The joys of living alone
I’m living alone for the first time in my life. The happiness solo living has brought me so far is nothing short of a revelation.
One of the big reasons I left New York was because a lot of “normal” things—like having my own apartment (to rent; owning was certainly out of the question)—felt permanently out of reach. I was in my early 30s and had never lived alone. I could have, but no decent one-bedroom within a reasonable distance of Manhattan would have allowed me to stay in the recommended range of paying no more than 25% of my take-home pay on housing. The average rent in Manhattan is currently $3,377; Brooklyn: $2,785; my most recent Brooklyn neighborhood of Prospect-Lefferts Gardens: $2,088. Meanwhile, the rent average here in Austin is $1,431, meaning I can have my own place, fuss around with freelancing, and still have money left over for tacos and margaritas. (The low price of my bar tabs here continues to shock me.)
Living with a roommate (who was lovely!) my last four years in New York while I did have well-paying media jobs made it possible for me to save, which made much of the last year of rest and travel possible for me, so I’m grateful and have no regrets. But I knew that when I got to my next city, I’d never have a roommate again. It would be Minerva and me against the world.
In early April, I landed my perfect, tiny summer sublet here on the East Side of Austin. It’s a seven-minute drive from downtown, a 10-minute walk to Lady Bird Lake, blocks from barbecue, bars, grocery stores, ice cream, bike shops. None of the furniture here is mine, so I set about marking my territory in small but important ways. My oil diffuser is always going, and my Mystic Mondays tarot deck and crystals protect me while I sleep. The 10 or so books I brought for summer reading are on display. I buy fresh flowers from Trader Joe’s weekly, letting lilies and peonies add some grandeur to the living room. Classical music fills the house every morning, Will & Grace is often on the television, and the fruit bowl is filled with Granny Smiths and nectarines. The couch is 60% covered with large sticky sheets so Minerva won’t ruin it with her claws. (There are no doors in this place, so Minerva terrorizes me at night, doing endless laps on my body like I’m her personal racetrack, and there’s nothing I can do but simply tolerate it.)
When I arrived the fridge was bare besides a water filter, some condiments, and four canned gin drinks with a Post-it note that read “Welcome home!” Now the fridge is filled with all of my favorite foods. There’s green grapes and yogurt and chia in oat milk and all the fixings for a quick lunch salad and cheese and salami and tzatziki dip and lots of iced coffee and tons of flavored seltzer. I get to eat the perfectly ripe avocado. I stocked up on many packs of TJ’s watermelon soda because I know it will be gone for the season soon—it’s hidden in several pockets of the tiny kitchen. No one will drink them except for me! No one will eat the leftovers I was saving! I’ll never open the fridge and groan to discover someone ate the last popsicle! After I eat, the dirty dishes in the sink are only mine, and I can clean them up whenever I want! Mine mine MINE.
Back in Vegas, I got Minerva microchipped and up to date on her shots so she could be more of an outdoor cat, now that we finally live in a place that’s safer for her to explore. We have a lovely patio outside the front door, packed with mint, rosemary and thriving succulents, one that’s blooming like this:
Minerva goes in and out at her leisure when I have the front door propped open, but she stays close; she only steps beyond the borders of the backyard when I’m with her. My four-year-old neighbor can’t get enough of how closely Minerva follows me around. One day Minerva came home with her back half soaked; I’ll never know what misadventure she got into. The other night it was getting late and I wanted to go to bed, so I stuck my head out on the patio; I saw her eyes gleaming at me in the dark from the far end of the backyard. “Minerva, come in!” I said. She meowed and ran straight home.
I’m grateful for the six months I got to spend living with my parents in Las Vegas, but that time was also highly challenging. I lost a lot of myself while trying to be a good guest in someone else’s home, stepping into a caretaker role, never seeing any friends because I didn’t have any, endlessly job hunting and interviewing with nothing ever quite working out. By April I was languishing hard, and mentally struggling.
Within a month of being in Austin, all that has changed. I am so happy to be here, and so happy to be here alone. I said to a friend this week “I feel like a person again.” My mental health has dramatically improved; I’m no longer battling constant negative thought spirals; some important puzzle pieces for my freelance life have finally come together.
I’ve been having so much fun catching up with old friends and making new ones. I spend so much time alone during the day now that I have a lot of energy to meet friends for coffee, walks, drinks, a dip at Barton Springs. You’ll find me in swimming holes all summer long. I’m vaccinated in a new city after a worldwide hell year, and I’m saying yes to everything. I met two strangers at the bar Saturday night then went with them to Coconut Club downtown and danced till 3am; I left drenched in sweat. Like Betty Who once said, I’m feelin’ like the old me.
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