How Living Alone Changed My Life

“If you see living alone as the opposite of living with others, there is a likelihood that you will never discover its benefits.” Image provided by the author.

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.

“If you’re 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.” Image provided by the author.

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.

“I’ve chosen to live alone due to my personal and professional circumstances. But now that I do, I want to be grateful for the learnings.” Image provided by the author.

The Best In You Surfaces When Forced By Need

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 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 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.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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