What I’ve Learned By Living Alone

I was 19, maybe 20, the first time I considered living alone. It was right after I joined the Army, during basic training when I was living in a bay with 49 other women, doing what the Army told me to do all day, every day. I was somewhere in the middle of those nine weeks, somewhere past the initial misery and not quite to the point where I’d knew I’d make it to the end.

I remember laying in bed listening to the sounds of those other women falling asleep one night and thinking how nice it would be if I was on my own, in a space that belonged only to me. I was on a top bunk, sleeping with my hair in a bun to save myself precious minutes in the morning and all I wanted in that moment was to live alone and have five more minutes to eat my breakfast.

Life happened when I got back and instead of trying to live on my own I embarked on a series of living arrangements with other people. After my first deployment, I got married and then bought a house the year after that and the whole living alone thing was forgotten.

Four years into my marriage, my then-husband went to flight school in Alabama while I stayed in Virginia. I was nervous when he left, unsure that I could handle the house and the pets on my own, but he still helped out financially, so it wasn’t like I was totally on my own.

But then he had an affair (with a woman named Tara, I shit you not), we got a divorce and suddenly I was, for real, on my own.

Years have passed since then and while the adjustment was hard, living alone has been an incredible experience. It has taught me the difference between solitude and loneliness, the value of spending quality time alone, and that I am capable of running my own life independently, which is maybe the best lesson I’ve ever learned.

Lessons on Living Alone || TERRAGOES.COM


1. Eventually, it stops being scary. 

In the beginning, I was scared of the dark. When it was time for bed, I’d run through the darkened downstairs of my house, hurrying especially past the windows and scampering my way upstairs, as if it provided some sort of refuge. I hated walking past the front door and the windows that frame it and the sounds of my 90-year-old house settling in for the night prickled me with fear. If Sadie or Luke, the dogs, perked their ears at errant street noise, I’d worry.

It went on like that for a while until one day I realized I wasn’t scared anymore. I had stopped running past the windows, had stopped turning on all the lights when I needed a midnight glass of water from my kitchen. I stopped sending the dogs downstairs ahead of me to suss out any danger that might be lurking in my living room and suddenly, I just wasn’t scared anymore.

2. I’m a weirdo. 

You get to know yourself real, real well when you live alone. I always knew I was sort of weird, but living alone has confirmed it. I just licked the spoon I used to stir together my latest batch of bread, nibbling tiny bits of bread dough off of it. I talk to the dogs all the damn time and I write on my mirrors with dry erase markers when I need a prominently-placed to-do list or when a few glasses of wine has made me feel creative enough to want to write on the walls.

I eat snacks, mostly, bits of cheese, a handful of crackers, leftover noodles straight from the fridge, eaten with my fingers because utensils aren’t necessary if there’s no one to see you treating Tuesday’s leftovers as finger food.

3. I’m ok.

Living alone seemed impossible in the beginning. Financially and emotionally and sometimes physically it seemed daunting and scary and I didn’t know how I would manage it. But I did. And I do.

Yes, there are dishes in my sink right now, and there’s flour on the floor from my bread baking adventure and there’s definitely laundry on my bed that I should put away, but all my bills are paid, we’re all well-fed, me and the wolves and the evil cat, and really, everything is fine because I took care of it.

4. Solitude and loneliness are different. 

I am a solitary creature, an introvert.

When I first started living alone, I worried I would be lonely, and, in the interest of honesty, sometimes I am. But mostly I’m not. I am often alone but I have learned that being alone and being lonely are two very different things. Turns out, I really like being alone, not all the time, but I’ve become pretty comfortable with being alone a lot of the time. It’s part of the reason I went on my first solo trip last year and living alone has encouraged me to see and do and experience things by myself that I don’t think I ever would have attempted had I not learned how to be alone in the first place.

5. Solo living makes me a better me. 

Living alone allows me to allocate more time to the things that make me a better me. It means I get my runs in on time, that I write more and read more and that sometimes when I have a really bad day I can turn the volume up to 11 and play sad songs and sing and write and drink too much whiskey. That’s not a thing I’m able to do when someone else is around and as crazy as it sounds, sometimes I just really need to drink too much whiskey and sing sad songs in my dining room.

Maybe it sounds selfish, but solo living means I can take care of myself in the best ways, ways that have gotten pushed aside when I’ve lived with other people. I’ve never been good at balancing the things I want and need to do to take care of myself with the things a partner wants and needs from me, and, to be completely honest, sometimes it’s just nice to come home at the end of a day and not be needed by anyone for any reason.

Lessons on Living Alone || TERRAGOES.COM

It’s weird how things work out, I guess. Living alone seemed so, so scary in the beginning and now I love it. I have settled into it. I’m sure there will be a point in my future when I live with someone else, but for now, I’m going to keep enjoying the weird independence I have created for myself.


