As school starts back up again, we as college students are all embarking on new paths and starting new experiences in our lives. One of those new experiences is living by ourselves for the first time. Now, it’s obvious that as we start college, we move out of our parent’s house and into our first dorms or apartments with roommates. In a way, that is “living by yourself.” However, if there’s anything I’m learning about this part of my life, it’s that experience is nothing compared to when you’re actually living on your own– truly alone–for the first time. With roommates, there’s always someone in the house. Someone to talk to, wait for, and share things and responsibilities with. It’s almost on the same level as living with your parents, except for the fact that you’re learning to pick up after and take care of yourself without much help.
Living in your own space, though, is this entirely new and foreign thing. All the food and space is yours. You can wash clothes when you want to. You can eat what you want. You’re truly only picking up after yourself. It’s a special type of freedom. However, there are also the parts that are a little scary–at least, they were to me, at first. See, I just moved into my first solo apartment. All of the things in it are mine. All of the food in it is mine. And that feels great. I no longer have to worry about other people when I want to do things. I don’t have to worry about other people’s mess when I want to invite people over. But, this is also the first time I’ve ever lived alone. It’s similar to those days during the summer when we were younger, where the adults are working all day and we’re just there, alone. Every sound makes you jump and creeps you out a little because you know you’re the only one there and you didn’t make that noise. You feel lonely and at peace at the same time, because while the quiet allows you to get work done, it’s also slightly unsettling. All of the space you now have to yourself feels much too big for just you.
But after a while, you get used to it. You cherish that silence because no one can ruin it. You start to recognize those weird noises as people in the hallway or the apartment beside you. You learn to take precautions to make sure that you feel safe in this new space. Whether that be pepper spray, a bat, or another weapon that you keep close to you, you know that you’re protected in the odd chance someone breaks in. No matter how hard or weird it seems at first, it gets easier and you find ways to cope with living alone. For me, I made sure to fill my space with things that I like. My apartment smells like home, it looks like home, and by extension, it’s starting to feel like it too. I distract myself from intruding thoughts by watching tv or reading books. And I remember that where I am now, is a lot better than where I was this time last year.
Living by myself has taught me that I am capable of a lot more than I give myself credit for. It’s taught me that I have grown from where I was in my freshman year of college. Back then, I would’ve never thought I’d be comfortable living by myself with my parents and friends so far from me. I’ve learned to be comfortable with the silence and with myself. If you’re thinking about living by yourself next year, or you’ve just moved into your own place this one, be patient with yourself. It won’t be as awesome as you expect it to be from moving in. But it can be. You make this experience as great or as horrible as you want it to be. It takes a little more work than you’d expect, especially if you’ve always lived with someone else. But it’s worth it. And I wish you all the best of luck on this new journey. We’re going to be just fine.