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“I relied excessively on Facebook and WhatsApp for emotional support,” says the author while recounting her days off living alone as a young working woman.
Living alone in a new city is frightening even when you are in your late 30s. It, in fact, becomes more daunting as you age and realize that your support system of friends and family is mainly online. That there aren’t many people to meet and greet or to check on you. This is the single biggest lesson I learned as attempted to live alone. And not once but on three different occasions.
The first time around, I lived in a 2BHK in the IT locality of a city where I knew no one. The second time, I moved to a city where I knew a few people, mostly old college and school friends who I was in touch with mainly through Facebook, and I lived in a tiny 1RK albeit in the heart of the city. My third attempt at staying alone was in the same city where I stayed alone the second time; only this time, it was in the outskirts.
It was my third attempt at staying alone, but my first experience in a PG. I was shocked to be living in a room the size of a broom closet, and often felt like Harry Potter at the Dursley’s.
I soon moved to a service apartment, but I had to pay three times the rent that I’d paid at the PG for it. I caught the Volvo bus to work on most days; some days I just walked to work wearing my sneakers. I joined yoga classes nearby and relied excessively on FaceBook for emotional support. Not a great idea when your colleagues are on it, too!
I found that old school friends, college friends and other acquaintances lived at least two hours away from where I lived and were busy with their families – husband, children – and in being soccer moms or entrepreneurs, or were working women themselves.
Also, there’s the thing about drifting apart. People change a lot in twenty years and the women you see today aren’t quite the little girls that went to school with you. And if you are like me, you hesitate to make the first move to reach out for fear of imposing.
Even when I decided to take a trip to a nearby weekend retreat and called a leading service provider of weekend getaways to put together a trip for me, they said they didn’t cater to single women. That’s when I realized how the odds are stacked against single women.
With a little research, I soon went on that trip with a travel company that did cater to all kinds of demographics. I had a good time but felt acutely aware of my single status. The other three women on the trip were married with children.
Loneliness began to envelop me like a black smog in my room in the service apartment. I used to chat online on WhatsApp a lot. I remember sending monologues to my college WhatsApp group consisting of six friends in different parts of the world. There were days when the city just got to me.
I went alone for movies in the cinema hall in my locality, shopped alone, ate alone, and soon began to shun company. Yes, the city can be a cold, unforgiving place where your deepest darkest fears play havoc on you, bringing your insecurities to the fore. I doubted I had any friends at all, wondered if I was lovable and missed my parents in Chennai with a heartbreaking agony. I regretted every harsh word I had uttered to them and longed to spend quality time with them.
Soon, I began to get excessively tired on holidays and did nothing but stay in bed for three days in a row. After a couple of years of living like this, I returned to live with my parents in the outskirts of Chennai. I can see the difference in me. My health has improved tremendously and my outlook is a lot more positive.
The lesson living alone has taught me is that in the ultimate analysis, only your parents are there for you. It’s hard to make new friends and hard to even want to spend time with random people. Living the single life is not all about going to bars and having a blast. Life is what you live when you are alone with your thoughts. And one of the most important relationships you have is with yourself.
Image source: YouTube
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