Things I Learned From Living Alone In My 20's

The second I graduated from college, I was plotting my apartment layout and decor like it was my summer job. I did have a full-time job thank goodness, but finding the perfect throw pillows that accented my living room color scheme was far more important. I was designing a Pinterest worthy look on a Ramen noodles budget. (No really, I could barely afford groceries but was sitting on a gorgeous Parisian tufted-back sofa because, obviously.)

When you begin the adventure of living on your own, you’re often greeted by a rush of excitement before the weight of fear and anxiety comes in blazing hot. Being in college is like playing house—you’re kind of an adult in the sense that you’re not in your parents house and have to figure out how to get yourself to class on time, but when you leave school and enter the “real world” well, that’s when the party really gets started.

And by party, I obviously mean complete and total disaster.

I’ve talked finances before and I’ve definitely talked about my daily struggles in trying to figure out how to make it in life, but living alone has been such a huge part of my adult life thus far and I haven’t really written much about it. I suppose it could be because it’s something that just seems so normal that it’d never be noteworthy, or perhaps it’s because I wasn’t able to see how big of a role it played in my independence and self-identity until it was time to turn the page into a new chapter. 

Consider page turned, fresh new chapter all ready for the living!

After dating Bobby for 4 wonderful years (and being long-distance for one of them!), we are taking the all-too-nerve-racking plunge of moving in together! I won’t lie and say that this was all excitement from the get go… because I was so beyond nervous and anxious when we came to the conclusion that this was our next step. First, the obvious questions came to mind: I have to share a bathroom with him? There’s no way I could possibly spare a shelf in the refrigerator?? And.... include his opinion on decorating? Yeah right. 

These questions alone were enough to frighten me from exploring this idea any further, but then came the deeper, more uncomfortable things I needed to face. I had envisioned a different timeline in the precious plan I drew up for my life when I was younger: I’d get engaged, get married, and then move in - that was the order. However I’m finding that rules were meant to be broken and life very rarely goes according to plan. We are definitely ready for this next step, but it was a hard pill to swallow knowing that I was electing to veer off into completely unchartered territories—a plan in which I did not see myself falling into. Nevertheless, we’re so excited to become roommates and my heart is bursting knowing in just a few short months I’ll get to come home every night to my best friend - hopefully with takeout Thai food waiting for me in the kitchen, you feel me ladies?

But enough about him! Living by myself for 2 glorious years doesn’t seem like long enough, but that time was so special to me. I will always look back fondly on the years where I came home from work at 5pm and turned on Gossip Girl at approximately 5:15pm while walking around my apartment in just my fuzzy cheetah print robe for the remainder of the night. Pasta for dinner, again? Great! I’ll always remember when I was on the work out early in the morning kick which lasted for exactly one month and I did Kayla Itsines’ BBG workouts in my living room, annoying all my downstairs neighbors with 6AM burpees. And who can forget the most comforting feeling of leaving your kitchen absolutely spotless when you leave for work in the morning knowing with absolute certainty that it would be exactly how you left it when you got home at night? There is truly nothing better.

I could talk about how much I’ll miss being a resident of 1 for far longer than you’d want to read about, so instead I thought I’d leave you with what I took away from my experience. Whether you’re still in college and dream about living alone like I did or you’re well into your twenties and want to give the Independent Woman lifestyle a go—here’s what I learned:

  1. I learned to love myself.

Through living by myself, I’ve found true comfort in being alone. I know it’s commonly thrown around these days as the most essential component to self care: you have to love yourself first before you can love someone else. You have to take care of you before you can let it spill out onto others. And as cliche as it sounds, it’s true. I’m a better person when I take the time to love myself, give myself grace in tough situations, and find solitude in my quiet moments. I really learned how to be my own best friend—when nights after work turned into snuggle sessions on the couch or writing blog posts at my kitchen counter turned into 3-hour long phone conversations with my mom. I’ve come to a place where I’ve accepted that my space is my very own—both in relation to the physical space around me as well as the space in my heart and in my mind where I allow things to rest.

I think we all have these ideas of who we want to be drafted up in our minds, envisioning a few edits here and there but overall feeling confident about what we like and what we don’t. It’s uncomfortable when we have to confront ourselves with the realization that those idyllic ideas we created actually turn out to be nothing close to the person we’re growing to become. 

