Fall always seems to be a time of reflection for me. Even though my life has long since diverged from the school calendar, fall feels like a fresh start—and a time for all the feels. I realized recently that I have been living alone for five (!) years now. Half a decade. Where does the time go? In some ways, it feels like a lifetime, and in some ways, it feels like just a few months.
When I graduated from college in 2013, I started working in Ballston in Arlington about ten days after graduation. (Hindsight is 20/20—I should have taken more time off, and I tell all new grads to do so!) I moved back into my childhood bedroom at my parents house, and while I saved a ton of money, it quickly became evident that my life as a 22 year old was not compatible with family life on a suburban cul de sac. I loved going to happy hour after work with my friends, playing kickball on the National Mall and then heading to bar for rail drinks and jello shots, and staying out until last call on weekends. I was craving the independence and lack of parental supervision I had in college, and by Labor Day Weekend, I had moved into an apartment in Arlington with a friend from college. Our year together started out well, but quickly went off the rails—we weren’t really compatible as roommates, and in hindsight, both struggling with various aspects of the transition to a post-college life.
I loved my apartment though and the location, so when our lease together ended, my friend from high school moved in. We lived together for three years and had so much fun. We hosted an annual holiday cookie party, enjoyed many Thursday nights watching Scandal together, always made sure each other got home from a late night out, and cheered each other on during our early 20s. As our third year together was coming to a close, we both were ready for our next chapters—she moved in with her boyfriend, and I moved into my own apartment.
While I loved my time living with my roommate, I knew that living alone was something I always wanted to do. I used to dream about the days when I could decorate my space exactly how I wanted it, leave dishes in the sink overnight if I was feeling lazy, and have my own bathroom.
It’s human nature, but I think I have a tendency to always be looking towards the next thing without stopping to realize I am currently living out a life I once desperately dreamed about. That’s been on my mind a lot lately as I look around my beautiful apartment that is all my own. I’m the only one on the lease. I pay the bills. I buy the furniture and art and home decor. I clean it in a way that would make Monica Geller proud. I love to host and welcome friends + family over for wine nights, Chipotle, and holiday parties.
And, I think a lot about how high school me, who had a passion for interior decorating even back then, would not believe I get to call this place home now. And, I also think a lot about how 25 year old me, who once couldn’t wait to live the life I’m living now, would be so glad with how it all turned out.
I’ve now lived in three apartments solo, and the one I’m in is by far my favorite. I just resigned my lease and will be staying here for my third year, which I am really excited about. (Plus, moving is such a pain and is always so expensive!)
The first apartment I lived in by myself, in hindsight, is probably my least favorite place I’ve lived as an adult. It had a weird layout and didn’t get much natural light. It was also a 10-15 minute walk from the heart of Arlington and, as a result, felt a little more suburban than what I prefer at this stage of my life. However, I have absolutely no regrets about living there—it was what I could afford at the time and I was able to use it as a canvas to really hone my interior style.
I moved into that apartment in September 2017, and come spring 2018, I was feeling really stuck. While I loved the people I worked with, I was bored at work and not really excited about anything I was working on. I remember I returned home from New York City one weekend on such a high. After absolutely loving the energy of that city and how much fun I had with my friends, I realized that I needed to make a change in my life. I thought briefly about moving to NYC, but ultimately decided that it might be smarter to move into DC first as it would have been hard to leave the amazing network of friends and family I have in this area. I told myself that if I still was contemplating a move to NYC a year later, then I could go for it.
A few months after moving into my Dupont Circle Studio in September 2018, I started a new job. Those two changes really helped me feel unstuck and excited again about the trajectory my life was on. I loved living in Dupont, and I loved my studio apartment. It was definitely small, but given I was traveling a lot for work and kept a busy social calendar, it was the perfect size for me. I also loved being in the heart of a vibrant neighborhood again, with plenty of restaurants, bars, and shops just a few steps outside my door. Plus, a lot of my friends lived in the neighborhood, so spontaneous meet ups or after-work walks were the norm.
It’s hard to say if the pandemic hadn’t happened if I’d still be living in my Dupont Studio—it one day probably would have felt too small, but I do think the pandemic sped up that process. 350 square feet isn’t so bad when you’re only in residence from 8pm to 7am, but when you’re suddenly home all the time, the walls start to close in very fast. After a few months of working from home, when it became evident we weren’t returning to the office anytime soon, I decided to move back to Arlington. I would be closer to my family, be able to save a significant amount of money on rent, and be able to have a car again.
I moved into my current place in September 2020, and have lived here the two years since. I absolutely love my apartment and the location—and since I had lived several places before, really knew what I was looking for this time around. While I would one day love to own a home—and be able to wallpaper the walls!—I am really happy with apartment living for now. I feel safe by myself in large buildings like the one I’m in, and it’s so nice to not be responsible for anything that needs maintenance. The “lock and leave” lifestyle apartment living offers is perfect for my current chapter.
One of the questions people often ask me about living alone is if I ever get lonely. I personally have always loved my own company and need a certain amount of alone time to recharge, so I think living alone works for me. Every now and then, I will wish I had someone to hang out with at home on a Saturday night or talk about work after a long day, but truthfully, I sometimes had those feelings when my roommates weren’t around, too. I keep a busy social calendar, so I rarely feel lonely in my life in general and my sister and cousin live less than a mile away if I ever need some company or emotional support.
Who knows where the next five years will take me, but I will always be so grateful that I had this time on my own. I am lucky to live in a time where women can have this type of independence, and it really is empowering to know that I can always take care of myself without the help of anyone else.
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