Last week I spent my first Saturday in a very long time, housebound and alone. I had intentionally declined all social offers in a bid to go through cupboards, sort out paperwork and relax somehow. I wanted something quiet, with plenty of food and lots of rest. Despite everything going to plan, I felt tremendously lonely and bored.
Usually I would fill my weekend gaps with the pleasure of outside company, so on this particular day I found myself struggling to just be. Why am I not enjoying my OWN company? Do I not feel good enough to be with myself? Why do I feel like I’m missing out by staying in? These were the questions I needed to ask myself based on the unshakeable restlessness I felt ‘being with self’.
It had never been a plan of mine to live alone; the thought seemed unimaginable due to a constant desire to “self-surround”. As someone who is generally anxious, I’ve found much comfort in having somebody – anybody – by my side, most of the time. I grew up in an open home where our front door was literally, open. Friends were constantly in and out, sharing our food, time and space. My mum longed for privacy, which was impossible as my dad worked from home and encouraged an influx of visitors. Needless to say when my parents divorced (by this time we’d moved into an even bigger house), there was no holding back from a slew of open invites.
I became much like my dad in nature, developing into a young person who was rarely alone. This was wonderful as my personal entertainment was constant and my moments never dull. I didn’t have time to think or dwell or reflect, I could just live in the moment, surrounded by characters. The quirkier the better: I enjoyed the buzz of having a variety of peers distracting me; the feeling of a full house left me with a full heart. It was an unconventional lifestyle, in the sense that our family was constantly extended with non-blood relatives.
I had a more “normal” living experience with my mum: eating ’round the table as a family, limiting sleepovers to weekends, conforming to parental boundaries, having someone overlook my homework etc. It didn’t matter though, by the time I turned 17 she caved and we would host around 6-7 girls within her tiny apartment; a safe escape for a rebellious girls.
From 23 onwards I lived with different friends, which seemed like the most natural thing to do. Movie nights, a person to travel with, eating meals together and house gatherings were few of the wonderful things to come from it. I had no plans to live alone, it was initially a temporary step before going off to travel. Understandably, when I did make the decision to move, my intuition screamed fear, fear and more fear. How on earth could I cope without having a person live with? More importantly, would I be able to make a friend out of myself? Would I be able to fill a void I hadn’t acknowledged was even there?
The first thing I did when I moved into my private little space, was make the place MINE. Having complete control over the decor, colour theme and even pictures on the wall enabled me to mark my own territory. I no longer had to keep things neutral by considering another’s taste. Surprisingly, unlike any other place I’ve ever lived, I felt right at home from the very first night. This was because I was in a space which felt familiar and personal…It was mine.
The second wonderful thing I became aware of living alone, was having complete freedom. It didn’t matter if it was 1am or 6am, I could have over whoever I wanted, whenever I wanted, for as long as I wanted. I could create my own boundaries – controlling the status of my private space. That in itself was essential to my personal growth – I needed to learn that I could be the dictator of my own environment.
I’ve finally reached a milestone that allows me to be more assertive. I trust myself on every level and whilst I reflect, I do not regret the moments where I’ve spoken my truth. By knowing what’s in my heart, the opinions of others matter less and less. Again, my opinion of self was clouded when spending too much time with other people – I needed to know my own thoughts and trust them fully.
It’s funny. On that rare Saturday, once I began to reflect, I realized how unappreciative I was. Having a place of my own, a safe haven, is a privilege. There is nothing boring or lonely about it. In the end I watched a couple films, slapped on a face-mask and finalllllly reveled in my own company! Sometimes when I’m alone I get out “The Family Box”, which is a box I keep stashed full of old pictures of letters. These are the moments I connect past to present. I reflect on my learnings and growth; creating moments I could only really have alone; private and necessary.
I intentionally waited a year to write this piece, because I wanted to see if there would be a transition from the time I moved in until now. I think due to constantly being surrounded by people as a child, I never claimed my own identity. I would put people’s demands before my own, swallowing thoughts because I was too scared to offend or interject. Now I have time to truly understand without being tainted by the opinions of others. I cannot be swayed. I am alone and better for it.
Living alone has allowed me to be selfish, to make my own rules and dominate my own space. One day, when the time comes and I choose to live with others, I’ll be able to communicate self-assuredly, considering others without forgetting myself. Until that time, I’ll be revelling in the gift of self, meeting my own needs and feeling not an ounce of guilt for it.