Living Alone - The lessons you learn
Last week as I was cleaning an old trunk, I came across a letter from my father sent to me long back, just after I had joined my first employment position, away from home. Besides the good old fatherly wisdom, he wrote about how he would remain overly anxious because I'll be staying far away and living all alone where he can't visit me frequently. While I can understand the parental anxiety in such situations for their wards, I also know that my father's anxiety wore off eventually, to a considerable extent, when he found me quite able to manage my affairs on my own.
As sad or dismal the phrase 'Living Alone' may sound, it is far from that; in fact, it is one of the most liberating, character building and learning experiences one can have.
I have lived alone for a considerable amount of time and shared my accommodation with my books, furniture, utensils, myself and no one else, and it actually made me understand myself and helped me grow in diverse ways, voluntarily or involuntarily.
Here are some lessons that I learnt living alone and I guess many of you who live solo will agree or will find them true for you as well:
Becoming self-reliant and it's empowering
When I was provided accommodation from my employer, my father asked me to buy only the bare necessities that will be required for day-to-day living and refrain from buying anything extra. His reasoning being that if I shifted to another place someday, it'll become too difficult and expensive to shift, not to mention the unnecessary expenses that will be incurred in buying things in the first place.
Though I understood the hardships he had faced and where his views were coming from, it was me who had to come back to an empty apartment and I needed something to look forward to, to come back to my apartment. I needed my apartment to be cosy and for that, I needed to buy certain things beyond my basic necessities and I decided to get them. I loved every purchase that I made (and I still have them) and it made me proud that I could do it all by myself without relying on anyone financially or on the decision-making part. Be it buying furniture pieces, or getting a broken toilet fixed, or a broken window fixed, or installing a flat-screen on the wall, or getting the AC installed or repaired, or the water filter installed - the experiences were all mine and it was empowering to know that I could do the things or get them done all on my own.
It taught me to become bold and independent in my decisions and choices, be responsible for my finances.
Doing things on my own also made me courageous as I had to interact with many unknown people, had to trust them and rely on them at times to get things done. Being an introvert, it wasn't easy initially and I was apprehensive and procrastinated on things that needed me to rely on other people. I eventually overcame the apprehensions.
Also living absolutely alone in an apartment for the first time despite being on a secure campus was not easy initially. Even the slightest sound could nurture irrational imaginations but you become rational with time and it becomes easier in due time.
...and thus learning to deal with untoward situations without involving your loved ones.
While dealing with my personal or professional anxieties or other problems, I also learnt not to share my anxieties or other distress that I had, with my family back home because it wouldn't help anyone - neither could they understand my situation nor would they be able to solve my problem. It would only add to their anxiety and I didn't want that burden on me. So I learnt to deal with my own problems. Of course, I had friends, at times, to help me through but eventually, isn't it up to us to decide how we react or deal with the problems we face?
Learning to own up or fight for your decisions
When you are living alone, you may make certain decisions or take actions that you may or may not be proud of later but you learn from them and become a better person for it. You understand that you were courageous enough to make those decisions or take your chances which most people won't take and you emerged stronger and a better person on account of it.
Lowering your expectations and learning to let go..
While staying alone gives us enough time to make friends, socialize and nurture friendships, some of whom stay with us forever and some wither away. We start expecting more from these friendships and their promises only to be blindsided or broken at times.
Initially, though you get hurt a lot from these broken friendships or promises, with time you learn to lower your expectations for most of your relationships and let go. And you become happier and more content because of it.
Pursuing passions and developing certain habits
Living alone gives you more time to contemplate, pursue what you love doing and develop certain habits of your own which give you happiness. I have always loved reading - living alone gave me more time to nurture that love, gave me more time to do other things that I love, or gave me more time to become better in my profession.
I could listen to any music at any volume depending on my mood and I could dance to it or exercise to it or read with it in the background or just enjoy my own company.
Since I knew that there is no one to tidy up after me, I had developed a cleaning ritual no matter how tired or overworked I was; I maintain that ritual to this day. Also, it feels good to come back into a tidy home; it calms the mind. As Marie Kondo would say, 'Tidying orders the mind while cleaning purifies it.'
Also when you live alone, you are aware that you have to take care of your health as no one may be there in case of any medical problems; so you learn to take better care of yourself physically as well as mentally. Once, while I was trying to reach for something on a high shelf, I fell down. Thankfully nothing happened but it made me realise that even though accidents can happen to the most careful person, I still needed to be more careful and also learnt to embrace the not-so-perfect situation that may occur at any time.
Learning to cook and developing a love for it
I remember the first day when I landed in my place of employment, I ate dinner at a restaurant within the campus and I couldn't finish the whole plate because it was too spicy for my taste. That day and experiments with many other restaurants later, I understood that I had to learn to cook to satiate my hunger. I developed a love for cooking and also felt proud of the fact that I was responsible and aware of what I fed myself with.
Every way of living has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. While we may miss out on many good or happy moments with our families or incidents where our absence was felt, while we may or may not choose to live alone forever, living alone definitely helps us learn to live happily in solitude without being lonely. It strengthens us from within, gives a different perspective towards life and relations, makes us self-reliant and more mature, and moulds us into our better selves. As the famous German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer had said, 'A man can be himself only so long as he is alone; and if he does not love solitude, he will not love freedom; for it is only when he is alone that he is really free.'
Do you live alone? Have you lived alone at any point in your life? Did you like it? What lessons did living alone teach you? I would love to hear from you...