Just over two weeks ago, I moved out of my first studio flat.
I was renting there for a full year; my first full year living away from home, and my first experience of living entirely by myself. It has been an overwhelmingly busy few weeks for me, first with decimating my belongings, then with packing what was left, moving it all into my mum’s apartment, and then decimating again. I own less stuff now than I can ever remember owning (which I am very happy about), and I’m settling back into family life.
So why did you move home, Katie? Was living alone so abhorrent?
Living alone has been possibly the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. Is that being dramatic? Honestly, I really don’t think so. Let me take a step back for a second, to put everything in context.
I have struggled since my late teens with a sort of turbulence of self. Depression has been a huge part of my identity for the past four years, and one that I am constantly battling with myself to accept. In the early years of this disorder taking hold, I found it indescribably difficult to be alone. The idea of being by myself for any length of time was nightmarish, and the reality was sometimes even worse than the anticipation thereof. My own company terrified me, but the nature of depression also made it so that keeping others close was almost as hard.
To redirect that train of thought back to the topic on hand, let’s assess. I was finding it incredibly hard to be alone, so I decided to rent a flat by myself.
I know. That sounds ridiculous. But here’s the thing: it worked.
The first day that I lived there, when I realised that once I allowed myself to stop cleaning and unpacking, what awaited me was a night spent by myself, in a home to which nobody else would be returning… that was scary. But there was an anticipation there that hadn’t been before. Nobody was coming, because nobody else lived here. It wasn’t that people had other things to do, and it wasn’t because I had pushed people away.
I was alone by design. I had decided to do this. This was an alone that I had created for myself. I owned it. It was mine.
That flat became my sanctuary. I went to work and socialised there, I went out with friends when I wanted to, I went back to see my family when I chose… and always I knew that at home, at my flat, that was my own space. I knew what to expect from it. I knew that nobody would arrive without my asking, and I knew that nobody would be there when I got home.
It’s hard to get across how truly relaxing that feels. Having all guards down, all walls. Knowing that you don’t need to smile and exchange pleasantries really changes something in those interactions when you make them happen deliberately. It fundamentally changes the way you interact with people, for the better.
In my own flat, I never had to deal with anybody else’s mood; never had to force my own mood on somebody else. Anything that hadn’t been done or had been done wrong was automatically my fault, and that in itself was sort of liberating. There’s no arguing over these things, just getting yourself to take care of your own environment. Everything was my responsibility, but there was no inherent sense of unfairness to that. I had asked for the responsibility. I had gifted it to myself.
I was happy.
All of this being said and all the gushing over with for now, I know that the niggling fact that I moved back home is hanging over this post. Yes, I did terminate my lease at the one-year mark, and yes I did move back home to share my mum’s three-bedroom apartment with her and my two brothers. It’s the opposite of being alone, most of the time.
Here’s the thing: the effects were not localised to just that little flat. I’ve taken with me a greater sense of stability, an improved understanding of myself and my mind. I know that I can be alone, and that changes how I live with others. I know now and appreciate that living with others is a choice, rather than a necessity. You have to work at it harder, but just knowing that you don’t have to be there makes it easier to appreciate the fact that you are.
I absolutely would live alone again, but for now I don’t need to. I’m home to save some money, spend some time with my rapidly growing-up brothers, and to hopefully pass off some of the responsibility of looking after myself onto my mother (who is really too kind).
I have shouldered my own care. I know how it’s done, or at least I’m closer to knowing than I’ve ever been before.
I know that I can survive by myself, mentally as well as physically.
Anything else is just a bonus.