As a third-year student, I feel like I should have this whole “university lifestyle” thing figured out. This year, however, I am living on my own for the very first time and at times feel as lost as I did in my first. I am someone who needs personal space and who takes great pleasure in spending time by myself, so conceptually, living alone sounded appealing to me. After a year of living with my entire family and being constantly around people, I could not wait to once again “leave the nest” and move into a studio apartment.
When I arrived in Montreal for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began, I wasted no time reuniting with old friends and fully embracing the freedom I missed so much. But I quickly came to the stark realization that I was now facing life alone. Although many people think of living alone as a luxurious experience, I noticed right away that I was more anxious than I had been in a long time. A simple trip to the bank by myself sent me into a panic. And while it was amazing to see friends again, I did not anticipate the amount of time that I would spend by myself. Even though McGill has returned to primarily in-person teaching, I somehow only have one in-person class. This makes meeting new people more difficult and magnifies loneliness and solitude. One positive that has come with all of this unexpected “me-time” is the significant strides I have made in improving my self-image and self-confidence. It is no fun to live with a roommate who hates you, and that still holds true when you are your own roommate. As I learn to do a lot of things by myself for the first time, it is an important reminder to go easy on myself when I inevitably make mistakes.
One thing I initially failed miserably at was cooking. After living in residence in my first year and then spending a year at home with my parents, I never really learned to cook. And while I spent the first week living alone mostly eating out, I eventually decided I had to at least start preparing my own breakfast. In making this one meal alone, I set off the smoke alarm in my apartment and gave myself food poisoning. After this experience, I thought for sure that I would be taking full advantage of my roll-over meal plan money for the remainder of the semester. However, there is no better way to learn than being thrown into the deep-end, no matter how intimidating it may be. I can now proudly say that I have learned to cook numerous different meals with the help of internet recipes and my parents over Zoom.
Despite all of these growing pains, there are some significant upsides to living alone. I can design my place to fit my needs and my needs only. I do not have to share my space with anyone else and therefore can set it up in a way that suits me. I feel more comfortable spreading my things around the apartment and listening to my own music without headphones. I also do things at my leisure––I no longer have to work within the schedule of other roommates or family members. But I also learned to appreciate the relationships I have with my friends and family.
Because I am no longer constantly surrounded by family members or roommates, I actually have the opportunity to miss them. I am able to choose exactly who I want to spend my time with, which makes the moments I do spend with friends and family all the more meaningful.
Spending countless hours alone can be extremely lonely and anxiety-provoking, but it can also help with self-discovery and self-love. The world is a daunting and scary place, but I am slowly learning how to conquer it all on my own.