Do I fail at being an adult?
September 26, 2014 5:54 AM   Subscribe

I hate to live alone. Does that mean I fail as an adult?

The general consensus seems to be (at least in the US and Northern Europe) that adults live on their own. Kids move out of their parents' house, and roommates are for broke college students or twenty-somethings in the city. You are allowed to live with a partner, though.

I lived alone last year and while it was fun at first, I got lonely (something I never thought I'd feel - I used to think I'd enjoy being able to do what I wanted) when there was no one to talk to at night. I had plenty of friends, but once I got home, there was no one. I started dreading going back to an empty apartment.

My older sister scolded me for this, saying I would need to learn how to be by myself. (I am fine spending time alone, I just hate living alone all the time.) Friends told me I'd get used to it. I didn't. I felt happiest when I moved back in with my family, but I also felt like a failure.

Right now, I am forcing myself to live in a different city again (though not alone, I am an au-pair, but I don't live with people I know well and then the job is over, I go back to my room.) I do it because I'm scared that if I won't do it now, I'll always be afraid of having to live alone at some point. (If I end up divorced after my parents die, for example. I know that some of this is just anxiety and that I should see a therapist, but I can't do that at the moment. I really want to as soon as possible, though, because this has turned into a sort of phobia. For example, I watch movies with people living alone and wonder how they do it. However, please try to answer my question regardless of this - as I said, I will get therapy as soon as I can.)

I try to force myself to be okay with this, but it doesn't make me happy. Am I just failing at life or is this acceptable? I know that in different cultures, people usually only move out to get married. It somewhat scares me that I will be dependent on others all the time, because I'd always need to find someone nice to room with.
posted by LoonyLovegood to Human Relations (45 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Congratulations! You are an extrovert! You are perfectly normal!
(I am an introvert, which is also perfectly normal)
posted by plinth at 6:49 AM on September 26, 2014 [37 favorites]

This is definitely not a form of failure; I think it's just a risk/challenge particular to a culture that prizes individualism above all else. It's hard - living alone is a craft and an art, but also a challenge worth taking on (AFOG - another friggin opportunity for growth). If you decide to work on it, remember how immeasurably worse it is to find yourself obligated to and in close quarters with someone who makes your life even harder than aloneness does. I've read that in Gaelic, the word for "alone" is a compliment.
posted by mmiddle at 6:54 AM on September 26, 2014 [7 favorites]

And depending on the nature of one's introversion, regular interaction with others (provided the circumstances are in one's control) can still be therapeutic and life- and health-affirming.

Congratulations! You're human!
posted by The Confessor at 6:55 AM on September 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Adults aren't required to live alone, or to like living alone. Plenty of people don't like it. You don't say how old you are, but I guess you're not in one of the categories you feel like get a pass on living with others? It doesn't matter. You can have a roommate when you're forty if you like. There are others who'd prefer to have someone to hang out with at the end of the day. I liked living alone, which I did twice. I like living with my husband though. He hated living alone, I think. To be honest, I think it gave him the creeps. But there's nothing weird or immature about it.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 6:55 AM on September 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

I don't think there is anything wrong with this. I know several 30 and 40 somethings who have roommates because it is more affordable and they like having people to live with. Not everyone wants to be alone.
posted by maxg94 at 6:55 AM on September 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

Being an adult means being able to live your life as you want (within bounds). Living alone is a recent development I think, in human history and a lot of creatures are social by nature. There are many cultures where living with your family even after you're way into adulthood is the norm.

Tips to help you live alone, if you think that you need to: get a pet or a few pets, live in a more social apartment or in a downtown area...
posted by kinoeye at 6:56 AM on September 26, 2014 [5 favorites]

Also, fwiw, it's not very nice for your sister to give you a hard time about this. Scolding others about their preferences isn't nice or particularly grown-up.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 6:57 AM on September 26, 2014 [22 favorites]

Yeah, not sure when else in history humans have lived alone. We've mostly huddled. I think it's completely fine to be a person who needs people.
posted by cotton dress sock at 6:58 AM on September 26, 2014 [14 favorites]

I hate living alone. I lived in dorms and later with roommates, by preference, until I got married. I am not particularly extroverted but I grew up in a big family and I get lonely when there aren't other people at least in the general vicinity. I don't have to talk to them, I just need to know they're there!