Spending more time by myself—whether it be while eating dinner or watching the Kardashians—has given me more room to float with my ideas, basking in their truth. I’ve found that I will almost always opt to stay in on weekends and that’s okay! I’m bubbly and outgoing but I’m the definition of an introvert. That wasn’t a box in which I’d voluntarily step inside, but it’s who I am. I’m also very defensive, in nearly every way. I’m rarely able to see both sides of a situation from the onset, and it typically takes a phone call to Mom or a chat with Bobby for me to clearly see that maybe I’m late everywhere I go because I don’t give myself enough time, not because there was traffic or because Sophie took too long to go potty outside. (Although those are very valid reasons for being late to a yoga class, am I right?!?)

I am who I am, and as I’m nearing 25 and preparing to move in with my boyfriend, I can confidently say that I’m proud of the woman I am becoming. I do things that annoy myself on the daily, I wish I worked harder, and I’ll probably always set a benchmark that’s just a little too high to reach but I’m my very favorite person to spend time with. I will forever be grateful for that.

2. I learned that it takes effort to see your friends.

When you grow up and graduate, making time for the girls isn’t as easy as it’s always been. It’s not like college where you haaave to go out because it’s Friday night and that’s what everyone’s doing. You have to make an effort to see people and you have to stick with the plans you make. Well… most of the time. I’m no stranger to bailing on plans so that I can go home to queue up the latest episode of Riverdale, but I do try to make an effort to see my in-town friends and keep in contact with my out-of-town friends via weeknight FaceTime sessions.

It’s easier said than done, but living alone kind of forces you to make the first move when setting up a coffee date or happy hour gathering. You don’t really get a friend-fix while preparing dinner (unless you count Mindy Lahiri as a bestie like me, in which case—girls night is every night!). I’m still a work in progress, but I’ve learned how to hold myself accountable and take stock of when I need to reach out to people. Dinners, wine nights, movie nights, you name it—even an introvert like me needs her girl time every once in a while.

3. I learned that I love a routine, but you can also veer off schedule whenever you want. 

When you live alone, you can create a regular routine that suits your life with no unexpected interruptions! No surprise guests on the couch when you get home from a bad day. No dishes in the sink or occupied washing machine when you’ve run out of underwear. And my favorite part about making a routine is treating myself to the joyful act of pitching it out the window whenever I want. Being a party of 1 is a beautiful gift, and the only person you have to answer to is yourself. But let’s be real here—switching up my normal routine is what keeps me going. Taking a different route home from work or getting takeout from a new restaurant just because are things that fill my cup! And the best part of it all? No one will ever know you’re having an extra cookie even though you’ve proclaimed on your Instagram that you’re doing Whole30 again. Privacy in the kitchen is the ultimate luxury, if you ask me.

4. I learned that I’m the boss of my own life.

If you want to come home and fold your laundry while scrubbing the floors before baking some yummy muffins for breakfast in the morning, the world… er, apartment, is your oyster! But on the same note—if you want to come home, throw on sweatpants with a messy bun, and lie around until bedtime - you can do that too. Same goes with life, ladies. If you hate your 9-5 desk job and can’t fathom another year of sitting in your cubicle, leave! If you love your multiple part-time jobs while you hustle on your side gig, then own it. You’re the boss of your life, and when you live alone—you’re also the boss of your apartment.

5. I learned that I never have to apologize for crying too loudly on the living room floor.

Well, maybe to my neighbors… But needless to say, bad days will come and go but the judgement you pass on yourself is hard to shake. If you know me, then you know I cry at least once a day. I’m kind of a constant emotional mess, and I cry when I’m happy, sad, stressed, and alllllways when I’m tired. When a bad day turns into a bad month, you quickly get used to the regularity of emotional breakdowns before dinner time. Living alone is seriously the best: mascara streaks, ice cream in hand, and your favorite comfy nightgown that fits so incredibly bad. It’s your world, sister!

Choosing to live alone has been the absolute best decision I could’ve ever made at 22. Choosing to buy the Steve Madden diamond-studded pumps that I had to have instead of getting groceries but in reality have only worn once? Not so much. My advice to anyone who’s toying with the idea of living by herself? One thousand times over, do it! I’m sure it will be uncomfortable, it will definitely get lonely, and you’ll probably get sick of not being able to split bills anymore… but it is so worth it. You’ll have to kill spiders on your own now, but you’ll also get to walk around the place in your over-the-top-extra pink high-heeled slippers with fur on top all weekend long!!!

Oh, it’s just me who does that? Okay. ;)