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The Joy and the Lessons I Learned in Living Alone

I’d say it was initially a chance which then became a personal choice; it is both rewarding and challenging.

Living alone, also known as Single-person households (SPHs) or One-person households (OPHs), has been on a rise since the late 20th century. In the United States, research shows that “between 1999 and 2014, the number of single-person households went up to about 34.2 million from 26.6 million, an average annual rise of 1.7 percent.” This is not only apparent in the US but also across other countries, where the aging population is growing and the change of lifestyle in the younger generations. For young people like me, factors like “delaying or eschewing marriage and family building due to higher education, professional training, career aspirations and personal goals,” that is according to a United Nations report. And I think that is my case.

I have been living alone for most of my adult life. Well, I lived with friends for some years when I see it financially ideal. When I moved to Cebu, I initially stayed with my college friends for a couple of reasons — I am new in that city and I do not have the money to get my solo space. It was one rainy morning of September 2009 when I arrived in Cebu. I moved into a two-story apartment, three bedrooms, and it is near the business district. I shared a room with two others (the Teo siblings.) I stayed with them for roughly six months, then my friends decided to move to their individual places with their families or partners. I, being single and now more familiar with the city, decided to get my own studio apartment because I had no choice. That was my chance to start anew and live alone.

My circumstance of being single is, I think, a good factor when I decided to get my own space. Decision making was easy to do like the location and amenities for my space, and I am glad that the place I got is still near the business center. The price was also manageable. For years through this experience of living solo provided me some learnings which I think is now deeply ingrained in my personality.

Lesson 1: Being Independent. Moving into a new community and living alone provided me with the opportunity to become self-supporting and self-sustaining. It was difficult in the beginning until I got the hang of it. I got to do my own laundry, cook for myself, clean my place, do the dishes, do groceries, and manage my own bills. You might say that you can also do that even if you’re not living alone. That’s true, but there is that sense of true self-reliance. That is like managing your life independently! It’s overwhelming but the joy of being independent is different. Being independent made me believe that I am a full-pledge adult, a young-professional adult facing a world full of biases and uncertainties but full of beautiful people that are there to support you. Independently living alone, but not enjoying life alone. You still have your friends and family around you if you need them.

Lesson 2: Freedom. Being independent gives you the freedom, which emancipates you from things like what your parents or partners want you to do. There is the sense of being self-determined. Freedom to choose on what to buy for food when you want to stay home, freedom on what furniture you will get, freedom on which lifestyle to adapt without any constraints, etc.

Lesson 3: Self-discovery. With all the time I have for myself when I am home, I tend to spend it by contemplating, thinking, learning, and planning on what to do next with my life. When I was younger, I was an introvert but then as I grow older, I realized that I am an ambivert. I can spend long hours alone but still can socialize with people of different backgrounds. Living alone can cultivate and develop new talents and skills. I discovered my interest in painting when I was alone, and I was able to do my first solo oil painting exhibit in 2016. I also experience many ‘Aha! moments’ at home. Eric Klinenberg, the author of the book Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone, said that “most single dwellers—whether in their twenties or eighties—are deeply engaged in social and civic life. There’s even evidence that people who live alone enjoy better mental health and have more environmentally sustainable lifestyles.” I am now practicing a minimalist lifestyle and making sure that all my decisions should be economically and environmentally sustainable. I am more conscious about it while living alone. I am also an advocate of animal welfare which brought me to adopting Ramen, my tabby cat.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s also joy and lessons to be learned to live with friends or family but as we get older, we change our preferences and lifestyle. Our circumstances in life and values also evolve along with our decisions in life. Besides, the social forces right now are overwhelming, especially when you live in cities with full of temptations. Either way, give yourself some alone time. Make time for alone time. You will appreciate yourself more. And I think it’s the best path to self-awareness. When the time comes when I have the right partner and hopefully my own family, my living preferences will surely change. And that is a different story.

This is part of my The Quest for Joy series. Click here to view all posts under this series.
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