My corner of the world – 300 square feet in Dupont Circle – is the gift I gave myself after graduation. I was recovering from sharing a room in an already cramped Manhattan apartment where the bathroom was so tiny you had to sit diagonally on the toilet to pee. And before that it was a nomadic year of living in one hiking backpack, dragged from home to home in India on a weekly basis. That year I shared a bed with my roommate or three sisters or once, a mother, father and son.
So after several sweaty treks from Columbia Heights to downtown D.C. over the summer, I easily justified the few hundred dollars more than I ought to have spent and hundreds of square feet less than I could have shared. And the first few sighs of relief in my new space were accompanied with the recognition that this was an experiment I may never repeat.
There’s a cadence to my new solo life that can only be experienced through waking up, sleeping and cooking mostly alone. I have a method of turning lights on and off in the morning as I pack my bag, take my vitamins and maneuver my bike through the smallest living room in the world. In the evenings I play folk music while chopping vegetables for dinner, and unashamedly stream teen dramas on my computer since I decided not to get a TV.
I’m used to adjusting to roommates – to cleaning my dishes as quickly as I dirtied them, to practicing yoga before anyone woke up. But adjusting to myself required just as much consciousness. Without the ambient noise of roommate voices and showers and moments to talk about the day, I started to understand the proportions of silence and connection that I needed to achieve balance. For someone who would share a plate for every meal if I could, spending hours on my own can result in some serious mental gymnastics.
And then, once in a while, there is fear. Losing footing, just for a second, in the bathtub, or a stranger knocking on the door. The moment, stranded in Texas while a hurricane raged over the northeast, when I realized I had left my window drawn about four inches open so that my little snake plant could have air and sunshine.
But mostly, it’s the best I’ve ever felt. It’s alone without the lonely. It’s dancing to Michael Jackson in an old dress after a hot shower. It’s feeling in power with a screwdriver and hammer, but knowing that you’ve accomplished very little without a lot of help. It’s a pile of dirty dishes, and going out until 4 a.m. and making noise when you come back. Living alone is a luxury, but has allowed me to streamline what I own and use into simplicity without anybody chiming in with complaint.
The experiment will eventually come to an end, and I’ll welcome a sofa for two. Until then, I’m happy that nobody had to taste the burnt stir fry sitting on my stove.