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 purchase a property, negotiate prices, get the electrician to rush to help in an emergency, book the cheapest flight online, navigate your travel using GPS, pay all the bills online, phone banking and just about anything related to running a household and your daily life, requires 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 abovementioned things 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 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 those 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. This first-hand information led to my first visit to a gas distribution agency. I learnt that it helps to have a rapport with the delivery man for paper work, payments and possession of a gas connection, which was then followed by a stage where 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, until I came across a YouTube video with useful instructions that 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 that everyone has about 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), the paranoia of sleeping all by yourself or maybe even with ghosts and vampires. These insecurities live inside you till the time you have an option of being with someone. But if you don’t, and you reach a point of extreme fear, that fear disintegrates rapidly and gets replaced with courage, not by overcoming fear itself, but by developing the readiness to face anything. Living alone should not be based on the strengths of living with others, because living alone comes with its own positives: 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, having the freedom to work and achieving your goals, cleanliness and order, building your identity without seeking validation from others, more time for self-care, having respect for personal boundaries in relationships, and having the perfect atmosphere for self-development and spirituality. If you see living alone as the opposite of living with others, there is a likelihood that you will never discover its benefits.
Once you live alone, you do find a way to ensure your safety by installing double locks, CCTV cameras, inviting only a selected few to your place, knowing where the nearby police station is, having their phone number handy, developing your own support groups, giving due diligence to your house staff, and always being on the look-out for signs and the way out. You also become smarter by never challenging your courage and watching horror films and murder mysteries. And in the absence of constant fear incited by such acts, courage is what is earned. The biggest myth of loneliness is that it is considered being synonymous to living alone. However, this is not true. You could be lonely even in a crowd, or be living with half a dozen people at home and still be emotionally satiated. One of the biggest pitfalls of living alone could be feeling sorry for yourself, which could be quite catastrophic, and spark deep and negative emotions, forcing you to believe that 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, living alone won’t be a problem. Remember, 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 my flat, there is always somebody or the other to talk to. I also keep making 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 the TV while cooking, washing clothes or cleaning house to interrupt the lone stillness.
Living alone can help you realise your strengths like nothing else. When the responsibility to survive and thrive lies on your shoulders alone, the situation facilitates your real capabilities to fire up, which otherwise lie dormant. I was content with whatever I was getting and wasn’t progressing professionally when I was living with my family. This was because I had a roof over my head and food in my belly. Living on your own makes you realise the need for money and resources. It brings you to reality, and that’s when you develop a cutting-edge approach to succeed in life. When the stakes rise, there is a clarity of purpose that no business school can teach you. Those who remain sheltered have not yet explored what they are capable of.
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 craving a cup of tea to start my day, even if it is as early as 3 am. But being a late riser, it was always difficult to make a cup that early. The solution took long to come to me, but it was fairly simple to make tea the night before and heat it in the microwave the next morning. Saved time, gave me a good start to the day, and my needs were met as well. Sometimes, my meals are late. Often times, I make do without onions or coriander, because I did not get the time to go vegetable shopping. Not every time do I feel like making hot chicken soup when I am down with cough and cold, and many a times, the bulb that needs to be changed takes months to finally get replaced. But, what I do have at the end is the contentment that comes from managing my life in the best I could in the given circumstances. No, I have not chosen to live alone due to preference; it is 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 my reflections with those who live alone, or those who are contemplating living alone in the future. Those who live with others should be thankful for what they have, acknowledge what they are missing out on, and not be too quick to look down on those who live alone.