When I started reading Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, a book about a woman who lives her life almost entirely alone, my housemates had not yet left Southampton for the Easter holidays. My life was packed full with opportunities for conversation, company and events. There was rarely a dull moment, and even more rare; a quiet one.
Having lived with at least 4 other people at any one time for the past 3 years, I’ve found that I like to fill the silence 80% of the time. In the lead up to them all leaving for a month, I was dreading swapping this habit out for spending 80% of my spare time alone and in the quiet.
So how do I feel 4 weeks down the line?
Well, for starters, I’ve finished Eleanor Oliphant and moved swiftly onto my next read: Everything I Know About Love by my latest girl crush, Dolly Alderton. I’ve also managed to keep the house just as tidy as when they left, get *really* into podcasts, catch up with friends and family I don’t live with, and exercise an awful lot more. I’ve made a start with my uni project for the year, gotten early nights almost every night, and woken up early to get gym out of the way so my evenings are entirely mine. I’ve organised and ran a charity bake sale at work, set out a budget for my upcoming trip to America and Canada, and gotten a little more involved with a book club I want to attend later this month.
The last four weeks of my life have flown by because I’ve used them as an excuse to be productive and selfish with my spare time, rather than using them as an excuse to feel sorry for myself and cut off all contact with the outside world. It has reinforced the idea, for me, that being alone and being lonely really isn’t the same thing. The more I experience periods of time living alone, travelling alone, just being alone, the more comfortable I become in my own company. I am realising slowly that I am enough and, shock horror, I don’t bore myself. The idea of being alone is a tough one to come to terms with as a young adult, constantly surrounded by friends and family, but throughout your life, there will be times where it must just be little old you, and it’s important to be okay with that, to make the most of it even!
Here are some ideas for making the most of the next time you’ve got some alone time:
Listen to a Podcast
If you like to avoid silence as much as I do, the absence of conversation can be painful, stretching time out as far as it will possibly go. Listening to podcasts can be a fun, interesting and sometimes educational alternative to blasting your favourite album on repeat until you hate it. My favourites have been Fearne Cotton’s Happy Place, Dolly Alderton’s Love Stories, Dolly Alderton (can you tell I’m on the hype?) and Pandora Sykes’ The High Low, and Oenone Forbat’s Adulting. There are so many more out there I want to sink my teeth into and can’t wait to try as many as possible on for size. My favourite times to listen are during my daily commute and at morning gym sessions when Beyonce might be just a little overbearing.
Look after a plant
Taking advice from my dear new friend Eleanor Oliphant, I have found comfort in looking after a living being that can’t leave you; a plant. I’ve had a green plant in my bedroom since summer, but wouldn’t say I really started looking after it until recently. I’ve been super lazy with my semi-parental responsibility for watering the poor soul since August, and when it threatened to die on me the same week that my awful friends ditched me for free food and home comforts I decided to re-calibrate and start being the responsible mother I know I can be (gentle reminder: to a PLANT). Having a green little photosynthesising buddy is great for the soul and adding a little reason to get out of bed in the morning.
Make an Unlikely Friend
Being agreeable creatures, we are known to make friends with people that we are similar to, but the most exciting friendships can often come from bonding with people we have a small amount in common with, hence the saying “opposites attract”. This month, I’ve made friends with a 55 year old PT who happens to arrive at the gym at the same time as me each morning. We have little more in common beyond our favoured time to work out but I’ve enjoyed getting to know him and having somebody to say hi to first thing every morning. Stepping out of your comfort zone and befriending someone from an entirely different walk of life is an exciting way to learn more about the world around you.
Read, Read, Read
Growing up, reading was my most beloved pastime. I would stay up as late as I possibly could (10pm, the same as my current bedtime) reading Harry Potter and animal-themed short stories in bed. Growing up I never fell out of love with reading, I more just bumped it down my list of priorities among school work, dance class and drinking in fields with my girlfriends and boys I fancied. This year I’ve decided to re-prioritise reading for fun and boy is the love deeper the second time round. It’s such a struggle to get my head out of a book lately and I have no apologies. Pick up a book next time you have some spare alone time and let yourself get lost in another world.
The weather’s getting warmer, the evenings longer, and the birds chirpier. So make the most of the extended daylight and celebrate new life by getting outside! We complain all year long that the weather is cold and wet and that England is dull and dark so take every chance that this country’s cursed weather gives you to go for a stroll, run or bike ride and maybe listen to your new favourite podcast on the way!