Explore the power of living alone

Photo Illustration by Igor Stepczynski

By Igor Stepczynski | Broadcast Reporter

When we are college freshmen, one of our most fundamental standards of life is changed: living away from our family. Whether you are an only child or a sibling to many, simply existing without a leash is a drastic and magical change in our young adult lives.

Once freshman year concludes, most people usually opt to move off campus with newly chosen roommates while cherishing the privacy of their own bedroom and bathroom. Yet there is often a common unspoken desire of the total privacy that comes with living alone, or as I prefer to say, living independently.

I was one to have such desires and decided to act upon it by living by myself senior year. However, nobody warned me about the intimate contact I would have with three powerful forces, each with their own dual opposing energy. If you are considering living alone, this column is an honest and personal advanced notice from me, yours truly, of things I wish I was told before learning them the hard way.

The Power of Self-Autonomy

The first thing you will come in touch with is the power of complete self-autonomy.

Living alone exposes you to unprecedented interaction between you and your living space. The only opinion to take under consideration is your own.

Beware: This power is both sobering and intoxicating. It is sobering in the fact that you are in full control of what happens and when it happens. Bid adieu to constant decision making that needs to consider another person’s functioning and fair share of utility. It’s all up to you in choosing when to wake up, go to bed, have people over, study, party or meditate.

You are the only pilot in the cockpit, with the choice to fly toward whatever is appealing at any time.

This power is also intoxicating, as it no longer has an appropriate outside buffer such as a roommate. Your plane is no longer subjected to the health of passengers or other co-pilots.

You may often find yourself doing things at an inappropriate hour, thus influencing your circadian rhythm and safety. There will be times when the line between your virtues and vices will blur.

Character may be who you are when nobody is watching, but true character development is learning what you aren’t when nobody is watching.

Prepare to find both the beauty and ugly in yourself, and learn how to face each one accordingly to prevent the line from being blurry for too long.

My tip? Make meditation your best friend. It’s healthy to experience the wounds of your self-autonomy. Meditation will prevent you from rubbing salt in it.

The Power of Silence

The second force you will sensitize yourself to is the power of silence.

It is healing to listen to yourself without the noise of another. Gone are the days of muting out a roommate and being muted out by them. The sound of footsteps, door shutting, water running or other physical actions will no longer catch you off guard because you are the only stimulus to the noise around you. At any time, you can tune into your thoughts without interruption.

But beware: Silence can also be damaging. It can be very loud when you are alone.

When the physical realm around you is silent, thoughts and voices in your head begin to be louder than ever before.

The thoughts and voices in your head aren’t subject to the laws of physics, where the loudness of a sound wave can be measured and manipulated with its amplitude. That can be a positive thing when the thoughts are desirable; but when they are left undistracted or uncontrolled, they can turn out to be just as damaging to your psychological health as a boombox speaker is to an eardrum.

My tip, other than keep yourself busy? Again, make meditation your best friend. Also, personalize your space by decorating. Make it easier for your mind to like the silence by providing an aesthetic appeal that warrants a positive reaction.

The Power of Presence

The last force you will grow to know is the power of presence, more specifically the lack thereof.

When you have a roommate, you grow to revel in the few instances you do have the place to yourself. The presence of others can feel apathetic, especially in a dormitory or in a classroom. Even when you hang out with friends, you may not pay much attention to the quality of a specific time when the quantity is high.

Beware: You will grow sentimental over those apathetic moments when living alone. You really don’t truly realize what you have until it’s gone.

Coming home to somebody’s presence feels routine when you have a roommate. People frequently coming into your home was something expected.

Yet, as somebody who now lives alone and keeps himself busy, I fully took it for granted. When I think about the times when I came home to see my friend on the couch or vice versa everyday, I am overcome with nostalgia and sometimes sadness. You’d think the likelihood of people coming over and being present would be high when living alone, right? Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Gone are the days of effortless interaction in your home. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but the presence of others becomes an effort.

When starting to live alone, you will feel left out. You will feel sad. You will feel lonely. But you begin to cherish the value of being present with friends and friends being present with you. You learn new ways to see each other, and it will feel more worthwhile. The presence of friends in your living space will now emphasize quality, not quantity like before. That’s what adulting is.

My tip? Keep yourself busy, in a social sense. The appeal of “staying in” will grow dull when living alone, especially during your senior year.

At the end of the day, living alone makes you look reality in the face and become more of an adult in many different facets. It will come to most of us eventually, and it will make us a better friend and spouse in the future. However, I can wholeheartedly say that it is not for all of us. It comes with many advantages, but not without a price to pay. I hope this column helps in your decision as to whether you feel ready to live alone.