Monday, January 26, 2015

Living Alone vs Being Lonely

Some how, I haven't really felt lonely living alone.

[caption id="attachment_516" align="alignnone" width="319"]IMG_1357 My Messy Apartment[/caption]

I wonder if I have an appreciation for alone time as an inherent part of my personality. As an introvert, I require time away from others in order to refresh. I went to visit one of the dorm cats, Mitten, and was struck by how tiny the student rooms were. People are living in tiny little match stick boxes. That can't make you happy. While you do have large common areas to share if you need to stretch, you also have to share them with other people. More so, even in your room you might have a roommate or be affected by outside noise - be it city noise or common area noise or neighbor noise. For me, this was extremely stressful. But my living conditions forced me to be used to closely living with about 14 people for almost 3 years. Some people love this same aspect of dorm life.
One of my favorite things about living in Random Hall is that when I want to be alone, which is often, I can escape into my room or a quiet place and when I don’t want to be alone, which is also often, I can always find somebody else awake to hang out with. The only time when everyone seems to be asleep is 8 am on a Sunday. (Lydia at MIT admissions blog)

But I also think there are things you can do to improve your comfort with yourself as yourself by yourself. Living alone doesn't have to be lonely.

A major factor in my satisfaction is how and why I changed my living situation. In some ways, I did so on my own terms. In others, I had limited choices. I wrote about my first feelings of living alone, the things I appreciated but also some of the difficulties. I haven't written all the messy details of why I moved out on my own. But I can say that for my happiness making the change to live on my own needed to be on my own terms. It was motivated about having things on my own terms, having my life in my control.

  • By acknowledging why you live alone, you have a rubric to measure your contentment. 

  • Ask yourself what made you change your living situation

  • Ask yourself how you think your living situation changes or describes you

  • Ask yourself what you enjoy about your living situation

As I said, I purposefully took time to get to know myself. I've written about setting tea for myself or the quiet routines of drawing. I also really find it grounding to take care of my plants. (Grounding! ha! like dirt! Get it?) I love to take the time to smell the fresh dirt or sit by the window; reflecting and thinking while you create with your body is great for self-love. Another great technique is yoga or meditation.

Finally, take the time to go out and be around other people. This can be low energy low commitment human contact or high energy high commitment get togethers. If I feel lonely, I open my window. The sounds of the courtyard drift up into my room: children laughing, birds chirping, rustling wind. I also schedule larger hangouts. I'm looking forward to a fancy tea later this month to celebrate the end of fall + IAP. Reach out to your friends to hang out. Call your family. Hug your cat.

Photo on 9-17-14 at 7.35 PM #4

A caveat that I will repeat from my other post: have reasonable expectations for spending time with others once you live alone. You aren't going to see your friends as much. Some friends may be too lazy to come over. Others are busy. Time away from your friends isn't your fault. Being alone is not a flaw. Living on your own, you won't always have someone to hang out with. Even living with one other person, you won't always have someone to hang out with the way you did in a dorm. That's not bad or wrong. It's just something to get used to. Personally, I loved getting back into the mentality of having time to myself but I did struggle with the process of hearing 'no, I can't come over.'