get over the anxiety of realising you don’t know how to do it in the first place. And that can be annoying, especially when you’ve been working all day and can’t be asked to think about anything more than a glass of wine. This is where phoning your mum, dad or grandparents can really help you out. As much as we try to show the older generation that we know what we’re doing and we don’t need their help, sometimes your grandmother might know the perfect cleaning product to clean your shower door. You can offer an iPhone masterclass in return.
So there you have it …
That’s my view on living alone. There are pros and there are cons, and it really is down to the individual whether it’s for them. For me, living abroad and living alone really helps to seal the deal on the whole ‘independence’ thing. Not only do I have my own place, but there is also a significant distance between me and my family. Although it saddens me to know that I can’t just pop round my nan’s for a cup of tea or to my mum’s to watch Neighbours together, I think about how this distance has made me grow as a person, and I wouldn’t take it back for the world.
Just like I think everyone should try living abroad, even for a short time, I really think everyone should try living alone. Even if it’s just for a couple of months to test it out, you need to know what it feels like. You might hate it, or you might think it’s the most empowering thing you ever did.