One year ago today, I begrudgingly picked up the keys to my new apartment, angrily lugged the first of many boxes up three flights of stairs, and walked into what it seemed, at the time, was a white-walled empty hell.
I was officially living alone. And I wasn’t particularly thrilled. In fact, I thought it was pure fucking bullshit.
I tried to paint the situation in a happy light – posting the above picture on Instagram with a caption reading something like, “Home sweet home ♥♥♥” and, knowing me, approximately three thousand smiley faces.
What people didn’t know…what I wasn’t eager to share, was the fact that immediately after posting said picture, I sat on the floor, looked around at all the empty space, and sobbed uncontrollably for a solid 45 minutes.
When I left my former residence (that sounds better than saying: when I left the apartment I used to live in with the guy who dumped me on my ass, right?) I took two pieces of furniture with me: a TV, and a mattress we’d bought from a friend and had been using as a spare after swapping it out for a king-size memory foam. Ohh, the memory foam. I still dream of that luxuriously soft, pillowy, heavenly memory foam. Word of advice: If you go through a breakup and the guy says, ‘take whatever you want’…don’t be a martyr. Take the damn memory foam. And maybe a bookcase or two.
So there I was. Me, the empty space, a TV, and a mattress that saw more action in high school than I’ll probably see in a lifetime thanks to some pretty legendary parties in it’s original owner’s basement. Kind of gross at 25 years old.
I’d spent the previous two and a half years building a beautiful home with a man I loved and intended to marry…how the FUCK did I end up here? Living solo. Scared to death. And more alone than I’d ever been in my entire life.
As I write this, I can’t help but wish for the ability to go back in time and sit next to that wretchedly broken 25-year-old version of myself. I wish I could wrap my arms around her and tell her what the next 365 days would bring. I wish I could pour strength into her bones and make her life easier, her heart lighter, her soul less broken. But, as we all eventually learn, life doesn’t work that way. It is only the continuum of seconds and minutes and hours and days…one piled on top of the other, that ultimately alleviates pain. And we must march through each and every single one.
It’s funny how time tends to change the tint of memories. A Gingham filter for the past, if you will. I vividly recall the desolation of my first night in my own apartment. I felt like a loser and I felt like a failure. I felt worthless and embarrassed and miserable. But mostly, not shockingly, I just felt alone.
Despite feeling those things. Here’s how my first night actually went down: I had no furniture, no cable, and no internet. After spending a few hours assembling a simple console table from IKEA, (yes, embarrassingly, it took hours – and I was damn proud of myself, too) I’d had enough of that. I picked up a six pack of my favorite beer, created a make-shift lounge on the floor of my living room out of blankets and pillows, and popped Friends Season 1 into my laptop. I lounged and sipped and laughed and cried and wrote and played music and danced around (thanks, beer). Finally…around 3 A.M., I crawled onto the mattress on the floor in my bedroom, and fell asleep.
Time changed the tint of that night and it will forever be one of my most favorite and precious memories – “roughing” it on my own for the very first time…and being almost okay.
One day turned to two…then a week…then a month. Little by little, I created my own tiny sanctuary. I refused help and assembled bar stools, a console, a coffee table, a pub table, benches, side tables, a bed frame, a dresser, and an elliptical all by myself. I felt there was something to be learned in doing things alone. If I was going to have to live by myself, I was going in hard and 100%. Turns out, the only lesson to be learned was how to effectively read instructions and use tiny tools. But hey…I did it.
I bought all new furniture – and almost felt guilty about the fun I was having. If I found a piece of artwork I liked, I bought it. If I saw a table I loved, I bought it. I went wildly crazy with my formerly-oppressed love of all things bohemian and I can only assume Urban Outfitters’ stock rose significantly. It was the first time I realized living alone might come with some perks. I was the only person in the entire universe who needed to give a shit about a particular painting…because I’m the only person in the entire universe who has to see it every day. Liberating.
After the dam broke, the perks just kept on flowin’. Here are a few of my favorites:
- I’ve never shut the door to my bathroom (except for the handful of times I’ve had company – you’re welcome).
- A few times, I’ve let my apartment get dirty. Like, DIRTY. I use every single dish, let the trash accumulate in an ungodly mountain, and the laundry occupy every square inch of my entire bedroom before I do anything about it.
- Once, I woke up at 3 A.M. wanting to paint and eat pancakes. So I did.
- Talking on the phone for three, four, eight hours at a time.
- I randomly bought a cat…still a questionable choice some days, but I did it.
- SPORTS – I. DO. NOT. CARE. After dating a sports fanatic for seven years, I became accustomed to watching ESPN routinely every few days…I did this for months and months before one day, standing in my living room at 26 years old…I asked myself the following question: “Do you care about sports?” The answer was an emphatic no. A few Wings’ games aside, I haven’t watched a single sporting event in over one year and I love it.
- If I want to, I can spend an entire weekend on my couch in my underwear binge-watching Sex and the City. And I’ve done just that. Multiple times.
- I am now a certified bomb-ass cook thanks to lots of free evenings, boredom, and a deep-seeded love of the cooking channel.
I don’t like sentences that begin with “Everyone should…” Nothing in this life is universal. The only thing everyone should do is live out their story in whatever way makes sense for them. But if I HAD to choose…based on this past year, I’d say everyone should live alone. If only for a brief period of time.
When my life was ripped out from under me…it sucked. It sucked for a long time. Things aren’t always amazing. I still have plenty of moments when I’m filled to the brim with envy for happily dating, engaged, or married couples…living together and building their lives one wonderful moment at a time.
The thing is, I never realized how underdeveloped and incomplete I truly was until I was forced to live by myself. One year later and I’m still pretty much a hot mess. However, I know more about my likes, dislikes, passions, and indifferences. I know more about my dreams and goals. I know more about my demons and the things with which I continue to struggle. I know what I admire and what I detest. I have a clearer picture of what I want to be…and the tools to help me get there.
As I finish this first public post, I’m sitting on my couch staring at the place on my floor where I broke down one year ago today. And the only thing I feel is blessed. What a difference a year can make. What a difference solitude can make.