Living all alone NOT as a religious ascetic is sort-of a novel idea in the history of humanity. For 99% of human history you simply wouldn't have had that option. It's good that people do now (hell is other people)! But preferring to live with others is 100% normal and, in most societies throughout history, not worth remarking on. You're fine.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:58 AM on September 26, 2014 [6 favorites]

I am less of an extrovert than some, and still there were phases in my life when I hated living alone. Being forced to live alone due to circumstances, the feeling of not having a choice, usually makes matters worse. Don't add a burden of wanting-to-comply-to-social-expectationess to it all, if you can avoid it. Do what makes you feel best, it's your life.
posted by Namlit at 7:03 AM on September 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

This is not weird or childish. I'm an introvert, but I don't really like living alone. I like having someone to eat meals with. I like splitting chores and sharing TV tastes. I like not having to fend totally for myself when I get really ill. My introversion just means I prefer a housemate I know well and can be comfortable with.

Furthermore, it's probably a better use of our resources not to have everyone living in his or her own separately furnished, separately heated apartment.

It's true that in US culture there's some stigma about living with parents because it's seen as not taking on adult responsibilities, but a) lots of people do anyway thanks to the economy or other reasons; b) lots of people also live with roommates or other groups; c) living alone is not at all the overall norm in world history. Poor people used to share housing because they had to, rich people used to also live in big houses with lots of dependents.
posted by shattersock at 7:04 AM on September 26, 2014 [8 favorites]

I'm an introvert and even I didn't like living alone. Life is meant to be lived with other people.
posted by dowcrag at 7:05 AM on September 26, 2014 [12 favorites]

I literally cannot sleep in a room alone, I've always lived with people and it's just too weird to be in a totally empty apartment. And I'm an adult and have all the things you expect a grown-up to have.

This is a new concept, and a very class-based one. Most people in the world, and throughout history, don't even have the option. You can blame the media for making you think it's weird to be around other people.

Some people are better off being lookouts out in the field, some of us prefer being in the main camp. Nothing wrong with either.
posted by epanalepsis at 7:07 AM on September 26, 2014 [5 favorites]

Do you feed yourself, provide for yourself, and clean up after yourself? Then, congratulations, you are an adult.

In most circumstances, living alone doesn't make a whole lot of economic sense. If you don't have problems living around other people, then you are financially better off with roommates, and for lots of people, it is nice to have a larger apartment that you share with other people than a tiny apartment you live in alone.

I got judged by someone for having roommates, and it made me really angry: I didn't feel the need to live alone, and it wasn't worth the expense.
posted by deanc at 7:07 AM on September 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

According to the US Census report America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2012 (pdf):
The United States had about 115 million households in 2011 (Table 1). Family households numbered 76 million, which included about 56 million married-couple households and 5 million male and 15 million female householders with no spouse present. Nonfamily households numbered 39 million and represented one-third of all households in the United States. Of these nonfamily households, 32 million consisted of one person living alone. Twelve million non-family households were maintained by individuals 65 years and older.
So the majority of adults in the US do not live alone. I think they still count as adults.

The number of single-person households has increased (the same report says it's gone up 10% since 1970, to 27% (and remember that about a quarter of those are older adults, presumably mostly widowed)), which they explain corresponds to the later ages at which most people are getting married. In the past, people didn't have nearly as much choice -- you lived with your parents, you went to college and lived with dorm mates, you got married and lived with your spouse -- so it's a new thing to live alone before marriage, which means it gets a lot of attention, but it's not somehow required to be an adult, and liking it is certainly not required to be an adult. And I say this as somehow who lives very blissfuly alone.
posted by jaguar at 7:14 AM on September 26, 2014

If loving living alone was a requirement of adulthood, I don't think too many people would get married.
posted by xingcat at 7:15 AM on September 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Personalities vary so much, and some people have more need of company than others. That's fine! I love living alone, but I have known many people who thrive on living with others. My grandma lived alone, by circumstance, in her 60's and older, but she spent most of the day at our house, and then when she was at home, there were always visitors in and out, or her sister would visit and stay for weeks at a time.

I do think it's important to take on adult responsibilities when you are an adult - pay your bills, learn to cook basic meals, clean up after yourself, arrange for your own transportation - and not live with people who enable and coddle you. This is the problem that can happen when people live with their parents as adults. I've also seen it happen in my parents' generation when people went from living with their parents to living with a spouse, with the attendant 50's separate gender roles. Then when widowhood or divorce happened, the newly alone person would flail about trying to take care of themselves after never having to do so. Or, a man would marry a woman expecting her to mommy him, or a woman marry a man expecting him to take care of her.

But modern roommates usually don't do this! Everyone is responsible for paying bills, cleaning up after themselves, arranging for their own transportation, etc. This is adult living.

tl;dr: Living with other people when everyone is a responsible adult, and not a carer/enabler, can be terrific for the extroverts among us.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 7:15 AM on September 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've known a fair number of people who went straight from living with roommates to living with SOs. I don't think that's particularly rare even among middle-class Americans, who are probably among the people in human history most likely to live alone.

