To all the women living solo and loving it, except when you’re not: I write this for you, and I write this for me.
Living solo as a woman can mean a lot of things, and it changes as you move through seasons of your life. Some are great, freeing, and liberating, while others are scary and honestly really hard. For me, this is a season that I’ve learned to appreciate and ultimately cherish. With that being said, it was an adjustment, and there were plenty of lessons I learned along the way. This is my advice to you and to myself so you can love this part of your story and honor your life.
Some of my advice is practical and rational, while some is for your heart and your healing. I hope you treat them the same, however they fit into your life, because the practical things are just as important as the heart things.
1. Your physical space is a mirror to your headspace.
When I left for college and began learning what it meant to live on my own, I always lived with someone else. Whether it was four amazing roommates or a childhood bestie, I always had another person to help with the upkeep of our shared space. If it was making a day of cleaning our entire college house or deciding who was going to get the groceries that week, I had someone to share the tasks of daily life with.
When I moved into my own space for the first time, I realized that it was up to me to keep everything on track. Not to be melodramatic, but my kryptonite in daily chores are the dishes that never seem to go away, even when you’re the only one using them. How many spoons can one person really use in a day? After some much-needed healing and personal development in other areas of my life, I learned to love a clean sink when I wake up in the morning. To some, this may sound like a normal thing, and to you I applaud your grownup ways. But it was the one task I always procrastinated on for no good reason. I’ve now made it a ritual to turn on a podcast or music to something that takes me out of what I’m actually doing. This is now one of the routines I look forward to in the evening to get in free thinking time or decompress from the day. When life seems chaotic or my anxiety is rearing its head more than normal, being able to accomplish this small task helps put things into perspective. It catapults me to the rest of my to-do list and sets me into a positive mental space.
If I could offer you one piece of advice if this resonates with you, regardless of the task, it would be to incorporate things you enjoy with the things that seem daunting. Whether it be making your bed every day, taking out your trash, or changing that light bulb that’s been burnt out for weeks, you’ll have to get to it eventually. Instead of hating every second of it or procrastinating because it doesn’t seem that important, choose to make it part of your routine by adding something that brings you joy while you’re doing it. And the sooner you do, you’ll realize the small daily tasks are a mirror to how you’re showing up for your life. You’re no longer motivated by the passive aggressive comments of your roommates, so you have to choose to do them for yourself. I hope you choose to show up daily, get the small things done, and move on to the things that you hold in your heart. Taylor Swift and The Chicks are my current built in chore saviors. Go find yours and you’ll realize how much your physical and mental spaces improve.
2. Talk about money. It’s not a bad thing.
Finances: the subject we all need to talk about more when we’re young but is taboo in most situations. We usually don’t learn how to manage money until we’re either in too deep and can’t see the way out—sometimes we choose to never even give it a thought. It’s a concept that needs to be addressed in our teenage years, especially when all we see on Instagram is another ad for another skin care product or fancy tea that you have to try.
When I lived with roommates, we had our combined bills calculated per month, so I always knew what and who I owed. If you’re someone who’s had to rent in the year of 2020, you know the astronomical prices most places are asking for. Even the places you would never seriously consider because you wouldn’t feel safe walking to your car at night to go to the store because you ran out of toothpaste again. When I lived independently for the first time, I quickly learned what I could and could not afford. I had to make some real decisions and scale back my wants and replace them with needs that met my current financial reality. Living with one income isn’t impossible, but it is something you have to plan for and be intentional about when you’re spending. I am not saying I am a financial expert, because I am not in any way, but when you’re responsible for yourself, and if you can afford a full tank of gas or order in from your favorite local restaurant again that week, you realize what’s a priority and what is not. And I’m sorry to be the one to break it to you, but that monthly subscription of products you’re not going to use on a consistent basis is not a priority.
My advice to you and to me is to be honest with yourself about what you can afford right now. It’s a lot easier to live within your means and work towards growing those means than it is to fight your way through paying back debt with inflated interest. Take an honest look at your monthly income, your non-negotiables, and everything else. Make sure you can afford rent, food, utilities, and transportation before jumping into a year-long lease. If there is one thing that I learned the hard way, it is to not sign a lease without being honest about your finances. It was a lot harder to pay a good chunk of money to break my lease in the first three months once I figured out I was in over my head than it would have been to make a realistic budget from the beginning. You may find that your budget doesn’t fit the lifestyle you have in your mind, and that is okay. Use this time to get your finances in order and work towards your next promotion, degree, or side hustle. If you have a plan and you’re consistent with working on your goals, you will have the lifestyle you want in time. And I promise you don’t have to go into debt to achieve it.
3. Honor who you were before everyone told you how to be.
Alright, I am not going to sugar coat this one. Living alone can be extremely lonely, but only if you let it. If you lean towards the introverted side of the scale, this can be a pro at times. You can choose to have all the alone time you want without having to explain to your roommates or anyone else that you just need 10 minutes to recharge. This was something that I often dreamed of when I lived in a shared space, and it is still a great joy within my life. However, there is a line that’s hard to find until you’re over it a little too far.
When I was working from the office (pre-COVID-19), I had a good balance between my social life and my recharging time. Now that I’m working from home, it can get lonely if I don’t take the steps to prevent the negative spiral that is my anxiety. When I committed to my personal development as a way to put an end to the continuous negative cycles I found myself in, I learned tools to promote a life that is suited for me and not necessarily what I think other people expect of me. I found the people I can truly count on and I held on tight to those relationships. I try my best to give more to them than I take, which in turn fosters good relationships and trust between people. It eases my anxiety when I am putting out more to the people I love than I am receiving. I found people who understand the parts of me that I often hide from the world and find gratitude in them each day. I set boundaries within relationships that aren’t truthful to the core or are obligatory in nature. I use my energy to focus on the people who are true to me and have my best interest at heart. I began doing the things that I loved before I became too scared to pursue them or my idea of what life was supposed to look like blocked them from my view.
My advice for you, and still for me, is to not shut yourself off from the world and to embrace new experiences. Spend time with the people you love and do things that bring you joy. It sounds cliché, I know, but I wouldn’t share with you these thoughts if I did not believe them to be true. I don’t want to float through life on autopilot, just to come to the end and regret spending time and energy on the wrong things. And I don’t want that for you either. I want us to appreciate all parts of life and who we are, the good and the bad. Love the good moments and cherish them with all you have while also feeling the bad and mourning what you’ve lost. But I urge you to not stay in that place for too long, because life isn’t just one feeling. Every moment and experience is truly only temporary, which is comforting and a little scary.
I hope you find the things you love and then actually pursue them. Living alone does not have to mean that you’re lonely. I truly feel the most connected and happy when I am being true to myself, regardless if I am by myself or with other people. And by all means, embrace the fact you can dance around your house with no one watching while you clean on a Saturday night. It’s a little embarrassing and incredibly humbling—I hope you try it.
My advice for you, and for me, is to embrace your life for what it is right now. There is no end goal, except to honor your heart and give yourself the permission to be happy. I hope you realize how amazing you are for doing the work in your physical spaces and in your heart spaces. It takes a lot of energy, self-awareness, and love for yourself to do this work independently. And for that, I am proud of you.
Now go find a song that makes you feel happy from the inside out, turn it up, and dance your heart out. I’ll be doing the same.