In honor of my upcoming 30th birthday, I’ve researched countless “things to do before 30” lists. And while there are plenty to choose from, I kept coming back to “Thirty Things Every Woman Should Have and Should Know by the Time She’s 30.”
The List was originally published in Glamour by columnist Pamela Redmond Satran in 1997. Over the next 30 weeks, I’ll be tackling each item on The List and reflecting about it here… publicly (gulp). I hope you enjoy and we can grow together. After all, turning older is a privilege denied to many.
By 30, you should know…
22. How to live alone, even if you don’t like to.
If you don’t believe in coincidences, you should skip on down to the next paragraph. When I discovered this week’s must-know, I couldn’t believe it. After living alone for 3.5 years (plus a couple more back in Florida), I moved in with housemates. Yesterday.
So, it’s safe to say I know how to live alone… I’ve enjoyed countless perks as queen of the castle, from controlling the remote to planning the menu. I’ve relished in solitude after a particularly challenging day or week, cozying up on the couch with a book or Netflix or whatever the hell I want because I’m the only one with an opinion. I’ve learned how to do plenty of things on my own, then thrown money at the problem for the stuff I don’t wanna do (see: DIY, deep cleaning).
There are downsides to living alone, though, and I started taking a harder look at those about six months ago. It could feel quite lonely, particularly after a breakup or on holidays when close friends were out of town, and I didn’t feel like I could force myself into other celebrations. My interior design indecision crippled me to the point that no housemate would ever put up with, or let slide. I was obsessed with my apartment, but often found myself “trekking” around San Francisco to friends’ places, instead of forcing myself to play hostess. And, the final straw: I did what you’re not supposed to and calculated how much I’d spent on rent — in SF alone.
My family and friends joke that New York wasn’t expensive enough, so I had to up the ante and move to the worst rental market in the US. And while I accepted it long ago, I wasn’t properly prioritizing my cash flow. Even with an OK salary, I don’t make “engineering money.” I didn’t found a startup or get acquired by Google or strike it rich from family finances. I, like millions of others my age, work hard and am paid a decent wage, but have no possible way of owning — especially in the Bay Area — without making some sacrifices. And even if I did rake in millions, spending thousands per month on rent with nothing to show for it isn’t so smart.
So, the opportunity came for me to move into a home with some friends. We discussed our lifestyle preferences, our pet peeves, etc., which is something I hadn’t really done in past roommate situations. Maybe it’s because we’re not 22 and pretending like living with friends is 100% amazing all of the time, but that conversation gave me more confidence in making my decision.
I also came around to the notion of living with others as I near 30. This was probably the hardest hurdle for me to overcome, but I’ve convinced myself it’s not a sign of failure — again, particularly in SF — but rather a sign of financial security. The beaucoup bucks I’ll save in rent alone (not to mention other bills) will afford me the ability to become completely debt-free in about 18 months. See ya never, student loans. The likelihood of homeownership is at least a possibility now, since I won’t be squandering away so much in rent. I shudder to think how much I’ve spent as a renter since 2005, but at least I’m finally doing something about it.
Lastly, I had to change the lens through which I viewed this change: I had to focus on what I’m gaining, rather than what I’m losing. I’ll be saving a lot of money each month; I’ll be exploring a new neighborhood; I’ll be learning about my friends and their expanded social circles; I’ll have a shorter commute to both the gym and office; and yes, I’ll be forced to put on pants sometimes.
So while I do feel I’ve mastered the art of living alone, I don’t regret my decision to live with others for the time being. As Pamela Redmond Satran, creator of The List and this week’s featured writer says, “Living alone [meant] pleasing nobody, not even for one second, but myself.” Taking that knowledge into living with others again is a valuable lesson I won’t soon forget.