Living alone is one of my things, so "best things about living alone" lists can lure me in the way most other listicles cannot. I've read lots of them. But here's the thing: I think they are for lightweights. And I think they are written by people who, deep down inside, do not really get it about the profound fulfillment of the solo-dwelling life. It's different for those of us who really mean it about wanting to live alone.
Consider the supposedly best things about living single as offered up by the lightweights from places such as Cosmo and Buzzfeed:
- "You can use the bathroom without closing the door."
- "You can stay up as long as you want. Without keeping it down for other people. Blast that episode of Frasier!"
- "Nobody will steal your food."
- "You can leave your clothes on the floor…"
- "You can do all the embarrassing and gross things you want without fear of judgment."
- "…you don't ever have to wear pants."
- "You don't have to worry about a roommate hearing you have sex, or vice versa."
- "You never have to wait for anyone to get out of the bathroom to pee or shower."
- "You can use all the hot water in the shower."
- "You don't have to share the TV…"
All of these kinds of things are perfectly fine reasons for enjoying the experience of living alone. But if they are the only kinds of reasons you like having a place of your own, then maybe you are not that serious about it. The reasons have a kind of defensiveness to them, as if you are trying to convince yourself that you really do like living alone. The reasons are mostly about freedom from constraints (you don't have to wear clothes, you don't have to share) and when they are about freedom to do things (stay up as long as you want), what is enabled by that freedom is trivial (watch reruns of Frasier).
I like watching TV as much as the next person, but the freedom to do so is not among the most profound rewards of staying up as long as you want. Think about people who are really passionate about what they do. When they get engrossed in whatever it is that really grabs them – whether it is writing music or solving an intriguing problem or creating something or anything else – they love the freedom to just keep going. It is a joy to stay engaged, to go for hours without ever wondering about the time, to be free of concern about what some other person in the house thinks of you or wishes you were doing instead.
That's one of the real rewards of solo living for those who really mean it about wanting to live alone. Here are a few others:
- Other people are distracting and not just when they are talking to you or playing obnoxious music or watching annoying TV. The mere presence of other people can sap some of your emotional and intellectual resources. If someone else is around, a small part of you is paying attention to them. When you live alone, you can think with your whole mind and feel with your whole heart.
- People who really mean it about wanting to live alone experience a sense of appreciation of a place of their own that is beyond the grasp of the causal solo dweller. This is sometimes most apparent when they get their own place for the very first time. Even if the place is not all that great in objective ways (such as the size or the state of disrepair), people who crave living alone will savor and cherish it.
- For some people, living alone is not just a casual preference – it feels more like a need. What happens when you are deprived of a genuine need? You can't stop thinking about it. You daydream about it, makes plans for when you will get to have that need fulfilled again. When living alone is a need and you finally get to do it after being deprived, you feel relief and a sense that your living situation is once again just what it should be.
Are you someone who means it about loving to live alone? If so, what are some non-trivial, non-defensive, non-wimpy reasons why it is so fulfilling to you?
[Note: Links to my other writings about living alone are here.]