I hope you learn to make it on your own and if you love yourself just know you’ll never be alone. – “One Man Can Change the World”, Big Sean.
While I rarely show this side of me externally, I am someone who is empathetic by nature and internalizes others negative feelings even if it has nothing to do with me. So when I hear about a traumatic event on the news, a dispirited personal story from a friend, social injustice, or even something as trivial as reading someone’s unhappy status on Facebook, I ponder about what would make society (Western cultures) more well-rounded and peaceful as a whole…what could make us understand each other better, to live judgement free from others, to produce more open-minded free thinkers, generate confidence and introspection, and to allow more people to achieve the universal goal of their own personal happiness. It bothers me that there are so many brainwashed, unfulfilled, tortured people walking around this planet putting on a brave face that does not even remotely match their soul.
Some could say people need more money, to love and appreciate one another, to implement equal rights, and some may have no freakin’ clue. However, it’s been proven that money doesn’t provide ultimate happiness, those who are loved aren’t always fulfilled, and equal rights produces hate in some.
Which is why I believe that if it is monetarily feasible and a person is of sound mind, every single person should take the opportunity to live alone for at least one year. No parents, no roommates, no significant other, no siblings.
Hear me out.
In September 2014, I was in a really bad place. Like, really bad. I was living with my long-term boyfriend (now ex) at the time and as well as my best guy friend. Our lease was going to be up in a few weeks so my boyfriend and I talked about renting a house together and my friend had found a roommate to live with. Two weeks before our lease ended my relationship became extremely strained and ended abruptly. I was extremely distressed as there was no time for me to find a compatible roommate. In Los Angeles, it can take FOREVER to find the right apartment because it is overpopulated and the competition is fierce. While my ex went on to get a place with a friend, I had no other option but to live alone.
Let me tell you that the thought of living solo at the time was terrifying. I had roommates ever since I left my parents house at 18 (boyfriends, strangers, friends) years old to go to university. That’s 9 years of roommates. Even though I had been paying my own rent and bills for the past years, it was still scary to think it would be just my cats and I…on my own. Alone. And SINGLE. And HEARTBROKEN. Is there a worst combo? I was distraught.
I searched high and low, willing to settle for anything, because I could NOT find a place. Everything in my budget was an abomination or potential tenants had beat me to it. I was consistently calling my mom crying knowing that the lease date was looming and I would be homeless soon. And then finally after 2 weeks of searching — I found the place I call home now: a cozy, renovated studio apartment. I have lived here for 20 months, alone. While I could afford something bigger and better, I find it hard to move out as I am attached to it as I am my childhood home: it is my sanctuary and the place that I have had the most personal growth since I was 21 years old.
When I first moved in I was a mess and cried a lot. This lasted about two weeks. I was no longer living with my best friend (we lived together the past 3 years), newly single, and I just wasn’t used to being alone so much. While my past roommates used to take control of the household, now I had to learn how to actually learn to do things for myself like: call the cable company, set up the internet, fix stuff, use a power drill to build shelves, move a couch down three flights of narrow stairs solo, and worst of all — kill my own spiders. I remember holding my cat sobbing thinking how lonely I was and how I missed my old comfortable and convenient life.
But after 3-4 weeks, something incredible happened. I started to feel something inside me that I had never felt in my life before: Liberation. Independence. Freedom.
When you live alone, no one on the planet knows what you’re doing inside your space. You are free to do as you please. It’s your kingdom and you make the rules. No one tells you no, asks where you’re going, knows what you’re googling, or tells you to put away your coffee mug that’s been sitting on the table for 3 days. You can have over whoever you want and talk about whenever you want, because surprise!, there’s no chance of an eavesdropper. The options are endless.
There was a time I spent a few hours with a close male friend of mine who lives alone. We laughed hysterically about how he had a sock hanging from a piece of artwork in his apartment and how no one gave a shit because it’s only him there. He said he probably threw it there when he came in drunk days ago but no one was bitching to put it away. Should he probably put it away? Sure, but it’s freakin’ glorious a sock can hang there til he feels like it. This is the same friend who I expressed my concern about possible future loneliness before I moved out on my own. At that time, he told me that I would grow in imaginable ways and become my own best friend. I didn’t know it at the time, but he was right. We laughed about that, too.
When you live alone you are given the privilege of being your true self.
Not many people will experience or appreciate this privilege. Yeah, I know some people will say “well, so and so knows the true me”…no. They know a comfortable version of you. When you’re finally alone for a few precious moments you probably do some weird shit you don’t want your significant other or best friend to see. You’re not subconsciously thinking they will walk in or be in the next room. When you live alone you can do that weird thing ALL THE TIME. You don’t have to censor yourself, you can walk around naked, and no one is going to ask why you didn’t come home last night or remind you it’s unsafe to go to 7-11 at 4am to get some ice cream to feed your munchies.
