Facing Yourself

“What’s the best part about living alone?”

—-

During my freshman year of college, my roommate left every weekend. On Friday afternoons, his friends or parents picked him up, and he’d return late Sunday night. During the second half of the year, with no Friday classes to speak of, he would jet on Thursdays, leaving me to my own devices. I was in my groove at that point, and I enjoyed having those long weekends to myself. I dug the solitude, and I grew to enjoy my roommate’s company during the week, even managing to coax a conversation or two out of him. He was a great guy, and I remember running into him at a party during our senior year, when I loudly exclaimed,

“Hey man, what the (French toast) are you doing here?”

I didn’t expect to see him anywhere near a college party, given my impression of him. When we lived together, he was always working. I could have set my watch to his schedule if I wore one. At about 10 or 1030 he was in bed, and in the morning at about 6, he would rise. I admired his studiousness (he was an engineer), but my classes were easy, and I wanted to experience the college lifestyle. I wanted to get out there, but there was one problem: aside from a few people I kind of knew from high school, I didn’t know anyone. For the first time since in quite some time, I didn’t have any friends. I made friends with classmates, but that never translated to anything more than meeting up to study. During that first semester, with my roommate gone, my room became an isolation chamber.

I’d never been so alone with myself. I’d grown up in a chaotic household with five other people, and the quiet that came with being alone was unsettling. I had to figure out how to live with myself, and I was grateful when my roommate would return. I scared myself during those weekends when he was away, but soon enough I would meet the friends that have stayed with me since college, people who have put in the effort to stay connected. I have no regrets, I just know that that was the first time I realized that something was amiss, that my head wasn’t right, or maybe that’s when I realized that yes, I did need to interact with people.

That was the closest I got to living alone during my younger years. After that, I’d get the distinct privilege of living with a wide array of people, so many of whom taught me knew things about myself. Growing up in that chaotic household prepared me for so many of the challenges I’d encounter as I lived with new and differing people, people who were going through their own personal challenges and tribulations. I even got to mediate a conflict between my roommates, which was as unpleasant as it sounds. I’ve stayed in touch with some of these people, and there are plenty I’ve lost contact with as well. I know that no matter what, these people have enriched my existence. At the very least, they’ve given me some good stories to tell.

I’ve learned what it’s like to feel isolated and alone, to live by myself, even if it was only for a few days at a clip. I know that it’s challenging to live alone because you have no one else to distract you from what’s going on in your mind.

I have lived alone, but I have also lived among people during the most difficult periods of my life, and I’ve known what it’s like to be miserable with others in close proximity, when you can’t quite articulate what it is that’s making you crazy. Trying to keep up an appearance of calmness and sanity required energy I just didn’t have, and it was frustrating to know that while others seemed to be focusing on normal things like dating and school, I was battling some extra strength darkness. I also know that this judgment isn’t fair. You never know when people are going through something, or at least you don’t always know. After all, they could be just like you, keeping things below the surface because they’re afraid to open up.

—-

As I’ve written about before, this past year my roommate got a job in Florida. Whether I realize it or not, when he accepted the offer, a decision had to be made. Despite my trepidation at the thought of living alone, I knew I didn’t want to live with someone I’d never met. I’d gotten lucky, living with so many people and never having a bad experience, and I knew that my luck was due to run out. I began the search for an apartment, and when I landed on the place, it felt right. I didn’t sweat the decision, but I knew that living alone had the potential to either be great or horrendous. If things went poorly, I only had Adam to blame.

That was four months ago, and I’m happy to report that I’m doing well. I look at my place as a sanctuary, a place I can come home to, a place where I can be alone if I need to be. I know that I’m still working the kinks out, that sometimes I spend too much time alone, but I’m a much better person to live with than I’ve been in the past, and there’s a lot to be said for that. I was worried, worried about anxiety, worried about any number of things. When the mind turns toxic, it can be hard to stop its momentum, especially with no one else around.

I know that I should enjoy this experience, and I have so far. It’s proven to me that I can stand on my own two feet, and I like that I can design my life the way I want it to be. In some ways my life is busier than it’s ever been, so it’s a relief to be able to come home to an empty place that feels like home, a place where I can just come home and go to sleep. I can get away from everything when I need to, knowing that people are never far off, knowing that I’m still in the city, and not in the suburbs.

I’m not sure if living alone is for everyone. It’s nice for now, but I also think this will be a short-term thing. I’m used to living in a house full of absolutely crazy people, and a part of me really misses that. I never thought I’d live alone at any point, but there are so many things I never thought I’d do, and lately, I’ve found myself enjoying almost everything. I’m taking in all of these new experiences and choosing not to overthink them, and I’m enjoying getting to know myself once again.

We can be our own worst enemies when we want to be. We get caught up in our pasts, or in thoughts that won’t take us anywhere we want to be. Be careful when you live alone, and make sure you’re never too far from people. That feeling of isolation can be truly insidious, and it can make you feel so much more disconnected than you actually are. I’ve done a lot of work on myself, and it’s refreshing to see some real, genuine progress. Above all, I know that I can live with myself, and that’s the thing I like the most. My happiness starts at home, and it carries over into the rest of my day. Thanks for reading.

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