I think that being a grown-up means figuring out what constitutes a satisfying life for you, and then figuring out how to work towards having that life. In your case, part of that may be learning how to politely ignore your sister when she's full of shit.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:29 AM on September 26, 2014 [3 favorites]


From what you've described about forcing yourself to move to a different city and trying to confront your fear and wanting to seek therapy to deal with the more anxious part of yourself, I'm impressed by your thoughtfulness and courage in the matter. You sound more self-aware and responsible than a lot of people. I ADMIRE that.

If I may be a bit crass, FUCK the general consensus. I don't see anything wrong with what you're saying. Given what you've said, you're probably more than capable of finding yourself a good roommate (because you know what you want in one) than many of us. If anyone asks why you have a roommate, answer "Because I felt like a having a roommate."

I'm probably more of an introvert, and I was once fine living alone in college (though my grades weren't so fine with it). Not anymore, though. I'm amazed by how antisocial society in general has become. You sound a lot more normal than the world we live in. Go find a good roommate. You'll probably end up enjoying life a lot more than the people kneejerk criticize you for it.
posted by KinoAndHermes at 7:30 AM on September 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm pretty introverted, and I hate living alone.

I'm married and we have a roommate who's lived here for five years -- NOT because we need a roommate for financial reasons, just because we love to have him around -- with no plans for him to move out anytime soon.

Fuck "normal," do whatever works for you! :D
posted by Narrative Priorities at 7:35 AM on September 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

The modern idea that every unmarried adult should cloister themselves up away from friends and family is, honestly, a pretty weird aberration in human history.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:35 AM on September 26, 2014 [19 favorites]

There are lots of people that don't like to live alone. This is why co-ops and communes exist.

Don't sweat being yourself.

That said, you may have to live alone again at some point. Don't fear it. If it happens, try to make it as pleasant as possible. Decorate just how you'd like. Stock your fridge with your favorite comfort foods. Have a ritual every day when you get home that lets you welcome yourself into the space and makes you feel good. Oh: and get a pet. I'm never alone anymore now that I have a cat. Even a fish works. A dog would be the best. Just another living thing that you can chat to and dote on and be with.
posted by sockermom at 7:39 AM on September 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

In most non- western countries, people do not really ever live alone.

When I lived in China, it was rare to meet a Chinese adult, or any Chinese person who lived alone.

So no, you don't ' fail at being an adult'. Even if you're preference was for something not the norm, that's not failure and it is detrimental to phrase it like that.
posted by bearette at 7:45 AM on September 26, 2014

Also, it doesn't have much to do with introversion or extroversion. Introverts crave closeness and human contact too, but just with a few people we know well rather than a group of acquaintances or casual friends. So an introvert would be more likely to want to live with a partner or close friend than random roommates, but I still think most people, whether introvert or extrovert, would prefer NOT to live alone. Looking at the number of people who eventually live with a partner, there seems to be evidence for that.
posted by bearette at 7:51 AM on September 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

Being an adult means living on your own terms. Personally, the idea of living alone sounds awful to me, and I'd never want to do it. Also, I think throughout most of history, and still in most of the world today, living alone is outside the norm, and generally not desirable.
posted by catatethebird at 7:59 AM on September 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

You may be failing as an adult, but it is not because you don't like living alone. You are perfectly normal in that regard just as I am perfectly normal for not wanting to live with anyone ever again.
posted by 724A at 8:19 AM on September 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

As a data point, I loooooooooooooove living alone. It is my favorite thing. I have had roommates, roommates drive me nuts, I like not wearing pants ever, living alone is the best. However, I live in a city and I find a great amount of comfort and community in knowing that at no point am I ever more than 100 feet away from another person. I can be completely alone in my apartment all by myself in quiet and solitude, but below me are people and next to me on both sides are people and behind me are people and right across the street are people, so I'm never really alone-alone, you know?

As much as I love living by myself, I'm really not sure how I'd feel about living by myself somewhere with a lower population density.

In short this is not weird, you are not weird, and depending on the circumstances even super independent me might not even want to live alone. You are not failing at adulthood.
posted by phunniemee at 8:30 AM on September 26, 2014 [7 favorites]

You (and your sister) need to realize that living alone and being self-sufficient are two different things. One does not imply - or require - the other. There are complete train wrecks who manage to live alone, scraping by on the knife-edge of disaster, and there are completely self-sufficient adults who prefer shared living arrangements.

So an introvert would be more likely to want to live with a partner or close friend than random roommates, but I still think most people, whether introvert or extrovert, would prefer NOT to live alone

I fall into that category. I'm an adult (by any definition that does not exclude video games), and a near-complete introvert, and yet I happily share housing with a good friend. If I didn't live with my housemate, I'd be a total hermit. I've lived alone, and there was a part of me that really liked it -- but honestly, I don't think that was a particularly healthy part of me to indulge.

