Approximately three weeks ago, I moved to the big city all by myself. It’s really not that big of a city, but when coming from a town with the population progressively decreasing since the 2010 census count of 2,000, 80,000 people was almost culture shock. Luckily, my family travels a lot so I have experienced several ways of life — but something I had not experienced was living very much so alone.
When my parents drove out of the parking lot of my apartment complex, and a while after I cried and calmed myself down, I sat on my brand new couch from IKEA and stared at my phone. I actually asked Siri what I should do, and she told me that I had nothing scheduled for the evening. So I cried some more.
Even though I don’t have everything under control — it’s been three weeks, after all — I do have a better understanding of how to live alone. So here is a relatively organized list of things I learned from moving out.
1. Breakdowns happen and you shouldn’t try to stop them
You know that feeling of physical ache in your throat that comes right before the breakdown? Don’t try to swallow it. If you need to, you get right down on that kitchen floor and you cry for as long as you can. Feelings are not things that ever go away, and since you’re living alone, there is no reason to suppress them. Do that really ugly sob. Cry in the shower. Grip the edge of the counter and stare at yourself in the mirror as the tears stream down your face. It’s fine. No one will ever know it happened unless you tell them.
2. Family is important, but don’t drive home yet
Even if you’ve had a bottle of wine and no one will answer your phone calls and watching movies you’ve already seen isn’t cutting it anymore, do not drive home. An obvious reason to not go home is the danger of drinking and driving, but also because you’re not ready. If you go home now, you won’t want to come back. You will see pictures of your new place on your phone and experience an anxiety attack for reasons at the time you will be unsure of. Stay for a while. Settle in. Develop a routine that consists of fulfilled days and nine-hour nights. Stick around.
3. Going outside once a day is a must
Even if you have nothing planned, no one to meet, and you know for a fact that people at home would return your calls, you need to go outside. If the going outside is simply grabbing a coffee, walk instead of driving. The fresh air is necessary and will give you enough time to reflect on your new life.
4. Do the things that make you feel uncomfortable
If going to that party you were invited to by the person you barely know, where there will be an entire house filled with people you don’t even recognize in the slightest, and thinking about being there makes you feel incredibly uneasy, you should most definitely go. Everything is going to suck at first. Meeting new people is terrifying and you never know what to expect, but just think, every friend you’ve ever had was once a stranger. Give yourself at least five minutes to adapt to new surroundings.
5. Avoid having free time… at first
Having a full schedule will be extremely beneficial in the beginning of your move. Take a weird amount of time planning your day to feel more significant. If you don’t carry a planner, start carrying a planner as well as having the calendar on your phone and your computer. Do things in an order that make sense because once you park your car and go home for a “quick” lunch, you’re not going to want to go back to your car again and drive into town. You’re going to want to sit on your couch and watch an ungodly amount of Netflix and wonder why you’re not making any friends or why life doesn’t seem to be progressing. Pack a lunch for an eventful day. Visit local shops, drink coffee, check your phone, bring a book, carry a backpack, stay outside for as long as possible, say hello to a stranger, smile, drink more coffee, check your bank statement, get a job, buy new shoes, buy your groceries, check the mail, and then you can go sit on your couch.
6. Make yourself your constantly reassuring friend
There is only one way to guarantee that you will have a friend who understands exactly what you’re going through and will be there to tell your sad, sorry ass how proud they are of you as well as giving you the courage to stay in this new adventure. Make yourself this friend. Tell yourself first and foremost that you are incredibly proud of what you’re accomplishing. You are undergoing a fair amount of stress in a new city where no one knows your name, and the people who are writing those songs about being nameless in a big new world are romanticizing the hell out of it. It’s very scary and you’re doing it and you’re sticking with it and you need to congratulate yourself on a daily basis.
7. Find a place to be alone where you don’t feel alone
If you feel like you’re going to go insane, leave the apartment. Drive all over town in search for a quiet place to be where you can watch the sun go down and really take a minute to realize what’s going on. It is most important to be at peace with the situation. You’re living alone, and yes it’s hard, but this is what it’s about. You’re doing something new and seeing new places, and you’ve come a long way even if it doesn’t always feel like it. Living alone doesn’t always have to mean feeling alone.