Living Alone: My Lessons after Twelve Days

I was sitting at work this morning (because where else would I be these days?) and I came up with a great idea for a blog post. After reaching for my planner, I realized I had left it at home. I could have used a sticky note. Or put it on my Evernote app. Or emailed it to myself. But I thought, “No. This is a good one. I’ll remember it.” Four hours later, I can’t remember a damn thing. Only that it was good. This doesn’t surprise me. It just pisses me off a bit. 

I’m happy to report that I was able to pack up all of my belongings, move them about 30 miles south, then unpack them. It was a hectic weekend. It took about three trips to get it all done, because I grossly underestimated my possessions. “Twenty-five boxes? I don’t have twenty-five boxes worth of things.” Turns out I have about fifty boxes worth of things, not including the large pieces of furniture. When I finally started packing, my box supply ran out fairly quickly. One trip was not going to cut it. 

Photo-bombing teddy bear FTW

Photo-Bombing Teddy Bear & Awkwardly-Placed Tree FTW

I won’t bore you with the story of moving, because it’s exactly what every story of moving is: so many boxes, so many stairs, bulky furniture and doors almost too small. My variation on this story included a half-dozen or so nasty bruises that drew the eye.

“I’m not an abuse victim,” I’d say, noticing someone’s eyes on my arms. “I just moved over the weekend.” 

Nods were accompanied with a skeptical look. “To where? A fight club headquarters?” 

Now that the bruises have faded and I’ve been in my new place for almost two weeks, I’ve learned a few things: 

Palmolive Passion fruit Plumeria smells like a cheap vodka drink that causes a nasty hangover. It’s holding me back from washing my dishes every day. It was on sale when I was picking up necessities that were adding up quick, so I just grabbed the girliest-looking bottle. Washing dishes the next day, I had flashes of a terrible hangover from freshman year: Fleishmann’s vodka, fruit punch, & pink vomit.

You don't have to be intimidated by my glamorous kitchen. I promise: I put my pants on one leg at a time just like you.

You don’t have to be intimidated by my glamorous kitchen. I promise: I put my pants on one leg at a time just like you.

Of course, I’ll continue washing my dishes with it because everything is expensive. Seriously. I took a look at window dressings. Twenty dollars for a window panel? They know you typically need two, right? That means I have to spend money on blinds (~$10), a curtain rod (~$10), two window panels ($40 apparently), and $30 on decent vodka to drink while I’m putting the damn things up. You’re looking at almost $100 per window! Even without the vodka, $60 to make my windows look like the ones on my Pinterest boards is too much. I’ll just live with the warped and dusty blinds provided by my landlord until I have a pile of money to spend on window hangings. Till then, my money will be eaten by rent, student loans, a credit card, utilities, internet, groceries, and flower pots.  

Oh you know, just hanging out with my plants.

Oh you know, just hanging out with my plants after eating half a cantaloupe.

I’ve also learned that my need for sleep is relative to a roommate’s presence. Living with Carissa last year, I often knew it was time to go to sleep when she was often on her way home from work, around 10:30. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to see her or that I was avoiding her, just that I knew if I was still up when she came home, we would end up talking or watching television for an hour. If she went to sleep before me, I didn’t want to disturb her. But now? Bake a cake for my dad’s birthday? It’s only 9pm – why not? Remember while cracking an egg that my roots are dark? I’ll dye my hair while the cake bakes. After showering, I’ll organize my linen closet in a towel while the cake cools. Once it’s frosted, I can just watch five episodes of Friends. Turns out I don’t get tired till about 1am.

On that note, tube TVs are hilarious. Despite the fact I have a list of shows I love, I’m not much of a tv person, so I haven’t felt compelled to drop several hundred dollars on a flat screen. Left to my own devices, I’d rather putz or read a book than sit and watch hours of television. I’ve gotten by just watching shows on my computer or Kindle. But moving into my own place, I thought it would be weird to invite someone over to watch a movie on my laptop. I’m pretty sure that after college, that’s not really allowed. My parents gave me, among many things, an old television. It’s enough to hook up a DVD player and my Roku (though I have to switch one out for the other), so I happily accepted. (Did I mention I’m poor?) After watching a few episodes of Friends, I found that the volume spontaneously crescendos and there is a bluish spot in the upper left corner.  Oh, it also buzzes. Constantly. 