You can feel any emotion you want to feel without judgment or an external reaction…you can scream (reasonably), cry, cuss your anger out into the open air. I cannot tell you how grateful I was that I went through my break up living alone…I cried for days in my apartment without a roommate awkwardly asking, “are you ok?” I was forced to sit and relish in my uncomfortable feelings and rely on myself for comfort. It built a strength and confidence I never had before… I could recognize my bad feelings, learn what to do with them, and work through them on my own. Because I wasn’t receiving the normal sympathy or pity, I experienced the ‘hey, this sucks, I am sad, but I’m gonna survive’ phase much quicker. Too often we immediately reach out to others for advice or support not realizing that’s how we sometimes get ourselves in stressful situations in the first place. When you live alone, you learn to trust yourself and your instincts.
But most importantly, you get to know you. This is the biggest problem I see with society. We are so hung up on judgments, fitting in, keeping up with the Joneses, doing what is right in others eyes for their approval that we forget we also have a voice and in most situations self approval is all you need. Humans are too often a part of the herd, naively following and absorbing what they see which consequently destroys their creativity, individualism, and independence. It’s scary. We have people who are grown adults, sometimes parents, encouraging children to be confident and stable, but are still insecure and unsure of themselves. These same people become heavily co-dependent and when they lose their security blanket they derail completely.
Most of us are raised in a household with pre-set rules, values, obligations, and opinions that are are forced upon us by our caregivers who can be completely different people than who we are as an individual. This is something my parents struggled with as I grew older (and even to this day) because while much alike in some ways, I also had many vast, liberal opinions they did not agree with which caused them to think I was being devious, disrespectful, or disobedient when simply I was just thinking for myself. It is no different than identical twins that have opposite personalities. Before a baby is even conceived, a parent has already assumed a set of values, morals, hopes, and dreams they want to enforce on their unborn child. And when that child ends up being different (religion, homosexual, transgendered, career choice, lifestyle, etc.) than what they expected it can instill guilt and shame in the child that runs into adulthood not allowing them to reach their full potential of being a happy, well-adjusted human being. And the effects of this can be devastating, destructive, dangerous, and even fatal.
Another issue is that some people find their partner very young and move in together (I was one of them) without having a period of solitude which I believe perpetuates the cycle of having yet another person enforce a set of values, morals, hopes, and dreams on their partner. In order to comply and keep everyone happy, people often become a mix of their parents and their partners set of rules, values, morals, etc. — which often leaves them unfulfilled and unhappy in years to come because it leaves little room for their own self guidance. These are usually the people who often put on a happy front for years but will abruptly divorce, commit suicide, cheat, fall into addiction, have deep regrets as they age, or become constant daily complainers that hardly ever smile. I cannot count the number of times someone in this position has come to with these feelings, whether or not they are happily or unhappily married. It is important to understand that most of these people acknowledge it has nothing to do with their partner but rather lack of self discovery.
When I share these feelings many people respond that I am bitter, jaded, or angry at love and the hand it has shown me but this could not be further from the truth. Romantic love is such a beautiful thing. It is priceless and incomparable to any other feeling. I have been in love twice and it is unique to have your soul connect on every level with another person. I long to feel that again in my life time. However, I truly believe that when you move from under someone’s shared roof to another it makes it impossible to become your most authentic self. I believe it inhibits confidence, self approval, personal strength, and feelings of self worth. I do not think you can fully love someone else or achieve the gift of self-love, happiness, and emotional independence without eliminating external distractions and influences for at least a short period to determine who you are first…what you value, hope, and dream and then understanding WHY. And it should be because you truly feel that way, not because society, your parents, your church, or you partner told you so. And if you agree with the set of beliefs these external forces have shown you without being influenced to be told to just because, that’s awesome too. But I recommend to everyone I know, that if possible, to explore these beliefs and feelings in a space you can be yourself.
Living alone isn’t for everyone. There are obstacles that can prevent solo living whether that be monetary, mental illness, being a caregiver, marriage, children, whatever. But for those that are in the position to do so and have a fear of being alone, this experience will change your life in the best way. You may dislike it and decide never to do it again, but it will water your soul and help your internal seed grow in ways you didn’t think possible. Or you may become like me and never want to live with someone again (haha) because you enjoy it so much. Regardless, hopefully you learn to comfortably sit with yourself in the silence. You will take care of yourself more. For at least once in your life, you will put yourself first. You will think and see things differently. You will go through loneliness and tough emotional times and come out a pillar of strength. You will appreciate yourself and others more. You will become your very best friend and create an indescribable love and friendship with yourself that NO ONE can ever take away from you. You got you. I can’t speak for everyone, but for me, this is the most rewarding thing I have ever done. My whole life I was searching for love and acceptance from others and who knew that I would find it at 28 years old, living in this box.