Vote for the Best of STL!

Lessons from a brief stint of living alone

| Editor-in-Chief

Illustration by Ryan Davis

Let me preface: I have a distinct fear (likely enhanced by two shifts in quarantine housing freshman year) of living alone. The isolation; the lack of human warmth; and the possibility of having to deal with robbers, many-legged bugs, or clogged drains by myself kept me securely in the “will always have roommates” camp. Sure, I never minded (and often enjoyed) a few hours of a quiet apartment. But at the end of the day, I always preferred another person to co-exist with. 

So you can imagine my horror when, after deciding to sublease an apartment over the summer, I was informed by the previous tenants that they couldn’t find any more subleasers. I would be alone in a three-bedroom apartment for the entire summer. Immediately, I was overwhelmed with anxiety. What if I had trouble finding social plans on the weekend? What if I couldn’t fall asleep without the noise of someone else brushing their teeth in the room over? However, I clearly lived to tell the tale — and shockingly, actually enjoyed living by myself for a few weeks. Here are a few things I learned from my stint of solo-ness. 

Having your own space is very peaceful 

Okay, okay, I know. This is so cliche. But it’s true! Without the clatter of other people, you know, existing, an empty apartment is a lovely place to daydream, read, or nap. In the morning, you can hear the birds chirping instead of the muffled sounds of your roommate singing along to Kanye West’s “Good Morning” in the bathroom. In the evening, you can watch the sun go down while you play lo-fi beats and not be interrupted by someone coming in and asking where the trash bags are, or asking if you have tape that they can borrow. It’s rather calming. 

Everyone should throw more dinner parties 

A perk of living by yourself: you can have anyone over, at any time you want, without asking your roommates’ permission (and no, I’m not talking about what you think I’m talking about). I’m talking about dinner parties. At home, my family has always sat down to dine together, and I missed having company while I ate. So I started inviting people over to dinner and calling it a “party.” It’s a fantastic ordeal — you boil a bunch of pasta, everyone brings a side dish, and you sit, chat, drink a beverage of your choice, and everyone leaves by 9 p.m. The effort-to-reward ratio is unmatched. 

Living alone means you learn about your living habits 

I don’t necessarily think that living alone means you get to know yourself better (I know myself perfectly well, having to live inside my own head all the time). But I do think it’s a useful tool for understanding the ways you want to habitate. I realized, for example, that I don’t like dishes in the sink. And that I enjoy snoozing my alarm with no repercussions. And that couch naps in the late afternoon on a weekend are blissful. Without the interference or judgment of other people, you can hone your living style to exactly the way you want it to be — this is useful knowledge for vetting your future roommates or partners.  

Self-consciousness about music taste is stupid 

I didn’t develop a music taste until middle school, when I received my first iPod. My parents listened to NPR in the car and classical and jazz at home, so my first taste of Taylor Swift was like discovering there was a new color in the rainbow. That being said, my music taste is still a little undeveloped, and yes, I’m often embarrassed by it. I like pop music. And country. And slow, sad songs in the shower, and Lil Wayne when I lift. When I was by myself over the summer, I blasted whatever songs pleased me at the moment, even if that meant playing the same three songs on loop until my ears bled. And it made me think — it’s really dumb to be ashamed of what music makes you happy or confident or that hits the dopamine button in your brain. Even if you’re not living alone, play whatever you want. 

It’s okay to like having roommates more 

I have roommates for the school year, and they’re really lovely. In the end, I found that I enjoyed living alone, and — for the most part — wasn’t lonely, but rather content puttering around the apartment by myself. However, I also love coming home and finding someone willing to chat about their day and willing to listen to mine. Or someone to throw holiday parties with, or sing songs with, or who I can listen to the songs they play when they shower at night while I’m in bed. I now know that I can, in fact, live by myself — and that it’s really not so bad. I also know that I like cohabitating — even if there are sometimes dishes in the sink. 

Sign up for the email edition

Stay up to date with everything happening at Washington University and beyond.

Subscribe