If you live (or have ever lived) by yourself, chances are you’ll have heard the following at least once.
“But don’t you get lonely?”
“I couldn’t live on my own, I’d get so bored”
“What about the creaks and strange noises? You can’t automatically dismiss them as the other person in the house – I’d find it creepy”
“But you must miss having people around you”
“How antisocial!” (usually followed by a fake laugh)
With the very occasional
“I wish I could decorate my house however I wanted”.
Since I’ve lived by myself, in my little house in my riverside village, I have come to recognise that you can more or less split people into two camps: those for whom living alone is a Wonderful Thing, something to aspire to, luxuriate in and enjoy; and those for whom it is The Worst Thing That Could Possibly Happen.
The two camps do not understand the other’s point of view, though in my experience, the older the people, the more they are likely to live and let live, and not evangelise their preferred way of living.
I think it is partly linked to introversion and extroversion preferences, though I won’t go into that in any more detail here – there are umpteen books and courses and blog posts on the subject written by people far more knowledgeable than me on those traits.
I want to share my own experience of living by myself, and how it happened, and why I love it, and I don’t think lonely really comes into it.
Back in 2008, when I finished university, I was at a bit of a loose end. I’d never particularly planned to live anywhere other than with the boyfriend, but as our seven-year relationship dissolved at the end of 2007, clearly that wasn’t going to happen.
To complicate matters, my parents had moved from my hometown up to the north of Essex, where my family were. So I packed my life into a storage unit and trundled to my new home, finding solace in my extended family’s horses and hens and dogs, and space to mend my broken heart in the North Essex countryside and woodland.
I hated being away from my friends and I had no clue how to deal with being single for the first time in my adult life, but I loved the peace and quiet and exploring my new surroundings.
So I patched up my heart and started an ongoing journey of self discovery, and just as I was starting to think I really should relieve my poor parents of my clutter, one of my best friends called to say she’d got her doctor’s training allocation and did I fancy moving in with her in Colchester for a year.
That year was amazing in lots of ways, but when she left to go back to London, I rallied my finances and my courage and stayed in our flat on my own. Turning her room into my studio, and putting up all the little touches that make a house a home – which are so hard to do in a shared house if your tastes are very different.
That first year of living by myself was incredible. I learned a lot about myself (I’m really good at bodging DIY. I’m really bad at dealing with spiders.) and my home, mine alone, became my sanctuary from the City job and psychopathic CEO which was destroying my confidence by the day.
That flat, however messy it got because I was too exhausted to tidy, and however badly I was eating because I got home too late to cook, it was mine, and it was home, and it was safe.
And while I have dearly loved all the people I have lived with from childhood to adulthood, for me there is nothing quite like coming home and being able to do whatever you want without worrying about interacting with others, whether you’re being selfish, awkward, antisocial, etc. It’s blissful and it helped me get through some very difficult situations with my working life.
Loneliness just doesn’t come into it – I was much lonelier during the day in that soul-destroying job, in a cold office full of people in suits who thought I was odd, and not in a good way, than I could ever be in my colourful, light-filled, comfortable home.
I eventually jacked in that job, felt a weight lift from my heart, and moved on to one that suits me much better. Not long after the new job came the opportunity to move house, and by then continuing to live alone was a no-brainer.
This time I found a house, with a garden, and space for my studio, and a conservatory and a cat flap. It felt like home from the moment I walked through the door (and of course now I have my silly kittens who race around and do ridiculous things and make me laugh on a daily basis).
Home is still my sanctuary. I love that I can go home and pick up the book I left there this morning, and no one will have touched it. I love that I can have people round to my heart’s content, and then have my space back to re-centre myself whenever I want to. I love that I am answerable to nothing and nobody, and can choose exactly what to do with my time and my space in my home.
I have grown in confidence and happiness daily, to the delight of those who know and love me (and especially to those who witnessed the breakdown after the breakup). I’m quite certain that I don’t want a housemate – I value my space and alone time too much.
And given that my both of my offices in my current day job are massive open plan ones, it’s not so much a luxury as a necessity to come home and sit quietly and ground myself again when I return each day.
Romantically, there have been dalliances, but no one with whom I would care to share my home and my life yet… and that’s ok. If Mr Right does pitch up, I’ll be firmly ensconced in a life and home of my own making, and he and I can join forces to make an even more awesome life. And if he doesn’t – I’m having the time of my life in my little house. And last month I celebrated three years of living by myself. Here’s to many more 😀
With unicorns and happiness,