Lyndsay shares one of her new experiences during the first few months of living alone in this article called “The Introverted Extrovert And The Art of Balance”.
I love people, until I don’t.
Some people have never lived alone, and some never will. Those of us who have, tend to be divided into two groups: people who chose to live alone and people who ended up living alone due to life circumstances. Whichever group you fall into, living alone is definitely the Marmite of living situations. You either love it or hate it. Some make their peace with it but never truly enjoy it.
When I was younger, my Mum and I used to joke that I wouldn’t move out until I found Mr Right. Fast forward 10 years, and that person has not shown up, or slightly worse, doesn’t actually exist. So, at 32, and after a breakup, I decided to buy my own home.
So, that is how my house hunting journey started. I say house hunting journey – I saw one house, knew it was for me, put in an offer and the rest, as they say, is history.
After decorating (another story), I moved in and started on my new adventure, or so I thought. I moved into my home in December 2019, the weekend before Christmas. So after carting all my stuff over to my new home, I then went to stay at my Mum’s house off and on for about two weeks. It didn’t really feel like I had actually moved into my house until mid-January, already feeling I was starting on a back foot.
I wanted to sit in my pyjamas with nowhere to go and no one to see. I didn’t want to be at someone’s beck and call, needing to be in certain places at certain times. This, however, is precisely what happened because I am my own worst enemy.
I would joke that I would go to the opening of an envelope if I were invited, meaning two things: 1. I love going out, having fun, and seeing people, and 2, I struggle to say no to others I care about. I am constantly at war with my secret inner introvert. I love people, love my friends and family, and try to see them whenever I can (I don’t love all people. In any situation where people behave like cattle, I will prefer to opt-out. I am sure if Dante was alive today, he would have included shopping centres on weekends in one of his circles of hell).
At the beginning of living alone, I would always say yes to pretty much every invitation. Hating the quiet of my house and wanting to be with others. Until it came to the point when I would be leaving my house to go and be with people. Then, all I wanted to do was chill in front of the TV.
I always thought of myself as an independent person who just happened to still live with my parents. How wrong I was. When the weekend rolled around for me to go and do all the things I had said yes to, I realised I left myself no time to look after myself. There was no one else to put a wash on (running out of pants before you have a full wash is very frustrating, a side effect of living solo), do the food shopping, clean the house and do any other maintenance the house or myself needed.
Now, after being a messy teenager and carrying the tradition well into my 20’s, I find myself extremely house proud. My home is pretty much immaculate at all times. I hate things being out of place and have found that by being tidy, I feel happier. This side of me spent the first month of living solo at odds with my naturally extroverted laid-back self.
I started to resent never being at home actually to enjoy living in my house. I was always trying to rush my chores in the evening after work because I hadn’t left myself any time at the weekend to do them with all the social stuff I had lined up. This started to spiral into a bit of a depressive period, as I would be unhappy if my house didn’t look as lovely as I wanted because I had left myself no time to maintain it.
As I get older, I find my recovery period after a lot of social activity has increased dramatically. In my 20’s I would go out and about without never needing to take a break to re-calibrate. Now, in my 30’s and running a house by myself as well as a full-time job, I need to make sure I give myself enough ‘me’ time to avoid burn out.
I realised the need to create a balance between the two sides of my personality. To say no to some people, in order to say yes to me. I wanted to look after my mental health in the same way I wanted to look after my home.
So I made changes. I tried giving myself one completely clear weekend a month with no family or social obligations. A weekend where I could spend time cleaning, spent in my pyjamas with Netflix, reading a book undisturbed, or going out on my own exploring if I wanted to. I began to see a difference in how I viewed living alone. The housework was no longer a sprint to rush through but something I had made time to do properly as part of my routine.
Obviously, because of the pandemic, all I currently have is time for myself (I know all the mums out there will be green with envy), but I think this time inside has forced me to love my space and the silence that comes with it. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t wait to get my social life back, but it doesn’t have to be at the cost of my peace.
My home is my fortress, not my prison.
This article first appeared in Lyndsay’s blog, Life At The Little Coachhouse