I graduated from high school many, many moons ago. Since that momentous day when I officially moved out of the house, I have been living "on my own." Granted, I have returned home on various occasions (summers, before and after the mission, post-LA breakdown) and lived there for a space of time (usually only a couple of months), but I have always been independent. I pay my own bills, I make my own decisions, and I even tie my own shoes!
Living "on my own," though, is misleading. Because I have never lived by myself. At BYU, I lived with roommates for four years. Both good times and bad times, but I was always living with someone. As a missionary, I lived with eight different companions over a year and a half. Again, both good times and bad times, but I was always living with someone. Actually, even more so on the mission, because you are literally with your companion 24/7. There is no being by yourself as a missionary - you learn to communicate and serve one another by being together all the time. When I moved to California, I lived with a roommate. My LA experience was good and bad for a variety of reasons, but again, I was living with another person, so technically I wasn't by myself.
When I made the decision to move to Austin, I also made the decision to not move in with roommates. I've done the "roommate thing" and I wanted to try really living on my own. That's not to say that roommates are bad - I have loved my years with roommates and I firmly believe everyone needs to have those experiences. But Austin was going to be a "starting over" adventure, so I wanted to start over on my own. I was able to find an awesome, affordable apartment that fit my needs and wants, and I was excited to live with me, myself and I.
So.....here I am. I live by myself. All by myself. Is it fun? Definitely. Is it nice to be able to turn up the music as loud as I want? Oh, yeah. Is it great to not have to fight for control of the TV? You betcha. Is it lonely? Sometimes....but that's what Gmail, Facebook, Blackberry and unlimited text is for, right? Right, so not a problem.
So what is the problem, you ask? When you live with roommates, whether you are best friends or not, there is always another person in the house to act as a buffer between you and your not-so-good habits/vices. A buffer, regulator, officer, enforcer, silent sentinel....whatever the word, there is someone there that forces you to check yourself if you are going off the deep end. The other person probably isn't even aware of their purpose, but the mere fact that they are there helps you to to stay on track. Now don't misunderstand me - I'm not talking about serious or dangerous habits here. Just little things, like not doing the dishes, or watching too much TV, or spending too much time blogging, or consuming too many Peanut M&Ms, or doing homework at the last minute. Stuff like that. With roommates, I think you are sometimes less prone to "let yourself go" in regards to bad habits or guilty pleasures. Does that make sense?
Anyways, now that I am really living on my own, I am beginning to understand the value of having someone else around. True, I am on campus or at the Institute building or at Church or other activities most of the time during the week, but when I get home and it's just me, I find that it is so easy to say to myself, "I'll do my homework later. The dishes and dirty laundry can wait. I'll clean the apartment this weekend. I'll exercise later tonight. I'm tired...this bed looks really nice."
My oldest sister has lived by herself for a number of years now (granted, she does have two dogs), and I admire her greatly for it. She is extremely organized and disciplined. She is also very knowledgeable about home repair and other "being-an-adult" things because she has had to learn it all in order to be successful. I am impressed by her strength and her attitude. I'm sure she has struggled, but she seems like a genuinely happy person.
The great question for me this next year will be if I can be as strong. Will I be able to turn off the TV, put the book down, walk away from the computer, get out of bed and do the dishes, finish my homework, go running, clean the bathroom, eat healthy? Will I be disciplined and organized and motivated enough to be successful?
All by myself, on my own, I guess I'll find out...