Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Five Things I've Learned By Living Alone

I've lived alone for over a year now and I feel like a completely different person. It hasn't all been rainbows and lollipops, but whatever difficult times I've had, have been instrumental in building who I'm becoming. If you're considering it, I think it's important for everyone (but especially girls) to live alone for a while. It doesn't matter what stage of life you're in or if you're in a relationship - it's about getting to know yourself.


I also strongly believe that acknowledgment sows the seeds of gratefulness. So in that vein, here are the first five things I've learned by living alone.


1. You can be lonely with other people or you can be lonely alone.
Being lonely (or unhappy or sad or happy, for that matter) are all within YOU. You can decide where you are in your emotions and how long you want to stay there. Sometimes, you want to wallow for 20 minutes - you want to cry and be frustrated and hate your life. And I'm telling you that that is okay. It's OKAY. For 20 minutes, you can curl up in bed and wish your life were different. But after those 20 minutes go by, and you've had a therapeutic release, you need to get up and do something about it. Only YOU can change your life.


Before I lived alone, there were moments when I felt intensely alone in the world. Crying by yourself DOWNstairs, when your roommate and best friend is UPstairs is really hard. Crying by yourself in your own, empty house with your cats is tough, too. But, I found it easier to pity myself in the former situation. Easier to say, he should come down here. He should come comfort me. He should be a good friend. And whether he should have or not aside, I was making a big mistake in blaming HIM. When I'm sad at my house now, I get sad. Then, I decide to do something about it. This is something I don't think I could have learned as well/as easily without living alone.

2. A pet makes all the difference.
To be honest, I've never lived alone without a pet and I don't know how I would have handled it if I had. Growing up with animals, I am well-acquainted with the absolute sheer comfort you can get out of a cuddle with a furry friend. Many a high school heartbreak was healed by laying my head on a labrador's chest. So, yes, animals give you a tactile and emotional comfort that helps you whether you live alone or not.

{my magic - no longer with us}

But, I think more importantly, they also provide you companionship. If I didn't have Oliver and Crash, who would I talk to when I walked in the door? How long would I go without saying a word? There was a time when I would call upstairs and ask Jonathan to come watch a show with me - now Oliver climbs onto my lap and we enjoy an episode of An Idiot Abroad. For people who have dogs, their pups can join them in the world. Running errands or running a mile, Fido is your activity pal. Once you no longer have people around you all the time, these little guys become that much more important.

{oliver and crash}

3. Living alone is the gateway to doing things alone - and happiness.
I remember the first time I saw a movie alone. American Beauty had been out for over a month and all my friends had seen it. So, I walked my 14-year-old self to the theatre and saw a (probably, completely inappropriate) movie. It was liberating. From that moment on, I was an independent woman. Or, on the path to becoming one. Since then, I can happily spend time with myself - at the bookstore and farmer's market, going to thrift shops and garage sales, movies and lectures. Last year, I even went on a road trip all by myself - no internet/phone allowed - and became even more at ease being alone.


Of course, there are moments when you're standing at the pier, watching the sunset and you think, it would be really lovely to share this with someone. But what I've found is that 90% of the time, we're just looking for validation when that happens. We don't give ourselves enough credit. This sunset must not be awesome unless my friend agrees or I share a picture on Facebook. Listen up people! Your eyeballs told you it was amazing. TRUST THEM. They're smart. And the other 10% of the time, call up a friend, tell them to meet you with a hot chocolate and enjoy the sunset together.

4. Get out of your house!
Once you create your perfect little nest, with a comfy couch and a cozy bed and that perfect spot for applying your makeup, you may never want to leave. But you should. Just because your DVR is full of New Girl and once Upon A Time episodes, you can't spend all Sunday lying on your couch watching TV. Well, at least, not every weekend. My house is such an extension of my personality, such a piece of my soul that sometimes it's hard to leave. Plus, there's those cute cats.


But you can't let your haven become your hindrance. When I first lived alone, I spent many weekends completely at home. Partly, I was nesting, but partly I was hiding. I was so COMFORTABLE there - and that gets a little scary. I want to be comfortable in my bed, in my skin, in the shower. But I don't want to be comfortable in MY LIFE. I want to be challenged, excited, and a little bit scared. Plus, it never feels better to come home than when you've been away. So, make your house beautiful, make it homey, make it YOURS - and enjoy it. But then enjoy the world and your friends and the land outside your bed.

5. Stay in sometimes - naked.
Let me explain! The best part of living alone alone. You can pee with the door open, you can walk to the kitchen in your birthday suit in the middle of the night, you can lounge on the couch in your skivvies on a Sunday afternoon. You can wear as many or as few clothes as you want. I have a robe hanging on the back of my bathroom door...but I don't think I've ever used it in this house. Why would I?

The real benefit of all this is that you get to be so much more comfortable in your body. Without the impetus to cover up, you forget why you *wanted* to cover up in the first place. And when you pass by a mirror and you catch a glimpse of yourself, you appreciate what you see. I don't care what insecurities you have, you must be able to find beauty in some part of you - the curve of your calf, the small of your back, the hollow in your collarbones. Being naked alone in your house, with no one there who could possibly make you feel bad about yourself, opens you up to the question, Why should I be that person?

It's your job to love you and that doesn't mean only in your best jeans.


What do you guys think? Have you ever (or do you) lived alone? Did you find it liberating or lonely?

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  1. I loved this post, and recommended it to my readers as well.

  2. Well said! (Came here from Brandi's blog.)


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