Things I've Learned Since Living Alone: The Hardships of Privilege

Thursday, September 09

By Ash Haslett Cuff

Homesick, starved for human interaction and constantly stressed about the perishables in my fridge, I have spent a week living on my own. Everyone loves a Listicle so I’m going to tell you the Top 5 Things I’ve Learned Since Living Alone. 

1. Happiness is fleeting. You must find distractions for yourself so that you forget how miserable you are for a little while. I tackle the tasks and things I need to do but ultimately they’re just distractions to fill the space until I can go back to sleep. I think nihilism is self centered so I can’t even turn to Nietzsche for comfort. If I manage to get out of bed in the morning I quickly realise that it was a mistake and wonder why I bothered in the first place.

Sometimes I think about my future. To be honest, I think I’ve got a pretty good future ahead of me, but sometimes it boils down to ‘so what?’ Where does it take me? What does it matter where it will take me? I’d love to live in Berlin or London or Oslo; I’d love to be featured in The New Yorker; I’d love to own a hairless cat called Faust, but really, what’s the point? The more I get what I want, the less satisfied I am. I longed for ages to have what I have now and getting it has just taught me that satisfaction is a myth in many regards and it seems like working towards what you want is more for the sake of working to get there, rather than actually getting there. 

 So it turns out life really is some sort of sick Sisyphean journey: you work hard and yet, even when you’re at your destination, you realise you’re still not happy so you’ve still got to work towards the next thing, telling yourself this time will be different. It never is.

2. You will probably be very lonely.  I don’t like people, don’t get me wrong, but being on my own is not much better. Normally I would be spending a lot of time with my boyfriend but he’s away for the long weekend so I had to come face to face with the fact I have very few friends left in the city. I know I’ll just have to swallow my misanthropy and make new friends but it’s an ugly prospect. People are overwhelmingly disappointing. Sometimes I speak to people and I can feel my brain cells committing seppuku one by one. I’m not saying I’m better than everyone else, I’m just saying everyone else is somehow worse.

3. Crying in your own apartment is the same as crying in your bedroom at home but there’s nobody to call you down for dinner so you’re not even forced to pull yourself together. I’m too self centered to kill myself (besides, I’d hate to deprive people of the delight of my company) but often I think it may be selfish not to kill myself and free up my apartment. Rent in Toronto is competitive and there’s surely someone who needs it more than I do.

I know it’s selfish to complain about how miserable I am. ‘Oh great,’ you think, ‘another middle class, heterosexual, White passing woman complaining about how hollow her perfect life is.’ I know I ought to just shut up and be thankful I’m not a woman in Iraq.

Moving out is an essential part of growing up. It’s new, it’s nerve wracking, but it’s also thrilling. So go and plot out your Pinterest boards, imagine the plants and polaroids you’ll put up in your apartment and tell yourself how much better life will be once you move away from your parents. But it was never your parents that were the problem, you’ll soon realise. It was you, you were the issue all along and, try as you might, you can’t move away from yourself. 

4. Spend as little time in your apartment as you can.  Yellow wallpaper or not, it is all too easy to feel yourself slipping into madness in the comfort of your own home. 

Like all self respecting writers I dislike exercise but I have to concede that a stroll after dinner is a lot more liberating than sitting on the edge of my bed, staring at the door and relistening to episodes of My Dad Wrote A Porno. 

5. Start smoking or doing yoga. I don’t have a yoga mat but I trust it works just as well to kill the monotony of urban living. 

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