In every person’s life there comes a time when they are ready to leave their parents’ house.
At home base, they’ve gone through all the stages of life: being born, first steps, coming home from kindergarten in tears, listening to bedtime stories, playing catch with your parents, cuts, bruises and scrapes form playing in the street, school, long days of pretending to study, high school, even longer days of pretending to study…
And all of a sudden, zap. Split. They’ve decided to give independence a try.
Whether they follow society’s adult-at-18 road, or they decide to escape the nest at another age, they soon start seeing the world as it really is. No more immediate food from the beak of mother bird. No more guaranteed warmth unless they work for it. It’s a time of great trepidation, but also of incredible freedom, when the young’uns finally feel capable of providing for themselves. And once they’re away, nothing short of an emergency will bring them back home.
But what does moving out actually feel like?
Is it all fun and games? Full of lilies, waterfalls, unicorns and four-leaf clovers?
No, it looks more like this.
You park your car, van, what have you, alongside the building. It’s full of boxes, and the springs of the vehicle suffer.
You suffer as well, for you are hot, sticky and sick of all the packing and carrying. It’s the middle of June. Stepping out of the vehicle, you gaze towards the sky at the seemingly endless tower of apartments. The sky is cloudy and threatens you with rain. An old man passes you by and grunts and mutters something under his breath.
The elevator in the building is out of order. According to the landlord, it’s been out of order since 1989; it started acting out around the time the Berlin Wall fell.
So you lug all your Earthly possessions up to the fourth floor, up eight flights of stairs. A stream of curses escapes your lips; you curse your mother for giving birth to you, father for helping her with it, building owner for constructing this wretched hive, and the lift-repairmen for not repairing the bloody thing.
All of a sudden, you are standing surrounded by almost blinding whiteness. Have you died; is this it, the light at the end of the tunnel? Well, you might as well have, considering what you’re up against next. Standing in your empty, naked apartment, an abode stripped down to its skeleton, you observe the spotless walls in silence.
And a silent dread fills you…
It creeps up your spine…
You look at yourself in the mirror and shrug. “Now what?”
There is no turning back now. You’ve decided on the path you want to take in life, and now it is for you to take. Indecisiveness and failure are not part of your composition, and you will not be flung back to your parents’ den.
Not a chance.
But, in the beginning, living alone is not all it’s cracked up to be. After a long time of fantasising, of picturing a luxury apartment that doubles as a hub for the most popular parties in the area, a rustic sanctuary with a fireplace where you’ll be able to read your books and paint and knit in perfect peace, life tends to rear its ugly head.
First up, the bills.
You realize that up till now you’d never paid a bill in your life. Who is taking my money? Why? No answer. How do I pay this? Do I have to go to the post office or can I do it online? What does ‘Due date’ mean? If I’m a couple of days late on my electricity bill payment, do they turn it off immediately?
What is this Government thing, trying to skin me completely? But bills are manageable.
The real fun begins when you’ve eaten fried eggs for the fifth time this week…
It’s not just the cholesterol in the eggs that’ll kill you, the lack of food will too. Quiet efficiently, mind you. You’ve never cooked in your entire life. Your relationship with the kitchen had been one of room-fridge-room. Gas or electricity? Is the gas flammable?
Will I catch fire and burn, or even better, explode? How do I know when the water is boiling? If I put hot-dogs inside the pot, the water stops boiling for a second; is it then, well, un-boiled? And, as the great Delboy put it, will I get “Sam and Ella” poisoning?
Last, but not least… The cleaning up.
The rate at which dust swarms your every surface, the dazzling speed at which the clothes basket fills up, the glorious Picasso-like style with which the plates and glasses and spoons and forks arrange themselves in the kitchen sink is simply, incredibly astonishing. Sometimes you feel that the more you clean, the dirtier your place gets. A true Sisyphean task.
And after you iron the initial kinks, smooth out the bumps, and start managing your day-to-day activities with relative ease, you’ll see how truly amazing independent life is.
You are the master of your own domain (doesn’t matter if you rent, you’re still King/Queen). The feeling of stepping out into the world and surviving, nay, even thriving, is indescribable. You go in and out of your apartment when you want, you do what you want, and you eat cookies for breakfast. The apartment is your responsibility. Everything is your responsibility, pressing on your shoulders. But it doesn’t matter. You’re the Greek God Atlas. The freedom of living alone has given you the strength you need to live alone. And it’s a wonderful feeling.
Still, whenever you see that lift ‘Out of order’ sign, you think of nothing but giving someone a good hiding.
That’s living alone for you: the fluctuation of the good and the bad with the good coming out on top. Well, you know, just like life in general.
And remember, if it smells bad, don’t eat it.