I am most definitely on the extreme side of the extroversion scale. I once read that the true difference between introverts and extroverts is that extroverts (generally) gain energy from being around others, while introverts tend to feel drained by being around others. This makes perfect sense to me, because I have always felt that being around other human beings fuels me like a Red Bull and an ice cold shower. I purposely pack my calendar full of dinners, brunches, and coffee catchups with friends because spending time with people I admire gives me a deeper sense of connection and belonging. Despite being a proud fan of the coveted ‘Duvet Day,’ I find that I end up hating the way my throat feels after an entire day of not talking to another human being. (Before you accuse me of loving the sound of my own voice – of course I do. I have a podcast.)
With all of that being said, it will probably come as a surprise that I have lived entirely by myself for the past two years, have loved every goddamn minute of it, and genuinely believe that every extrovert should live on their own at some point if given the opportunity. By the time I moved into my tiny one bed flat in Battersea, I had lived in boarding school dorms, college dorms, a Chicago apartment with the Rachel to my Monica, and a flatshare in North London with a couple who turned into lifelong friends. I feel like I have earned the right to say that I’ve seen it all. I’ve woken up at 2AM to the smoke alarms after my college flatmate and I fell asleep with a pizza in the oven. I’ve begged my high school roommates to keep guard while I snuck a boy into my dorm. I’ve even had to ask a randomly allocated college dorm mate to please stop blogging about my private phone conversations with my mom (God, college is a weird place).
When I packed up my bedroom in my North London flatshare and ventured south of the river, I was so ready to start my solo journey that it didn’t faze me when friends and coworkers asked, ‘But won’t you get lonely? Don’t you want people to talk to in the evenings? Won’t you get bored?’ In fact, I only felt apprehension twice when moving into my own place: once when I saw my credit card bill after buying all of the essentials you need to live on your own (living solo is obscenely expensive) and once when I watched the episode of Sex and the City where Miranda has to give herself the Heimlich Maneuver using the corner of her countertop because she starts to choke and has no one to help her. Besides these two crises, once I lugged all of my stuff into my tiny Victorian conversion flat I never really looked back. I knew that living entirely by myself was an opportunity I never had before, and an opportunity that might not come again, so I grabbed it.
I think a common misconception about extroverts is that we always want to be around people. While I do agree with the idea that extroverts obtain energy from socializing, we are still human beings. I get stressed and tired and moody and hungover just as much (read: probably more) than any other person, and in these moments there is nothing I love more than to cancel all of my plans and completely isolate myself from society. You see, this is exactly why living alone is so beneficial for hyper extroverts like me. I love nothing more than to socialize all day and every day, but I only like to do so when I am bringing my best self. Living alone has allowed me to choose exactly when I want to be my normal, extremely extroverted self, and when I just want the world to sod off. When I’ve had a long, crappy day at work, I can come home and fester in solitude without having to subject anyone else to my less than desirable mood. Living solo has given me the ability to fully ‘switch off’ and bring a better version of myself to work in the morning.
I’ve started to refer to this period of my life as the Bridget Jones Years because to me that’s exactly what it has been. It has been a massive period of growth where I have somehow simultaneously managed to learn how to take care of myself, but also come home from a night out at 4AM, accidentally spending £30 on a drunk takeaway that I won’t even be awake to collect. I’ve learned how to manage the 70 bills a month associated with renting in London, broken boilers, and passive aggressive neighbors. I’ve left dirty dishes in the sink after a long day because the only person who can be annoyed with me tomorrow is me, and I’m generally fairly forgiving. My flat has been my sanctuary for home cooked meals on a Tuesday night, for crying on the phone to my mom on a Sunday afternoon, and for not having to explain to anyone who the overnight guest was on a Saturday morning.
I don’t ever remember anyone telling me that the ages of 23-25 are particularly formative, but to me I think they might have been the most pivotal in my life thus far. As I sit in what remains of my Bridget Jones flat in Battersea, I find myself reflecting on the past two years with the sort of clarity that only comes with hindsight. I’m sure it won’t be long until I am feeling nostalgic for this period of my life, but I am fortunate enough to have found someone whom I prefer to be with far more than I enjoy being alone. I haven’t thought of a clever name for the period I am entering, and I find the term ‘cohabiting’ incredibly cringe worthy. All I know is that I’m as excited, if not more, for this journey than I was for the last… and at least now I will have someone to give me the Heimlich.