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Balancing Act: I Learned to Be Happy Living Alone

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I know most people -- especially those who live in cities where square footage is a hot commodity -- crave more personal space. I'm just the opposite. I've always loved communal living. I grew up in a multi-unit home occupied by my mother's nuclear family. Was there drama? Yes. Were people too nosy? Yep. Did I love it? You bet. My childhood memories are replete with mornings featuring my grandpa playing tapes of his stints on the radio in native Panama and listening to 1010 Wins, while he boiled green bananas and tea for my breakfast. There was always plenty of money to go around -- by my 'tween standards, of course -- for trips to the corner store, shopping and summer vacations in the Poconos, which the budding BAP wannabe in me loved. Best of all, I didn't even know I lived in the 'hood until I was 12, because I never worried about my safety -- a big issue growing up in Brooklyn in the '90s. Who messes with a kid with four well-connected uncles living 50 feet away from her? In short, I felt secure. With that as my backstory, my life plan regarding residency was simple: I wanted to live with friends or family until I got married and bought my own multi-unit home... and friends or family could come live with me. Just writing this cracks me up because as silly as it sounds, it is still my ideal. I never dreamt of getting my own single unit apartment or house. Yes, I wanted to be financially independent, but for me that didn't translate into physical independence. Sticking to my communal living plan was easy until my mom died in 2007. My grief was compounded by the fact that I was now living alone for the first time. Like most people, strangers lived upstairs from me and my family was now scattered all over the city, and country. My tough Brooklyn demeanor couldn't shield me from the loneliness, angst and disappointment of living la vida solo. I know it sounds crazy, but it's the little things that drove me mad. For instance, getting used to locking my apartment door and not just the front door. Another tough one was not running upstairs to see what's going on when I heard loud boisterous laughter -- non-related neighbors don't like that -- who knew? I think the biggest change was learning to make an effort to stay connected to my family and friends. I had to start calling people to share or find out what was going on. Though I knew this transition had taken a toll on me, I didn't realize how severe it was until a friend mentioned my home wasn't totally comfy because there was never any food. That hurt. But the truth was I hated grocery shopping for just one and avoided it. Then I accepted another reality: I didn't know how long I'd be residing alone, so I had to embrace it. Today, I'm really happy to say I enjoy living by myself -- that doesn't mean I won't jump ship at the first chance for change! Still, I've learned how to be grateful that God has given me time to figure out who I am without the input of others. I love coming home to a house the way I left it. I like not having to retreat to my bedroom for privacy. I am proud when I can invite my family members over to see my place. I will always be a fan of communal living, but I'm happily loving my community of one... and my full refrigerator is a testament. What are your thoughts on living alone vs. communal living?
Filed Under: Balancing Act
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