Tuesday, March 4, 2014

On living alone

Before coming to Germany, the longest I'd lived alonewithout roommates or relativeswas three weeks. For those three weeks I lived like a millionaire's daughter. As an employee in a global pharmaceutical company's unusually generous internship program, for 21 days I sort of was.

That June, I had an elegant private Marriott suite, a maid who cleaned my bathroom and neatly lined my shoes in a row, and catered breakfast, lunch and dinner. In the evening my fellow interns sipped white wine and I ate endless fresh-cut watermelon as we watched the sun dip below the cloudless summer horizon. On the weekends we drove our rental car to stormy east coast beaches or took the train into New York City.

We frequented the city, browsing vintage stores in Brooklyn one day and dining in Little Italy another. If we stayed in Manhattan latethat was alright, a taxi was sent to pick us up.When I wasn't traveling or training on the job, I went on runs through the beautiful New Jersey greenery to the top of a memorial park overlooking the NYC skyline.

It still shocks me that this was my life.

But while I relish the details, I also realize my experience smacks little of realityor at least a lasting reality. I moved to Chicago immediately after to complete the next part of my internship, and though a maid didn't organize my shoes and the mid-western heat was at full force by 7 am, I still felt like I was living inside some sort of urban dream.

What does this have to do with living alone? Well, it took me stumbling exhausted and frustrated into my small, suburban apartment late at night only to be greeted by a sink full of my dirty dishes and clothes strewn all over the floor to realize that I hadn't really lived alone until now. 

Or maybe I realized this the day I got sick and couldn't leave my bed. Or the night when, still suffering from jet lag, I woke up at 3 am and couldn't go back to sleep. Both restless day and night filled with no other sounds than the occasional rush of a car passing by, the whir of my computer fan and my own breathing. 

I'm struck by the thought that now more than ever before, my life is truly what I make of it. 

Except that I show up at the office and put in a good day's work, no one is terribly bothered with what I do. No one waits for me to arrive home. Once I walk through my door, I'm not confronted with anyone else's mess or warmth. There is no one to thank—unless, of course, I reach out for help. There is no one to blameexcept, of course, myself. 

Those dirty dishes? All mine. The state of the apartment itself, a reflection of me.

Living alone has been a sort of vacuum. An experiment. Who am I really when requirements and expectations are stripped away? How do I use my time? 

As it turns out, I'm still me. I still drink apple cider religiously and split my time between silly TV and good books. I'm still working on studying my scriptures longer and more earnestly and I still seem to walk the thin line between productivity and distraction. I still don't mind solitude and actually often prefer it. 

But what I've really come to see is that expectations and requirements aside, my life has always been what I've made of it. 

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  1. Interesting. I don't think I have ever truly lived alone. I'm sure I would have a hard time with it. I need social interaction. I need to have someone to chat with. I struggle with Jared's long hours in residency right now. Although the messes I face are from my children and I keep telling myself they are not a reflection of me :)

  2. It's interesting how different experiences really affirm whether we are, at our core, introverted or extroverted. And ha...I say diffuse the blame ;). Good luck!