Sunday, January 10, 2016

Lessons from Living Alone

I have spent the past six months since my last blog post being so absurdly busy and simultaneously having such an extreme case of writer’s block, that updating my blog dropped to almost the very end of my to-do list. I even wondered if I’d ever find the interest to resume it. Balancing Act was in terrible danger of going to the way of so many blogs…

Luckily, though, I’m happy to report that most unexpectedly, my writer’s block seems to be dissipating. I was driving between some errands two Saturdays ago and suddenly a story started barging its way into the forefront of my mind. I’ve already written several pages within the last week. The floodgates have opened!

That being the happy case, on Thursday I was sitting in my kitchen eating breakfast and suddenly I realized I actually wanted to write a blog post. It felt like a miracle. So here I am, late on Sunday morning, sitting in my living room and typing away furiously.

Since I’ve spent the past eight months learning what it’s like to live in my own apartment with no roommates or family members, I thought it would be fun to chat about the unexpected things I’ve learned during that time. I’ve enjoyed the process enormously.

1.      Mindful eating is not part of my skill-set.
In almost every book or blog on happy living, good eating, style maintenance, etc., that I’ve ever perused, the writers preach the value of mindful eating. Put away your phones and computers, they say! Set the table! Eat slowly and savor every bite!

This sounds wonderful, I admit. However, I am incapable of doing it. If I am in company, chatting with others while I eat, I enjoy the food and eat it slowly and gratefully. However, if I am alone, in my quiet apartment, with a plate in front of me, things change. There is nothing to do but eat and the food disappears as if magically. I can dispose of my entire dinner in about five minutes. Obviously this is not very good for my digestion or enjoyment of life so, with apologies to every life-style writer out there, I have resorted to YouTube while eating. Three cheers for College Humor! With something entertaining to watch, I can slow the meal down to about a half-hour, which seems much more human and enjoyable.

2.      Holidays are extra hectic.
Over Thanksgiving and Christmas 2015 my brother was in town staying at my parents’, so naturally I wanted to spend a lot of time at their house. However, my bed, bathroom, clothes and food are all at my apartment. I could, theoretically, have treated the holidays as if I were staying out of town and packed a suitcase, but my parents really don’t have a good spot for me to sleep, so I was stuck traveling between two homes.

I usually fill up my gas tank about every eleven days, but what with all the commuting, it went down to every seven days over Christmas! Not to mention that my mother is used to the role I had played in holiday preparations in the past while I lived with her, and she expected me to continue to fulfill all my usual tasks in spite of the fact that I had to factor extra twenty minute chunks into my days so I could get home in time for bed. It was probably the busiest holiday I’ve had in years, simply because of all the extra driving!

3.      It’s extremely easy to be social.
This is actually my favorite discovery. When you live with someone else, of course you want to be considerate and not disturb them by coming home late. Also, with roommates or family around you, there’s less of an urge to accept invitations from others or actively seek to spend time with friends. Not so when one is living completely alone!

No one cares what time you get home and, while privacy is nice, hours and hours of alone time every night can get pretty depressing. When a party is organized or a friend calls and wants to get drinks, my new impulse is to say, ‘Yes please!’ I’ve even discovered that I’m much less of an introvert than I thought. I still need time to myself, but a couple evenings a week is just fine; the other days, if there are events or outings, I’m totally game.

4.      There’s a lot less discretionary income.
Every month on the 10th, I write out an astonishingly large check for my rent and send it off to my landlady. It’s a good feeling – a sort of confirmation of being a responsible adult – but after that, there’s not a lot of wriggle room in my bank account. I’ve always been responsible with my finances, but when I was just paying nominal rent to my parents I had great quantities of money left over every month to spend or save as I pleased. Now everything is very strictly budgeted and I have to think of ways to trim corners if too many friends invite me out for drinks. Tip: it’s much cheaper to have them come over to one’s house, so comfortable chairs are a must to help safeguard the budget!

I’m sure there are others, but those are the four lessons that leap to mind. I’m still adapting and learning, but in a good way. Surprisingly, I feel more like myself now that I live alone – perhaps because I only have to meet my own expectations, instead of anyone else’s. Anyway, I’d love to know what you’ve learned from living arrangements in the past. Tips from other people are always helpful!

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