I spent yesterday evening with my sister, and it was the first time she'd been to my new apartment. She loves the place, and is so excited for me because it's the first time I am living completely alone. We started to discuss the feeling this experience brings, and both of us were having trouble putting our fingers on it. I saw this as a challenge, and possibly a great blog topic...
The immediate gratification is obvious: walking around in my underwear, singing at the top of my lungs, eating and drinking out of containers, doing or not doing dishes and not making the bed are all options that will only piss off one person: me. This place only gets as messy as I let it, and if it does, it's my mess, so I don't care. No one that requires conversation in the morning, things are always in their place, food lasts as long as I let it, I never have to watch a football or baseball game... the list goes on and on.
But there's an underlying, elusive feeling that seems to magnify the longer I live here. The afore-mentioned pros lose their luster after a while, but there's a sense of adulthood, complete and total independence that seems to be gaining momentum. I've been married, I owned a house, I've paid my own bills, been in debt, etc. But for some reason, this experience feels more real than all of that combined. When my ex-husband and I bought our house, we had a lot of financial and emotional backing from our parents. Although we no longer lived with them, they were still very much a part of all the discussions regarding decisions we had to make. We were new homeowners. They had owned their homes for decades. So, in a sense, the training wheels were still on. We also had each other to bounce things off of, to decide how to handle things.
Now it's just me. Not that I don't have the emotional support of my parents and family, but I have a tenacious need to handle everything on my own. It's an honor and an obligation to myself. As exciting as it is to be on my own, it's also scary at times. When you only have yourself to answer to, there are times when that's even harder than justifying your actions and decisions to someone else. My money will last (or not) for as long as I allow it to. When you have someone else in your life, it's easy for the two of you to justify something like poor spending decisions. If I save my money, I feel that sense of pride by myself. If I stretch myself to the point where I have to make $10 last three days, I am alone in that stress.
I hold myself to higher standards of living than I did before. I also had to fight against the slobbery of my ex, and the battles over that made it harder. But here, it's just me, and only I can uphold my expectations. These extend beyond cleanliness. I strive to live a healthy life. I buy healthy food, I go to bed at a reasonable hour. I try to spend less time in front of the television. Each and every day, the decisions I make are solely about me and what I want. So, perhaps it is not just freedom and independence, but a justified and healthy dose of selfishness.
**Constructive Compulsion has a new home at Disturb the Universe. Please come by and visit!