“There are only two stages of living alone,” a friend said recently. “Crying… And not crying.”
… A statement I have definitely agreed with at points since moving abroad for a year. Based in rural France, and living entirely alone for months, it is often easy to agree that long evenings at home are defined by the above two categories. Yet I think there are in fact five different scenarios that will hit at some point when you’re forced to ditch the housemates and venture out by yourself.
1. The Boredom
The door swings shut behind you as you first move in. Silence. As you stare at the minutes changing on your phone, you wonder how anyone ever survived living alone before. What do you do? Procrastination was so much easier with flatmates to pester. While Netflix is great – as is rediscovering the ancient art of reading – there are only so many times I can realise I’ve let ten episodes auto-play without feeling my dignity seep away. I’ve cleaned. I’ve slept. I’ve eaten. Twice. In the past ten minutes. What now?
It’s no longer as simple as popping to the room next door to find a pal and remind yourself how to socialise. All you want to do is find another human (not picky) and hear words in a voice that isn’t your own. I don’t even know what day it is. It’s run into one endless chunk of empty time. Help.
2. The Fear
This stage often comes after an extremely stupid decision – for me, the catalyst was watching the Amanda Knox murder documentary in the dark before realising I was in fact entirely alone in the building.
The next day, my foot slipped slightly on the bathmat and it made me consider: what would happen if I fell over? Finally got so bored of conversation with myself that I slipped into a coma? Tripped over my shoes and flew right off the balcony? Dropped my hair straighteners, knocked myself out and then set fire to my entire room? They wouldn’t find me for weeks!
Horror films are likely to have a similar effect, so steer clear – as is any noise whatsoever after 9pm. Find me huddled under my duvet trying not to breathe loudly.
3. The EUPHORIA
Wait a second – this is the best thing ever! It will dawn on you at some point that the utter freedom of living alone is wonderful. I can practice my Tennessee accent, completely mess up a lot of cooking and most importantly perfect the harmonies to every duet on Broadway – and incur no judgement.
What’s more, from décor choices to impromptu parties, to playing music, to having a day of the pure slob life – how you run your home is down to you alone, and that’s pretty exciting. Want to get home, eat Lotus spread out of the jar and watch a whole season of Scrubs? The world is your oyster (I regret nothing, and nobody was there to raise their eyebrows and pretend they weren’t jealous).
Then it all gets better as I realise that if I were actually severely injured while alone, a friend would immediately question the lack of constant Snapchats from me and notify someone. I’m safe! All is well.
That one time (every day) when you danced while making coffee, or tried to find out if you can do a headstand (the answer is still no), could easily be a secret you take with you to the grave. This is great. May I never have housemates again.
4. The Delirium
Suddenly you become all too aware of your solitude, and not in a fun way. I’m sure the echoes around the corners of my apartment are getting louder and I haven’t heard my own name in so long I don’t think I remember how to pronounce it. I’m also pretty sure a voice just said “bless you” after I sneezed, and I’m convinced the chopping board has moved, because frankly, why would I leave it on the sofa? What was I chopping on the sofa? Who put my sofa under the chopping board?!
… Me, you see, because I have been driven to madness. This stage includes the realisation that if there was an apocalypse I’d be the weird lone survivor whose story would be eventually told by Cormac McCarthy. By that point, I’ll be as wild and feral a candidate as any to survive against the odds. Cannibals, come at me – I’ve been living alone talking to my own echo for months. I’m made of tough stuff.
5. The Calm
Eventually, there will be days when you don’t really even consider your isolation. You get on with life and couldn’t care less if there is anybody around because frankly, you haven’t even noticed. You could have a full debate with yourself over whether or not to open the window or reprimand yourself out loud for leaving the stove on, and nothing seems off. You’re used to it now. Alone? What? Not me. This is normal. Self-sufficiency: check!