When I moved into my first studio apartment in 2017, I got obsessed with the 1995 Jewel single “You Were Meant For Me.” In the song, Jewel has recently split with her lover and moved into her own apartment. She’s heartbroken, but she also digs having her own spot. She fries eggs and reads the paper and picks her wet towels up off the floor. I loved the details that she included in honoring the coziness of domestic ritual. Her song illustrated the comfort of being responsible only for oneself.
Living alone for the first time in my life, I quickly found the most obvious perks. I could sing along to Jewel as loud as I wanted. I could dance in my underwear. And I could play “You Were Meant For Me” over and over, long past the point where a roommate would have thrown my Bluetooth speaker out of a window.
“You were meant for me,” I sang to my 400-square-foot studio apartment. “And I was meant for you.”
I’ve lived solo for almost five years now (minus one summer between leases when I lived in someone’s dining room—I’d rather not talk about it). Living by myself is the most romantic thing I’ve ever done. It’s been a half-decade lesson in turning up for myself, day after day. I’ve learned a sort of inverse golden rule—how to treat myself the way I treat other people. That means I thank myself for making my bed and folding my laundry, and I don’t beat myself up too much if the dishes pile up in the sink.
I’m an extrovert. I get supercharged by a street fest, a comics convention, a crowded kitchen at a house party. Through most of my twenties, I bounced around town like Chicago was a pinball machine and I was the ball. I lived with my college roommate, and we filled the empty hours with tiki drinks and One Direction fan edits on YouTube. I never had any solitude—and I liked it that way.
Then my roomie moved across the country, and I could not bear the thought of learning to cohabitate with someone else. So I found my own spot. Some parts of studio living immediately appealed to me. I liked that everything belonged to me. The paint-by-number cats on the walls. The thrift store duds in the closet. Even the wads of hair on the shower floor—mine, mine, gloriously mine.
The longer I lived alone, the more I loved about spending time by myself. My jokes always landed. My impulses were always encouraged. My company was always appreciated.
Then the pandemic hit. Being the sole name on a lease came with an extra level of isolation. During certain stretches of the last two years, I have reverted to my most feral self. Unibrow untended, hair tangled and frizzy, sweatpants so filthy they could be studied in a lab. But I found that even in these moments of primal devolution, I liked the strange animal of myself, this little Neanderthal hunched over the fridge, eating Hormel chili straight out of the can at 11 PM.
Maybe the real perk of living alone is learning to treat every iteration of myself with kindness. When I feel energized and vibrant, I make art and cook elaborate breakfasts and take long walks. When I feel burnt out or gross, I can sit with myself the same way I’d sit with a friend who’s having a tough time. I can stare out the window or take naps or scroll TikTok until my brain oozes out of my ears, free of judgment. And when I need to, I can convince myself—gently, imploringly—to please shower and change your sweatpants, baby girl.
I’m not sure if I’ll always live alone, but I do know that this stretch will never be a waiting period or a consolation prize. Right now, it feels so luxurious to fully prioritize my needs, to own my full days. Maybe someday I’ll find someone worthy of cohabitating. And as I box up my things, I’ll also pack up the knowledge that I’ll always take care of myself. If I ever do decide to live with someone again, I know one thing for sure: they better like listening to Jewel.
Last fall, I moved into a new studio apartment with big windows and walls painted pale blue. My books sit on their shelves and my pothos grows over the door. I’m still figuring out where all my furniture fits. Not a bad distraction, this Tetris game of my home. But I’m finding, as I decide where my desk and couch and kitchen cart belong, that my life fits just right.
Every time I opened my closet, I saw the jumpsuit. Thick denim, dark blue, with a wide 70s-style lapel—beautiful, even on the hanger. Whenever I spotted it, my heart sank. Because it used to fit me, and now it didn’t. I know all bodies change, but I feel betrayed when mine does. Over 18 months…
During the loneliest stretches of pandemic isolation, when I spent ages eternal locked in my studio apartment eating canned chili and descending into my most feral state, I missed a lot of things. Thrift stores. Dinner parties. Riding the el. But the thing I missed with the most startling acuity, as if a vital organ…
Single people can celebrate February 14, too!