Alone Not Lonely...

By Lucy Harbron - 21:22

In Summer I looked to this flat as a goal, a light at the end of a dark tunnel. I desperately wanted to be well enough to thrive here, to make it a home and feel it so, for the first time in this city.

After a timeline of heartbreaks and tough times, Sheffield felt like a ghost town for me. I love this city, I'd be the first to advocate for its spirit and life, the creative blood that runs through it, and the communities its built through art and music. There is so much life here, but it felt dead for me. I thought I was done with it. And some places I am, I don't go to certain bars or parts of town, far too haunted to enjoy my pint. But this flat, I remind myself daily, is mine, it's new, reborn with me.

While living alone was daunting, coming into this flat with no one but my own company feels so right. I said in summer I wanted to live happily and radically alone, actively working on myself, and being selective of the energy I allowed through my door. And so far I think radical is the way to describe it, fluctuating from extreme highs to extreme lows, forcing me to confront and comfort myself far more than I knew I could.

At first, I filled it; I had friends round constantly, always the hostess, always busy. It took me about two weeks to realise that I was delaying the inevitable. I needed to freak out a little, it had to hit me that I was alone so I could start to learn to love it. Also, having friends round a lot just means you go through coffee and milk at an alarming rate.

My freak out came at around week three. In the excitement of freshers week and reunions, I hadn't even finished unpacking and settling in, my decoration still wasn't how I wanted it, it still didn't feel quite like a home. I turned down a night out and cried, home alone, for the first time. Being alone is terrifying, I don't know if we ever grow out of that feeling, flinching when you hear an unknown sound and always being a little bit scared of the dark. I definitely have days where I freak out a bit walking into my dark flat alone, or when I literally speak to no one else and go a bit stir-crazy.

It's not the kind of alone I imagined. I don't feel isolated at all, my best friend lives around the corner, and I go out more than I have any other year. I feel more involved and active than ever, and it's nice to have the space to offer up to others for meals, or pre-drinks, or even sleepovers when friends come to visit. We can lounge about on my sofas and not have to be sitting on top of each other when we watch a film or all sit around an actual table to have a meal, rare situations at university let me tell you. It's more of an internal sadness, the lingering insecurity that I'm 'doing uni wrong' by opting for solo living, or for sometimes turning down a night out to tidy my flat and do a facemask instead.
I have nights were I'm here alone, talking to no one, texting no one, bored out of my mind because I have no one else to rely on for entertainment, or to make me happy. That's the biggest thing. No one else is here to make me happy, no one is at my beck and call, I have no choice but to get on with myself.

My flat is now exactly how I want it. It's the haven of pink and feminism and pom-poms that I imagined it would be in summer. I've learned exactly what things and surroundings make me feel calm; each night I light my candles, turn on my fairy nights, and cuddle up to a hot water bottle with some tea, and each morning I open my curtains and put music on my speaker while I make my coffee. But the internal things take time. I'm slowly working on my issues with reliance, finally confronting them and learning to love my own company. I'm starting to feel it. I get giddy at the thought of my evenings, having complete freedom to pamper myself, do whatever I want, listen to whatever I want. No one can interrupt my flow, or dictate any of my choices, I can be completely and unapologetically selfish with no worries. Each time I take a 20-minute shower and perform a flawless one-woman show of Hamilton, I realise that I'm living in bliss.

It's all ups and downs. If I'm already low, it can be hell. Living alone in a creaky old flat and having anxiety is a challenge, and if my depression is playing up, the temptation to isolate myself from everyone and everything is tricky, but that's the point! It was always going to be difficult, I hoped it would be. I wanted these walls to test me, force me to work on issues that are too easily ignored or forgotten with company. I've had to step up for myself, learn how to calm myself, take my security and safety into my own hands completely, look after myself fully. My self-care has had to step up to full self-protection, preservation, love. I know myself now better than I ever have. Me and my mind spend a lot of time together, and I'm starting to think she's pretty great, she cracks me up daily at least.

They say you're all you'll ever have, you have to love yourself first blah blah, well living alone is a crash course in that, and I'm finally feeling like I can keep up.

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