23 March 2012 Life

Me, myself, and I

I got a library card the other day. I’m part of something communal, something larger than myself. I borrowed a book. A fiction book. I haven’t read fiction in ages, haven’t lost myself in a good story since God knows when. Over the Christmas break, I brushed up on my Rousseau - enlightening, but not necessarily light reading. So it felt good to read for the simple pleasure of watching words come alive.

More than the joy of reading, I felt good walking into the library and choosing the book in the first place. I belong here. I have a library card, I’m part of the club.

Being part of the club is important when you’re lonely. We’re all lonely in a way, but the feeling intensifies when you live by yourself.

For all the downsides to having roommates - labeling your food, coordinating shower times, splitting the utility bills - there’s still that tenuous bond that comes with cohabitation.

I’ve tried to fill that lack of community in different ways. Playing at open mics and hanging about in a few of my favourite coffeeshops helps to quell the loneliness for a time. Sometimes I’ll get cabin fever and spring from my desk chair as if from live coals, and head over to Baltimore House for a pot of Earl Grey tea with that slice of lemon they put in it.

Other times I’ll go for a walk in an unfamiliar neighbourhood, just to stir my sense of adventure. There’s nothing like curiosity to stave off the dull insanity of being alone. I breathe the unfamiliar sent of someone’s cedar hedge and fantasize that I’ve lived here all my life, pretending that that whiff of fresh greenery holds childhood memories.

The greatest distraction from my solitude is food. There’s always a new cafe to check out, always a new corner store to get that same old late-night junk food. But the black licorice, bags of jujubes, and chocolate-covered almonds can only do so much for me.

I find I impulse-shop a lot more when I’m living on my own. A picture frame here, some exotic spices for an unusual recipe there, maybe a book or a dvd that I don’t really need. It’s certainly an appreciable difference from my spending habits when I’m living with friends.

Is it callous to attempt to quantify this? If I added up all my excess expenditures, would I be able to measure the value of companionship? I’ll leave that question hanging for now, because I can’t bear to find out how much I’m missing.

Sam Nabi


Paula 21 April 2012, 15:37

I find this interesting, mostly because I disagree entirely. Disagree is perhaps the wrong word, I don’t deny that this may be how you (and others likely) feel when living alone, but it’s not something I can identify with at all. I would do almost anything to be able to live alone. It is when I’m living with people that I get most lonely. I feel like nobody ever leaves me alone, I can’t do what I please, and that the house is never clean enough. When alone I’m happy that I can then make plans to get together with people as I please, on my terms, not because I’m forced to see somebody everyday. It isn’t that I don’t value community, I certainly don’t advocate to sit alone at home and never leave (though for some that might be a desirable option), but I think I’m much more able to enjoy the joys of being with others when it isn’t forced on me constantly. 

Maybe it’s a difference between extroversion and introversion, though you’ve never struck me as particularly extroverted.<br>Or maybe it’s that I have anxiety issues.

Or perhaps it’s just a matter of preference. And context. 

Sam Nabi 25 April 2012, 11:27

I certainly enjoy getting away and having my own space, even when I’m living with roommates. Maybe the difference between you and me is that I don’t tend to make formal arrangements about when and where to meet.  I quite enjoy going to the kitchen for a glass of water and spending a few minutes chatting with my roommate who happens to be doing homework on the couch. I also enjoy going places where people I know are likely to be - the Imprint office and the ES coffeeshop come to mind. Living alone is less spontaneous and exciting in that way.

Goaliedave 10 May 2012, 23:50

The bad news is, nothing changes with age; you could each easily be saying the same thing when you are 50. or 75. I’ve had a variety of experiences living alone and with someone and think that finding community on your own terms - which you both mention - is more important than living arrangements.If you are being forced to see someone every day - time for a change. If you are getting lonely cabin fever - time for a change. Keep changing, keep growing, and I hope you two keep chatting, you are both among the most thoughtful young people on the planet.

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