Living Alone Could Be The Best Decision You Make In Your Twenties

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The idea of living alone is one of the scariest parts of growing up. Most of us spend at least the first 18 years of our lives either sharing a room or a wall with someone else, and many of us take that room-or-wall thing well into their twenties. But at a certain point, a lot of us are faced with the option to live on the solo. Maybe you’re ready to get an apartment without roommates, maybe you’re going through a recent breakup. Either way, finding yourself in a space of your own can be intimidating but it can also be fulfilling. You have to re-learn how to be yourself, without the influence of anyone else. Hopefully, it will end up being one of the most liberating, empowering, and developmental decisions of your life.

Sometimes the scariest decisions are the best ones

Even if you were an only child, there’s a good chance you lived in a home with your family for most of your life. Meals were cooked for you, there was always someone to talk to, there were people to take care of you when you were sick, there were no seriously hard decisions you had to make — that’s what parents were for. It was easy, safe, and comfortable. Then many of us go off to college, and at most four-year institutions, you’re required to live on campus for a little bit of time. Because tuition doesn’t cost enough, it makes for students to pay even more money to live in a creepy dorm from the ‘70s with a shared bathroom. While dorm life was a little taste of freedom, there’s still a lot you that is taken care of for you. You have the company of a roommate, who either becomes your constant companion or the bane of your existence. You have a meal plan, which means no cooking required, just lots of chicken tenders to eat before the dining hall closes. Your friends likely live down the hall, if not right in your room or suite.

Some schools require you to live on campus for all four years, but I was lucky enough to move off-campus in a house of my own. I chose to stay over the summer, and while I had occasional housemates who stayed for short sessions to take classes, I was mostly living on my own. Knowing that for the first time in your life, you may not have constant company is a pretty terrifying thought. Who’s going to come with me to grab a coffee? Who’s going to talk to me when I get home from work? Who will I be able to make plans with at the drop of a hat? What if I choke on a peach pit while I’m home alone and there’s no one to give me the Heimlich? These are all thoughts that will probably fly through your head as you face one of the first “grown-up” decisions of your life: choosing to live alone. But taking the plunge and just going for it means you’re ready to try something new and make a dramatic change. When you think about it, most of the new, amazing experiences we have started with taking a chance, a leap of faith, or making a tough decision.

Rely on yourself

For me, the hardest thing to wrap my mind around was what do I do with myself? I went from living with my parents to living with a roommate, then two housemates. You realize that you never had to entertain yourself. Even if you were just sitting around, you always had someone to talk with, so you never felt alone unless you explicitly wanted some me-time. For many of us, the thought of being alone is terrifying. The way we talk about friendships and relationships makes it seem like time by yourself is some kind of failure. People who go to movies alone? Losers. What about people dining alone? Depressing. It’s everywhere.

In reality, being physically alone and being completely content is a huge personal victory. You learn how to truly be happy with yourself and how to find passions that not only occupy your time but genuinely fulfill you. Sometimes, friendships and relationships can actually get in the way of that kind of self-discovery.

If (like me) you’re the kind of person who tends to pick up the passions and hobbies of whoever you’re around, it can be easy to lose your sense of self. When living alone, I remembered hobbies I had lost throughout my time in college. I read more, I started painting again, I wrote every single day, and was exercising more than I ever had. And then, when I wasn’t occupying myself constantly, I was okay with just sitting and watching Netflix and not feeling bad about myself. This may sound like the easiest thing in the world, but as someone who was once absolutely horrified at the thought of living alone and therefore being alone a lot of the time, this was truly much my Everest. You’ll realize that you’re good at new things. You’ll realize you have time to explore your passions. You’ll do things because you truly want to, not because it’s what everyone else is doing.

Find yourself

Tacking on to the idea of doing what you like, you’ll realize that you may have been forcing yourself into doing things you didn’t like. In most of my college career, I’ve done a lot of laying around and a whole lot of partying. But once you’re not constantly in a social situation to some extent, you get to really make your own decisions about how you occupy your time. You don’t go shopping just because your roommate needs a new dress and you feel obligated; you don’t go to that party just because someone you’re living with thinks it’ll be fun. For me, I realized that I felt so much better and my mental health improved in a serious way. I was occasionally partying, sure, but having to go out of my way to find people to party with ended up being a great thing. I was only going out when I wanted to make the effort. Being able to completely control your plans, rather than having to compromise with someone else can be a truly liberating thing.

Basically, you find out who you are at your core, not who you become based on who surrounds you. Sure, you’re still gonna see your friends and hang out with people, but living alone gives you a huge chunk of time to yourself that you didn’t have before. It’s impossible not to learn about yourself. You may realize you’re actually a pretty clean person, that you really love cooking for yourself, that you like walking around naked in the morning, that you like blasting Lana Del Rey while you get ready to feel like a wealthy trophy wife, etc. More importantly, you’ll get to know a version of yourself you’ve never experienced before, and you’ll probably love this version of yourself.

Branch Out of Your Circle

Learning to do the things that you want to do most is an incredibly mature and freeing thing to do. When living with roommates or a partner, it can be extremely isolating. It’s easiest to just stay in and hang out with the company you have. Out of the sheer convenience, you end up closing yourself off in an unhealthy way. You may miss out on your old friends, or that girl you from your women’s studies class you always thought you’d get along with, or your friends from freshman year you’ve been dying to catch up with. This totally changes when you live alone. You have to make somewhat of an effort, which means you’ll spend time with people because you truly want to rather than out of obligation or convenience. You’ll establish lasting, beautiful friendships that you may have lost or missed out on previously.

A judgment-free space

Now, this may seem like one of the more obvious perks of living alone, but it is arguably the most important. You can do all the things you like doing, act the way you want without having to worry about another person. Learning how to live successfully with someone is an important and necessary skill, but living alone can be a truly freeing experience. You can walk around naked in the morning, you can blast music at 7 AM while making breakfast, you can come home late and make drunk food while being as loud as you damn well please, you can exercise yourself into a sweaty mess in your own living room, and you can leave dishes in the sink without worrying if anyone will be annoyed. You also don’t have to worry about someone else doing those annoying things in your presence. Basically, you can do whatever is convenient for you without infringing on anyone else’s well-being or personal space. Being your weird, loud, amazing, unique self in a space that’s entirely yours is indescribable and might just change your outlook on life.