The last time I lived in a space that was not shared was a time so distant that it feels unreal in my mind, like the memory of a hilarious misunderstanding that may have been a part of my post-college experience, or, perhaps, just a really vivid episode of Friends.
The basic motions of day to day living are hard to remember on my own, I find. How much coffee to make, how many times to hit the snooze button, remembering to drop off my Netflix on my way to the train, checking to see that I don’t have last nights makeup remaining on my face.
A person normally certain at home, I find I have lost that aspect of myself living alone. Without a companion, I ruminate daily on the possibility of a break-in, a forgotten coffee-pot on-switch, a cat caught dangerously among boxes. In the past, the reassurance of a roommate or a live-in partner somehow has made me feel more sure of myself, more confident. It also provides that convenience “just in case” back up system for all my errors – if forget to close the window or blow out a candle, there is a good chance the other resident of my home will remember. I just seem to feel stronger when someone is there telling me it is true.
Living alone has plenty of benefits—which are also hard to cope with in their own way. I like listening to whatever music I want at whatever volume with no need for consensus. I like watching all the slow and sad biopics that no one else finds interesting. I like drinking a glass of white wine before bed. I like the quiet within my walls, especially compared to the cacophony of the intersection outside my window. (I like that when I am making no noise, there is none.)
Having your own space is a privilege that is not enjoyed in all places or by all cultures. Even here, in the US, in Chicago, some people don’t support a woman living alone in a city, but I am lucky that it isn’t forbidden and that I have the financial ability to do so. It is a way to change the way you see yourself.
It is hard to imagine, from where I contemplate, the commitment of two people to share a space for the rest of time. Not just a bed, but a kitchen, a bathroom, a sofa. To share a day, a year, the life of a possible child. To divide ones life into two for sharing. Committed people who share a space may enjoy the added benefit of space-sharing – a confidence that the home won’t burn to the ground while they work – but the decision is expensive.
We often think of selflessness in terms of service, giving, anonymous donations, but the literal use of the word – to be selfless, to not be concerned with matters of self – marriage/commitment is just that. An agreement to think of another person as often as you think of yourself – to share your life, to choose a shared existence over one dedicated to personal priorities. To give up a place where the noise you make is the only noise in the room. This seems generous to me.
I think I am learning to be selfish, learning to not share, and learning how many scoops of coffee are enough for just one person. It is as long of a process as the road to selflessness, breaking all those sharing habits, but it is necessary when you find yourself living the solo life.