You won’t know who you truly are until you live alone. You’ve got to try it. In fact, you must before you live with your boo, baby, sweetie, honey, or whatever it is your friends make fun of you for calling your significant other. You’ve got to try living alone before you have kids, a dog, or a myriad of cats named Binky, Winky and Moe. I know you’re probably a little scared. You have just spent the last 20-some years living with your parental units, roommates, strangers you met on Craigslist, etc. You are used to the constant humming another human being brings into your life. You don’t even know what quiet is until you live alone. You grew accustomed to the thumping that was your freshmen year roommate’s obsession with this “totally awesome band, Skrillex” or the cries of your mother’s toy poodle, Lola, who incessantly chirps (two-pound dogs cannot bark) every time you move about the house. But I’m here to tell you: it’s great.
Be warned. You shouldn’t do it immediately after college. Chances are you’re 22 then, with two service-industry jobs and working doubles six days a week. You’re scraping just enough money together to begin paying off college loans, a bar tab here or there and Subway six days a week (because nothing is a better deal than a five-dollar foot long). Don’t make the same mistake I did. I just spent the last year paying almost 50% of my monthly income towards rent every month. Do you know how hard it is to budget for that? Well it’s probably easier if you can budget at all, but I can’t, so I would spend my second monthly paycheck almost entirely on rent. This way I was living it up for two weeks and living it real low for two weeks. One paycheck: “SHOTS FOR EVERYONE. Why? BECAUSE IT’S TUESDAY!” The next: “Uh does the bus take dimes? I know I have $2.25 in dimes somewhere around here.” Living alone is expensive. Even tiny tinderbox studios that are glorified dorm rooms with a kitchenette and a bathroom attached run at a higher price point than a three bedroom with your bros. Oh, and you’re also solely responsible for the cable, the internet, the electricity, and the heat. So good luck with that.
But let’s pretend we’re past that. You have successfully lobbied your Twitter account into financial success and right now you’re being paid by the 140-character excerpt like you’re the next Charles Dickens. You’re racking up the dough. It’s time to be like the Jeffersons and move on up to the east side. It’s time to abuse a realtor and have him show you a dozen or so studios across the city. Never mind that they all measure at about the same size. Never mind that 10 of the 12 you can’t really afford because they are in safe, yuppie-infested neighborhoods. Nope. Today, you are a full fledged adult because after this, you live alone.
Of course, the first thing no one tells you about living alone is that you’ll need furniture for all that space. You need to buy a TV since the last one you used was your roommates, and you’ll definitely need a new couch because that monstrosity of plaid your grandparents gave you doesn’t fit up the stairs, let alone in your new closet… errrr… I mean, apartment. You’ll need to gear up on pots and pans, comfy surfaces, and shower supplies. Yep that’s right. Not only are you breaking the bank on a new place but you’ll also be heading to Bed Bath and Beyond about 10 times in the first month. You’ll end up like me: cooking pasta and saying to yourself “Where the f-ck is the strainer…” before realizing you don’t own one and using the lid of the pot as a way to keep the pasta in as you pour the water out.
The good news is you can do this naked. In fact, you can do everything naked. Nothing beats cooking naked, getting into bed naked, eating that meal naked, getting up to pee naked, falling asleep naked, and starting the next day in that same naked state. Sure, you have to be extra wary of hot things because I can’t imagine what a grease burn on the family jewels feels like but it’s worth it. You know how everyone brags about “pants off” time after work? Well for you, it’s “everything off” time. I constantly debated whether or not I really wanted to leave the apartment to go across the street for Gatorade because that meant putting clothes back on. My friends want to come over and hang? Ugh. Clothes back on. You know how no one likes to eat with their shirt off because it makes you feel bloated and when you feel bloated you feel fat? Well feel fat, my friend! No one is around to see. You’ll fall in love all over again — with your birthday suit.
Living alone means you have all the time in the world to do things that might be embarrassing if you were walked in on by roommates. Do you and yours like to get a little loud when its time to get funky? No longer do you have to put something on as courtesy to cover up your sounds. You can watch whatever weird porn as loud as you want, whenever you want, without worrying about someone else’s schedule. I only do dishes when I have nothing clean. Why? Because no one is around to complain about the mess, or the weird thing that is sitting in the bottom of the drain. Sure, you could describe my bathroom as “apocalyptic” at times. The toilet, the shower floor, the mirror — they could all use a quick scrub. Guess what, guys? I shave my beard in the morning and all day it sits in the sink. Hell, it might sit there for two or three days. No one is around to tell me otherwise. Of course, my girlfriend rides my ass about it, and swears she’ll never take a shower at my place again out of fear that she’ll end up dirtier than she started, but I don’t care. The point of living alone is to test your thresholds, to find out what you like and how would I have known that I like to leave the bathroom un-cleaned for weeks on end if I had whiney roommates picking up after me? Actually, the best thing is that I don’t have whiney roommates to pick up after! Just me.
When you decide to take the plunge into a more solitary lifestyle, the world becomes your independent playground. You can turn your phone off, get drunk at brunch alone and then walk around the city in 100 degree heat feeling all woozy and hazy without anyone catching wind. You can make plans with yourself and only yourself without worrying about someone else barging in. Do you want to sleep at six p.m. and wake up at four a.m.? It’s done! Turn off the lights, and pass out. When you wake up and it’s ass-early in the morning, turn up the jams and start your day. No one is around to get butthurt about the noise.
Living alone means you can make mistakes in private. You can bring someone less than desirable home from the bar or show an old fling the goods without your friends knowing. You have the room to realize on your own which decisions are mistakes and which are not. The room to cry alone, moan alone and curse the world alone — whatever. You can do it. You have to do it. When you live alone the chaos stops for a bit and you can tune into what’s really going on in your brain. You’ll realize who you miss and who you hung around with because well, they were around.
Living alone means more control over your narrative. It’s the universe sticking the pen fully into your hand and saying “Go ahead. Make a choice or two or 12.” They all won’t be right. Some will hurt and make you feel trapped in your jail of a space. Some will set you on fire and make you feel unbreakable. Those ones are the ones you’re looking for. That space that becomes your space is the first decision of many on a long trip to become who you were always meant to be. Give yourself a chance to go it alone. At least you’ll be in good company.