The Other Side of Solo Living

After almost a year living alone, I still feel like I’m finding my own way around out in the world. The novel freedom to do whatever I like, whenever I like and decorate the way I always wanted to has given way to a general feeling of blah. I’m sure the television’s demise has added to the feeling that it’s always silent and lonely. The crippling heat of August means less outdoor fun and everyone is starting to have that weary, melted look. My tiny living room has become a bit cell-like, with all the nights I spend on the couch to sleep in front of the air conditioner, followed by days on the couch writing, reading, and filling the void with Hulu tv on my laptop.

To make a long story short, I’m lonely. I work virtually at a borrowed office with no co-workers nearby. Then I come home to my perfectly lovely, but quiet, house. Sometimes I worry that all the silence is making me a little weird and overenthusiastic when I’m out with people- a little too gushy, too chatty. BC, an expert in the art of living alone, describes it as the fine line between Thoreau and Emily Dickinson. And there are moments when I start to think that my little independence project is starting to look a little kooky.

Pittsburgh, which I love, can also be a notoriously hard town to make friends in. Most of my friends have large social circles built up over years of Catholic school and co-workers, longtime neighbors and large nearby extended family. Through the coupled years, I relied on the ex’s vast cohort of friends, family and acquaintances for a built-in gang, but now that we are done, I enjoy running into them out on the town, but don’t feel right crossing the line into making actual plans with them. It took me so long to get untangled from the ex in the first place, that I don’t want to risk getting back into that twisted web.

So, I’ve tried all those corny suggestions for how to make friends- taking a class here and there, volunteering and joining my alumni board, taking myself on “artist dates” and going out alone at night and being open to meeting new people. These things take time. I get it. But, some days, I admit, the loneliness feels like more than I can bear. It’s not the kind of loneliness that getting back into the dating game could fix. It’s the heat-based equivalent of being snowed in for the blizzard in February.

Two weeks ago, I went to a work conference in Denver and for five days I had co-workers to meet for breakfast and happy hour every day. We blabbed into the night, watched baseball, laughed while we were evacuated for a fire drill at midnight. It made me think that maybe I need to start looking for something more interactive to do for a living. My job is fine, but after two years living by email and conference call, I’m missing face-time with actual living breathing humans.

Vacation with BC helped. Five days of being un-alone was exactly the vacation I needed. My job isn’t particularly stressful most days, and I didn’t need to get unwound from my (almost too) peaceful house. I just needed a vacation from silence and flying solo. I needed to get away from feeling trapped in my house, in my skin. So I walked around in the woods, lounged on the beach, ate good seafood, and talked until I ran out of things to talk about. I narrated entire episodes of Jersey Shore on the hotel tv. I made up stories about strangers sitting across from us at the bar.

But now I’m back to my new normal- lonely, with a big empty social calendar and a very quiet phone. I need to figure out how to do this better, before I make myself entirely miserable. I watch the much-linked Tanya Davis “How to Be Alone” poem on YouTube. I remind myself of one of my favorite quotes: “I used to believe that anything was better than nothing. Now I know that sometimes nothing is better.” (Glenda Jackson).  I’m just learning how to live with the nothing more comfortably. And apparently, I’m a slow learner.



Filed under Daily Life, Friends, Pittsburgh, Relationships, Soul Searching, Travel, Working for a Living

15 responses to “The Other Side of Solo Living

  1. Despite living alone, I don’t relate to you (but I’m an introvert) though I do get lonely for friends. However, I very much do feel for you. Could you work some days from a coffee shop? Then you’d be around people. You’re bookish – could you put an ad on CL to start a book club?

    • Thanks Green. I used to think I was an introvert too, until recently. Now I feel like I’m on solitary confinement. Even if work won’t let me head out to the coffee shop, I do think I’ll start dragging the laptop there in the evenings and on weekends to write. I’ll try anything. 🙂

  2. I feel for your existential angst. Lonliness is everything that it is cracked up to be. I concur with working out of a coffee shop or restaurant. Speak to people, start up conversations. Ask them questions about themselves.

    Start dating again, reach out, get on some dating sites. The lonliness can drive you nuts when you spend too much time alone.

    Blessings on you and yours
    John Wilder

  3. By the way, get a dog, it helps a lot.
    John Wilder

    • Kate

      I agree about the dog. Or at least it worked for me. Not only does mine serve as a “roommate,” but she forces me to get out of the house because she needs to get walked. And people with dogs talk to other people with dogs, so it’s kind of like a friend-maker. The pros make up for the taking-her-for-a-walk-when-it’s-late-and-freezing factor.

      • Thanks Kate and John. Unfortunately, I’m not much of a dog person and I travel two weeks out of the month for work, so I’d be a pretty bad pet parent. Maybe I can get a Furby?

  4. It seems like you’re aware of where you’ve come from, where you are, and where you want to be. Being aware is important, even if you’re feeling lonely right now.

    I hope your loneliness is a temporary state. Some of us feel lonely even when surrounded by people. Keep trying new things, and maybe it will get even easier.

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  6. Isn’t it funny the way that happens?

    After having lived with my partner and 2 others for 5 years now (minus the partner part, he’s only been here for 2) in a 3-bedroom apartment, I am so, so ready to have a place that is actually my own. I yearn for a time when I don’t have to be responsible to or for anyone else’s things, where the space is mine, and the stuff is mine, and I’m the one who’s breaking it, not anyone else (at least until kids are involved). But, at the same time, your post has reminded me that I, being someone who really enjoys the company of others, know that eventually I would come to the place where the loneliness would set in, and it would set in hard. Right now, for instance, my partner is in Pittsburgh (he grew up there), one roommate has been away all summer, and the other works very long hours, and I’m wracking my brain for something to do.

    This whole being alone thing really is two-faced.

    • When I was with my ex in the midst of all the drama, all I wanted was to be left alone. At least I can laugh at how the universe gives you exactly what you ask for. I’m hoping it’s just a cycle and soon I’ll be dying for “alone time” again.

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  8. “Pittsburgh, which I love, can also be a notoriously hard town to make friends in.”

    I disagree.

    Embrace Twitter.

    My very best and very closest friendships are local people who I’ve met through Twitter. We stick together. Come out to at TweetUp, you’ll see. 🙂

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