The Priviledge of Living Alone

Written By: Erin Bach

Recently, I watched a movie on Netflix called “My Happy Family,” a foreign film about a 52-year-old woman living in a multi-generational household who decides to leave and live alone. Scenes of her cooking, opening the window, and basking in the silence or sound of the wind hit home for me.

Before meeting my husband, I lived alone for about two years, and that period of my life came to be truly transformational for me. Prior to living alone, I’d always lived with family, roommates or a significant other, so having the time and space to just sit with myself in a space I created was very healing.

As I was telling my husband about the movie and how I feel like everyone should live alone at least once in their life, I realized how few people I knew who had actually lived by themselves. I couldn’t even think of a handful. Then the obvious fact hit me: living alone is a privilege.

In order to live alone, you need to have the financial security to be able to afford rent by yourself. At the time, I was in my late twenties and had a career as a high school English teacher. Should I have been paying nearly 50% of my income on my adorable LA apartment? Probably not, but I made it work (and I’m happy I did).

Also, you need to be able to be alone. My husband (who has never lived alone) didn’t really understand the appeal of it and felt like his experience with roommates was perfect for him, that he didn’t need to have the whole apartment to himself. That may be so, but there is still part of me that feels like it’s the people who don’t want to live alone who might benefit from it the most.

So, why am I telling you this? First, if you currently live alone and are feeling blah about it, please perk up! This experience could be revolutionary for you if you lean into it instead of rail against it. Light candles, cook yourself yummy meals, use your time to connect with yourself instead of defaulting to feeling bored or lonely.

If you don’t live alone but feel like you’d benefit from it, evaluate your options. If you’re single and employed, maybe now is the time to take the plunge. If you’re married, have kids, or have other responsibilities, don’t lament your lack of solitude. Be grateful for the people in your life, and then from that place of gratitude, try to carve out some time and space for yourself (maybe early in the morning or after others have gone to bed).

If you’re reading this and think that you’re glad you’ve never lived alone, I ask you to unpack that reaction. Why do you feel that living with others is the only option for you? There may be some limiting beliefs or some fear about being alone with yourself that you may benefit from looking at deeper.

Wherever you’re at, see the privilege and the promise in your situation and take steps to make your space (alone or shared) serve you in the ways you need.