  • abby

    YES. Even though I am currently living with my manfriend, living alone (or also alone, but with roommates) taught me so much about self-sufficiency and what I want / need out of a living arrangement. It also allowed me to live without fear of judgment and taught me how to better “own” things about myself and “allocate more time to the things that make me a better me.” I understand myself better.

    • terrabear

      Yes, yes, yes to owning your shit. I feel like living alone taught me what shit of mine I should own, if that makes sense, in that it taught me who I am and also who I would like to be.

  • Kristin @ Camels & Chocolate

    No joke, I’d never stayed alone in our house before until last summer when Scott went to visit his family for 10 days. I planned to stay that entire time with my mom—let me caveat this by saying we live in a commercial district with zero neighbors, so it becomes a ghost town at night, and have 66 highly exposed windows; plus, had two attempted car break-ins in our backyard—but after the first night of realizing I COULD hack it, I damn well enjoyed those next 9 and never did actually go to my mom’s house. Now, I like when he goes out of town for a weekend or so, as it is really nice to have that alone time! I’m not a solitary creature, but apparently that time alone is good for the soul.

    • terrabear

      I totally get that. When I was married, the first few times he went out of town for a night or two were scary and strange, but after the first few times, I started to really enjoy the time alone. I think it’s good for everyone, introvert of extrovert, to spend a bit of time alone every now and then. It’s refreshing.

      Also, proud of you for hacking it out for the whole ten days, lady!

  • megan

    1) living alone is the best.
    2) i recognize that place in your last photo 🙂
    3) the good news is that when we’re old and doing the golden girls/grace & frankie thing, you won’t have to stop doing any of the weird shit you currently do, you’ll just have to accept that you might not always be doing all that weird shit alone. especially the “drinking too much whiskey and singing sad songs” part. or the “writing on the walls” part. <3

    • terrabear

      I really need to watch Grace & Frankie. I need to get on that shit. After I finish The Crown, maybe. Because I’m obsessed with it.

      And I like drinking too much whiskey and singing sad songs with you. It’s what my dining room was made for.

  • Kate

    I love living with my husband, but man, I LOVED living alone. He has some solo trips planned this year, & when he first asked if that was OK, I was like, “Um, yes, bye.” Cohabiting with someone you love is wonderful, but that alone time… I’ve gotta say, I love it.

    • terrabear

      Yes! And then when he’s gone all your secret single behavior comes out and it’s wonderful. It’s like a whole other life.

  • Anita

    I think this is why I idealize solo trips so much, I’ve never lived alone. It’s always been with housemates (though we lived separate lives) and now a boyfriend. When you’re alone, you have no choice (maybe slowly but eventually) but to face the things that scare you physically and emotionally. And like you said, focusing on yourself and taking care of yourself is the best.

    • terrabear

      Taking my first solo trip, even after living alone for years, was such a game-changer for me. The freedom to make my own choices and do whatever I wanted when I wanted, even if that meant getting into bed at 9:30 or taking a nap in the middle of the day or waking up before the sun to hike, was amazing.

  • Kelsey @ So Much Life

    You have a fascinating story! I wish we lived in the same city so I could sit down for coffee with you and chat!

    I’ve never lived alone….I’ve only had my own bedroom for about 5 years of my life (growing up with lots of siblings, then college years, and now married, but there were a couple years of apartment life when I at least had my own bedroom.) I’m SUPER introverted, so it’s a little surprising I’ve never lived alone. I think I might thrive, but reading that it was initially kinda scary makes me think I might feel the same. Ha! I don’t even know! I’m 27, and since I’m happily married I truly hope I won’t have to ever live alone! But I can see how it would be really nice. 🙂

    • terrabear

      If I ever come to Austin we’re definitely getting coffee!

      Also, when I was married and my husband had to travel, it was sort of nice to have that time without him to just be. I’d miss him, sure, but the chance to be totally alone was also really nice.

  • San

    I envy you. Not of what you’ve been through (relationship-wise), but for having embraced being by yourself, living by yourself, traveling by yourself.

    I never had the opportunity to live alone, but I think I would have really, really liked it. I like having my own space, my own time, doing things on my own terms. Although I love living with J, he’s never gone (literally never) and I sometimes wish I had the house to myself just for a few hours.

  • Stephany

    Loved this line: “…to be completely honest, sometimes it’s just nice to come home at the end of a day and not be needed by anyone for any reason.” YES. I think that’s something I love the most about living on my own. I can come home and not have to worry about anyone else. I can just do what I want to do. Living alone is honestly my favorite and I love it so damn much that I’m not sure how I’m going to ever live with someone else again, ha.

  • Kelly

    I love living alone. I love not having to worry about other people or being weird or being gross or being sleepy and just wanting to go straight to my bed to take a nap. I suppose if I didn’t live alone, maybe my apartment would be less messy, but even so, it’s MY mess, and it annoys only me. (Maybe my cat, I don’t know. She seems indifferent.) I honestly think I would have a hard time living with another person again after living on my own for 10+ years.

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