As strange as it was for the first few days, I’m starting to feel at home here. I’m still getting used to the noises of a new neighborhood and the fact that any strange bump in the night cannot be explained by a roommate. It’s probably just a rapist seeing if I lock my doors. If you don’t hear from me for a while, I doubt I’ve been killed – I’m probably just on my couch with a bunch of blankets and pillows, eating Thin Mints for dinner. 

Welcoming Couch wants you to grab a book and relax.

Welcoming Couch wants you to grab a book and just relax.

I know I’m confusing, I’m a woman.

While lying in my bed earlier this evening, I saw a tweet that I nearly retweeted until I saw it had already been retweeted over 400 times. Just to spite it (the tweet, like it has feelings or something), I didn’t partake. Also, because I’d rather help out the little people rather than some woman who gets 400 retweets for a mildly clever and poorly punctuated tweet. Bitch.

I can’t remember the exact phrase of it, and it’s too far back in the day’s tweeting history to check, but it said something like, “I’m a woman. I don’t know what I want, but I can be mad anyway.” And while that probably sounds psychotic to most men, I’m sure it makes a lot of sense to women. It’s a good thing that I don’t write a political or advice blog, because I’m sure feminists would be all over me for going on about this, but whatever. With all of the other personal details I’ve shared on this, I shouldn’t have any problem admitting that I spend a great deal of time not knowing what I want.

This point is moot though, because for right now at least, I think I do know what I want: I want to know that I don’t have to depend on someone else. I started seeing someone a few weeks ago, and I’ve decided to try this new thing where the guy in my life isn’t the single most important thing in my life. Fascinating concept, right? I’m excited to try this new thing out. I’ve spent a decent amount of time on my own. I’ve finally discovered the peace that comes in the absence of other people. The sort of peace that comes when drunk cleaning your apartment and dressing up your piggy bank like Walter White, writing snippets to your 21-year old self, decoupaging Vonnegut quotes, and experiencing the unique horror that arises from OkCupid messages and consequent awkward dates.

I’m not going to claim that I enjoyed every moment of this solitary period, but I know that it made me a stronger person. It forced me to examine myself, reevaluate my priorities, solidify my goals, establish a career, and see myself as an individual.

But this new-found independence comes with its own setbacks. For instance, now that I’m sort of seeing someone, I don’t particularly know how to handle the fact that he’s willing to bring me whatever I need when I’m sick. So instead of telling him I could go for some homestyle chicken dumpling soup, cuddles, and rewatching four episodes of Breaking Bad, I heat up a can of soup, turn on a heating pad, and watch Netflix on my own. Of course, an episode in, I discovered that I did sort of want him there, but it was past the point of a reasonable request, so I didn’t tell him.

How bizarre is that? I’ve spent the better part of six months aching for someone to be there for me, and now that I have someone willing to do that, I’m like, “Nah, I got this.” I’ve gotten used to taking care of myself and I’m not quite ready to give that up. Call it pride or self-preservation, it amounts to the same thing: me, fairly content on my own. I think it’s just me not wanting him to see me vulnerable like this. By vulnerable, I mean sick and terribly whiny. So far, I’ve been able to present myself with semi-styled hair and matching outfits. I don’t want to destroy the illusion that I’m consistently lovely by him seeing me in pajama pants and a ratty college sweatshirt. Since he reads this, I’ll just let him imagine it. With any luck, the image is better than reality.

What I’m trying to get at is that I think I’ve always struggled maintaining my sense of self while dating. Instead of seeing myself as just Ashley, I tend to see myself as Ashley in relation to X. By acknowledging that it’s unreasonable for him to drive a half hour to bring me soup when I could spend 90 seconds heating up a can of Healthy Choice, I’m asserting that I’m not the kind of girl who needs to be taken care of constantly.

I think that’s what Destiny’s Child was talking about in that Independent Women song, right? The shoes on my feet –  I bought them, the soup that I eat – I heat it.

It’s all the same.