By Gwenn Voelckers
I have been living alone for over 25 years now. Twenty-five years! One might think I’ve become stuck in my ways, but, honestly, just the opposite has happened.
Being on my own has given me the freedom to live unencumbered, to change, to grow and to embrace lifelong learning.
The only thing I’m stuck on is living life to the fullest! And apparently, I’m not alone.
According to recent census data, singles make up almost 30% of US households. That suggests to me that more and more single, divorced and widowed men and women are making peace with living alone. Or better, they are having the time of their lives!
Here are 25 things I know about living alone:
1. Living alone doesn’t mean being alone. In fact, it may offer more opportunities to pursue friendships, find true love and spend time with family members.
2. Loneliness is not a “state of being” reserved for single people. Were you ever lonely while you were married?
3. Rediscovering your “authentic self” and identifying those things that bring meaning and joy into your life can turn living alone into a fulfilling adventure.
4. Accepting party invitations, even if it’s a party with mostly couples, is worth doing. It gets you out of the house. Couples often separate into groups of women and men, so singles blend right in.
5. The stereotyped image of single women and men as desperate and miserable are exaggerated and just plain untrue. Recent studies on the subject bear this out.
6. Doing a “random act of kindness” is a great antidote when you’re feeling sorry for yourself.
7. Friends matter. Reach out. Nurture your friendships. Honor your commitments.
8. Accepting a dinner invitation does not obligate you to anything. Take your time. Get to know your date before you embrace romance — literally.
9. Letting go of the idea that you need to be married to have any chance of being happy and fulfilled is essential. That idea will only keep you mired in self-pity.
10. Living alone can release your inner Martha Stewart. Do you have a craft project secretly lurking inside you? Set it free!
11. Treating yourself well builds esteem. Prepare and eat decent meals at home. Get enough sleep. Exercise. You’re worth it.
12. Getting out of your comfort zone is worth the discomfort. Try something new — dance lessons, pickleball, jewelry making, a book club, or community band. It’s a great way to expand your horizons and meet people.
13. Isolating on holiday, birthdays, Sundays, etc. is for the birds. Solitary confinement is punishment for criminals, not single people. Make plans.
14. Traveling solo is a journey toward self-discovery. Whether it’s Paris or Peoria, striking out on your own will enlarge your world and build self-confidence.
15. Comb your hair. Lose the sweat pants. Put a smile on your face. It’s important to create your own positive feedback. Looking good will draw people (and compliments) to you.
16. Self-confidence and humor are powerful aphrodisiacs. Neediness and desperation are not.
17. It’s all yours — the good, the bad, the chores, the bills. Living alone, just as being married, is not Shangri-La. It’s real life.
18. There’s no shame in asking for help. It’s not a show of weakness. On the contrary.
19. Doing anything alone means you enjoy life and your own company; it does not mean you are a loser.
20. Expanding your definition of love beyond “romantic love” will stand you in good stead. Embrace “passionate friendships” – those relationships in which you can be yourself and feel completely comfortable.
21. Hanging out with negative people is a real downer. Put yourself with people who make you feel good about yourself and about life.
22. Time alone can make you philosophical: If I vacuum in the buff and no one is watching, did it really happen?
23. Your dream house can be yours. Whether it’s a shoebox-sized apartment or cottage in the county, you can — at long last! — make your home your own.
24. Velveeta mac and cheese may be just what the doctor ordered. There’s no harm in occasionally indulging in your favorite comfort food and tear-jerker movie if it soothes your soul. “The Way We Were” is my elixir movie of choice.
25. Living alone and loving it takes practice. Know that there is always someone you can call or something you can do to improve your situation. A little prayer doesn’t hurt either.
Those of us who have learned to enjoy living along are not spending our time bemoaning our fate. We have overcome adversity and we are the stronger for it. We have taken our lives into our own hands and have embraced the choices and possibilities that living alone has to offer.
Here’s to the next 25 years!