All it requires for you to be able to learn anything in this world is a chance to do it on your own.
To know how to book a gas cylinder, fit the regulator, fix the toilet flush, get a curtain pelmet up over the window, hunt for the perfect house on lease or rent or even purchasing a property, negotiating prices, getting the electrician to rush to help in an emergency, book the cheapest flight online, navigate your travel using the GPS on your phone, pay all the bills on-line, phone banking and just about anything related with running a household and your daily life requires just a chance for you to do it yourself without any help from others. Living alone gave me that chance and transformed me in ways that I shall describe as tips of living alone in this article.
All the things mentioned above intimidate many people but trust me, doing them well is no rocket science, it just involves ‘doing them’!
When I was living with my parents, even the thought of the process of booking a gas cylinder never crossed my mind and consequently, I didn’t know a thing about it. The only bickering that used to occur was centred around what we wanted to eat and who would do the cooking while the availability of the LPG gas cylinder was totally taken for granted.
Moving into my own house and living all by myself forced me to wonder where the gas cylinder comes from, ask others who knew better and, in the process, improve my interdependence skills and frequency of making phone calls to family, friends, neighbours, landlord or even the security personnel of the building. The information led to my first visit to a gas distribution agency, learning that it helps to have a rapport with delivery men, paper work, payments and possession of a gas connection followed by a stage when I could still rely on someone else to fit the regulator (domestic help) till that one time when there was no one around except me! I was so helpless at that moment till a YouTube video with useful instructions bailed me out. Now I change regulators on my own with ease and confidence and it’s a great feeling to not have to rely on anyone for having my life run smoothly.
The biggest fears everyone has from living alone are loneliness and fear itself.
Other insecurities include accident, sickness, theft, fire, crime, ability to shoulder all the chores on their own (must be at the top of the list), paranoia of sleeping all by yourself or even ghosts and vampires. These insecurities live inside of you only till when you have an option of being with someone around but once you don’t and when you reach a point of extreme fear, that fear disintegrates rapidly to be replaced by courage, not by overcoming fear itself but by developing the readiness to face anything.
Living alone should not be compared to the strengths of living with others because it has its own positives like having peace of mind, not having to live with people who are toxic or abusive, having control over how you want to spend your time or your life, having more friends and deeper friendships, choosing your goals and having freedom to work on achieving them, cleanliness and order, building your identity without seeking validation from others, more time for self- care, living with respect for personal boundaries in relationships and a perfect atmosphere for self- development and spirituality. If you see living alone as the opposite of living with others, there is a likelihood you will never discover its pluses.
Once you live alone, you do find a way to ensure your safety by installing double locks, CCTV cameras, inviting only select few to your place, knowing where your police station is and having their phone number handy, developing your own support group which is basically close friends, doing due diligence on your house staff and always being on the look- out for signs and the way out.
You also become smarter to never challenge your courage by watching horror films and murder mysteries and in the absence of constant fear incited by precipitators, courage is what is earnt.
Coming to the biggest myth of loneliness being synonymous to living alone, the fact is, it’s not true. You could be lonely even when in a crowd or living with half a dozen people at home and be emotional satiated even when alone depending on how you view your situation and what your goals are. One of the pitfalls of living alone could be feeling sorry for yourself which could be quite catastrophic, sparking deep and negative emotions and forcing you to believe you have no one who cares for you or loves your company when in fact, you may have many people who love you. As long as you keep in touch with those who matter to you, both family and friends and steer clear of feeling sorry for yourself, loneliness won’t be a problem.
Remember that living alone may not be a choice but feeling lonely is a personal choice.
If you are someone who waits for things to happen to them, living alone may not be your cup of tea. It takes practical steps to keep yourself occupied, positive and not-lonely. In the flat I live there is always somebody or the other to talk to. I also make plans to visit or hang out with friends on a regular basis. Getting some fresh air by taking long walks also helps tremendously in remaining positive. At times, I watch TV while cooking, washing clothes or cleaning house to interrupt the stillness a part of my daily life.
The best in you surfaces when forced by need.
Living alone can help you realize your strengths like nothing else ever can. When the responsibility to survive and thrive lies on your shoulders alone, the situation facilitates your real capabilities to come to the fore otherwise they lie dormant, unused. In my case I was content with whatever I was getting and not progressing professionally when I was living with my family because I had a roof over my head, food in my belly and in that, was sheltered. Living on your own makes the need for money and resources, real and that’s when you develop a cutting- edge approach to success in life. When the stakes rise, there is a clarity of purpose that no business school can help you acquire. Those who remain sheltered have not yet explored what they are capable of.
Living alone and meeting all your needs.
Living on my own has transformed me into someone who knows her way around and has a practical solution to every problem as it involves crisis management on a daily basis. For someone who travels a lot, sometimes for weeks, keeping my pot plants watered while I am away was a challenge but the solution was as simple as placing the pots at my front door and making arrangements for them to be watered by my building security or domestic help. Waking up at the wee hours in the morning to catch a morning flight was never my strength and the solution was asking a close friend to call me in case my alarm failed to wake me up. I also have a strange habit of needing a cup of tea to start my day even if it was as early as 3 AM to catch a morning flight but being a late riser, it was always difficult to make tea that early. The solution took long to come to me but it was fairly simple to make tea the night before and heat it on the microwave in the morning. Saved time, gave me a good start to the day and my need was met. Sometimes my meals are late, at times I make do without onions or coriander because I did not get time to go vegetable shopping, not every time I am down with cough and cold do I feel like making hot chicken soup and many at times, the bulb that needs to be changed takes months but what I do have at the end is the contentment that comes from managing my life in the best I could in my circumstances.
No, I have not chosen to live alone by way of preference but due to my personal and professional circumstances. But now that this is my current situation, I want to learn the nuances, be grateful for the learnings and share reflections with those who live alone or those who are contemplating to live alone in the future and those who live with others to be thankful for what they have and also acknowledge what they are missing out on and not be too quick to look down on those who live alone.
Ps: This article was published in the newspaper The Morning Bell in January 2020.