In her twenties, Ridhi lives alone in India and keeps a blog, Facing the Sunshine. She shares her story of how she has grown to love living alone and the benefits the lifestyle brings to her life.
Being a dental student with a frenetic lifestyle and exams at every corner, solo living was everything I needed. I was sixteen when I moved away from my family to attend boarding school in the serene hills of India. And that was, in a way, my initial step towards living solo, away from my parents’ cocoon.
I needed air to breathe and space to figure out what I would do with my life – where I was heading and what decisions I would make. No wonder people go on solo trips to find peace of mind and clarity.
The decision to live alone has so far been one of my best. It was as if I went out for a makeover and came back with the finest version of myself. I moved to another city to attend university and that’s when my living alone journey got started. The reality of living solo hit, and trust me, it did hit hard!
Living on my own not only made me independent, but the oozing confidence that comes in handy more often than not is the best reason for anyone to start living solo.
Choosing the right people
We live in a world where judgments are passed like coffee mugs, and fake people are contagious like a smile. When I started living on my own, I had a lot on my plate – a new place to get to know; a new climate to adjust to; new people to meet; family and old friends to keep in touch with; new feelings, ghosts under my bed; and a heart full of memories.
It took me a long time to make friends because I like taking my time in choosing ‘my people’ wisely before offering a hand to shake. Observation is the key to the mystery of how a person will turn out to be and I wasn’t particularly observant in the beginning! We are humans, after all, a species that tend to make errors. To be more specific, I am human and tend to make a gazillion errors. So yes, I made some mistakes. Some turned out to be not so bad, while others were massive blunders. And now I have a fantastic bunch of people who I refer to as my 3 am people!
I learned how to speak from my heart!
To use the mystical power of silence is an art. You can’t always blabber away just because you feel like it and to fill the silence. In fact, living alone taught me to use my voice as my armour in vocalising my opinions, and it turned out like this…
I am the middle child of my family, and needless to say, we know what that means. I am quite a social person and the kind of person you can talk to about anything and everything. But when it came to talking about me, the story wasn’t the same. I was always a ‘keep it inside’ kind of a kid. I had a lot to say but never felt I could justice my thoughts when served on a platter of words.
It had been only a few months since I had moved away, knowing freedom was the first thing I was going to embrace. You don’t end up liking every single aspect of living alone straightaway or every single person you come across, and compromising was never my thing. It was high time to remove the seal over my heart and let the words roll. I had to put a stop to mirror talks!
Those constant self-talks did work out well for me, but I realised I couldn’t bubble up and internalise everything. I started making myself clearer to people about my likes and dislikes. During a mirror talk, I realised that no one was going to speak up for me. If I want certain things to be done or undone, I am the only one with the power and responsibility to make any changes. And this thing I was doing – the talking to myself in the mirror – wasn’t always going to give me what I needed.
The essential ‘me time’ we all need
You feel liberated when you can talk your heart out to friends, and it takes courage. I make sure my boundaries are crystal clear to people and what I say yes and no to. Once, a not so confident, timid and careful girl, holding a hazy vision of her future close to her dear heart, turned out to be a bold, outspoken, confident and fearless soul. And the credit goes to living solo.
No matter what I am going through or how my university life is, one thing has been constant; my me-time. You need to give yourself time and patience in understanding your nature. I am a twenty-one-year-old young woman who doesn’t know much about herself. I still wonder if I know myself or not.
Setting boundaries for yourself is necessary, but you can’t limit your horizons towards a better life. When you fall and are left alone to get up, you realise you are the only one who’s going to be there for yourself. Your near and dear ones will always be there for support, but they can’t walk the path for you. That is something you need to do for yourself.
A tiny tale of courage
I was lying on a hospital bed, lost in my world of what-ifs and buts. The first time in a hospital alone. The sun was radiating into my room through the ward’s window, touching my toes, and nudging me to curl up in the warmth. I was in pain and by myself. Tears soon bubbled up in my eyes, and everything went hazy. It hurt so badly to know I was alone.
Not once, though, did I regret my choice to live solo. During that time, I knew nothing else could have made me stronger. I knew if my family had been around, I would be exaggerating my pain just to get the unconditional affection showered on ill people. With tears rolling down my cheeks, I understood that I was stronger than I knew, even though I was alone. This was my lasting memory while in hospital. I danced my heart out in a hospital gown, alone in my ward, but glowing inside!
A matter of time
I don’t know when I started enjoying talking to my family and friends through a screen. Or when I began savouring a good cup of coffee after a long, relaxing shower. Or when I started to find peace in my bedroom with the lights off, or when I started appreciating my heart that little bit more, when I had enough space for my thoughts once buried deep inside.
I don’t even remember when I fell in love with coming back home after a long tiring day. Every experience is a memory I cherish, tempting me to live solo for the rest of my life! I was not aware of this before. Keeping the door open for personal growth is an opportunity to become a better version of yourself.
Loving others means loving yourself first
I think I know how to love people now because I know how to love myself. It comes from spending time alone, managing my mood swings, and witnessing my ups and downs. It also comes from celebrating achievements with a broad smile outshining all my blingy outfits and from falling to the ground with remorse and pain with mascara smudged all over my face. I have managed to live solo gracefully and with dignity.
I know for a fact that my life would not have been this great otherwise because I was never ready to meet my authentic self when family and friends surrounded me. I was always more interested in knowing more about them and their story rather than having a peek into my own life and understanding what makes me tick.
A wall stood tall between my emotions and my inner peace, and to be honest, I never cared enough before to break the barrier down. The day I moved out, the wall came down by itself. I found my inner peace and a friend for life. Self-love had never been a priority for me before, but today, nothing else can overtake it. My life took a huge turn the day I became more aware of myself, and since that day, there has been no looking back.
A road this traveller will always take
Cooking for myself, going for a run, giving myself a tight hug, controlling my giggles when in an awkward situation, dancing with music blasting my eardrums, and loudly reciting my poems to myself are some of the things I live for.
Whenever I am in trouble, or, before the thought I am alone enters my mind, I tell myself that life will never be a smooth ride, and this journey will always be worthwhile!
Living solo and imbibing a lifestyle with a melange of life-changing qualities isn’t an overnight phenomenon. It takes a lot of understanding, pep talks, tears and sacrifices. It takes you to a level where you’ve never been before. The joy, peace, affection, confidence, discipline, and lifestyle living alone offers always seems way more worthwhile than what is sacrificed.
If ever given a choice to live alone or not, I would always choose it because the benefits living alone has brought to my life are inexplicable. It is a journey I will continue to love -always and forever. It is a continuous growth process. A road every traveller must take – a road this traveller will always take.