I think it's good to spend some time living alone just for the experience, and for the self-confidence boost of knowing you can do it if you ever need to. But it sounds like you've already done that. So if you need permission - you are an excellent adult, you can go forth and adult with confidence in the manner most comfortable for you.

(And you also have my permission to tell your older sister to shut it.)
posted by kythuen at 8:35 AM on September 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I wonder if you may be conflating "living alone" with "being independent." The two may go hand in hand, but don't necessarily have to.

As many others have said, it's perfectly fine to live with other people. What's not fine, as an adult, is to be dependent on them (at least, outside of a very constricting marriage situation like Rosie M. Banks describes). You can be two people living together as roommates, each paying for him/herself and conducting your life in the way you see fit. You can even live together as spouses but maintain independent mental and emotional space.

On preview, kythuen said exactly what I meant, so I'll stop here.
posted by Liesl at 8:37 AM on September 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Does that mean I fail as an adult?

Heck, no. And your sister is being very rude (at the least) for berating you for this.

It somewhat scares me that I will be dependent on others all the time, because I'd always need to find someone nice to room with.

IANATherapist, but this sounds like it might be the anxiety talking.

I do think you should think about how to take some responsibility for managing your desire to not be alone, for your own health. Like, don't just dive into romantic relationships because you hate coming home to an empty apartment. And even extroverts need some alone time, and everyone has their own "schedule", so, i.e. even if you find a nice platonic roommate, maybe they want an hour alone to decompress after work every day before chit-chatting, or they wake up extra-groggy every weekend, so you'll want to consider your reactions if your roommate(s) aren't always ready to be extroverted at the same time you are.
posted by soundguy99 at 9:20 AM on September 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Just another vote for this not being strange or any kind of "fail" (and kudos to you for being self-aware enough to seek other options and therapy for the anxiety aspect of it).

One thing, though. It's okay to need other people, but if moving back in with family is about shirking responsibility, that's different. If what appeals to you is having the company of other people, no problem. If what appeals to you is having someone do your laundry, cooking, bill paying, etc., that may be a problem.

For that reason, I'd recommend finding a roommate or two. That way you don't have to be alone, but you can learn whether your fear is about loneliness or about responsibility. If you have trouble finding a roommate, you could look for an apartment complex that has a lot of shared space and a good vibe. An ex-boyfriend and I lived in such a place (granted, I was not alone in the apartment at bedtime), and there was near-constant interaction with other tenants, sometimes on shared porches and often inside one another's places. That may work for you, because even shutting the door at night, we were all under one roof.

FWIW, I hate that my MIL lives alone. She's in a duplex inside a development but I wish for her sake that she were more receptive to visits from another (younger) single woman next door (again, same building, one roof). I recognize that this is her prerogative, but she talks about being alone then rebuffs the efforts of those trying to be friendly. I say this because I think it's important to know whether you crave the company of others or the comfort of family, in particular.

Mostly, I think you should be assured that it's not unusual or strange or weird or wrong to resist living alone. You don't have to, and I agree that if anybody ever asks, you should not feel ashamed to say, "This is how I like it!"
posted by whoiam at 9:37 AM on September 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

If it helps, this is one of those damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't cases where someone will judge you no matter what choice you make (especially if you're unmarried.) I love living alone and have gotten no shortage of messages that it's immature, frivolous, selfish, etc. Judgers gonna judge.
posted by kagredon at 9:53 AM on September 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

I agree that nothing is wrong with you! Have you considered cohousing? I have a good friend who lives in a cohousing community, and the sense that I get is that while you live in your own space, you end up interacting with others in the community constantly due to the spaces you share.

There's a wikipedia article on cohousing, if you want to learn more, and googling will get you far. I wonder if this is right up your alley.
posted by hought20 at 10:07 AM on September 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Agreeing with everyone above that you're a perfectly good extrovert and that there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to live with people. This introvert swings both ways :-)

Re this:
I do it because I'm scared that if I won't do it now, I'll always be afraid of having to live alone at some point. (If I end up divorced after my parents die, for example. I know that some of this is just anxiety and that I should see a therapist, but I can't do that at the moment. I really want to as soon as possible, though, because this has turned into a sort of phobia. For example, I watch movies with people living alone and wonder how they do it. However, please try to answer my question regardless of this - as I said, I will get therapy as soon as I can.)
You may be worrying over nothing. If you do end up living alone at some point, you may be fine as far as anxiety goes. I lived communally until my 40s (family, student co-op shared housing, boyfriend, ex-husband). I went through a period of hypnagogic hallucinations and night terrors in my twenties, so when my ex- and I split a few years ago, I was worried that separation anxiety and general anxiety would bring it on again.

No. Problems. I sleep like a baby and feel pretty secure. You'll do fine.
posted by maudlin at 10:37 AM on September 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I lived alone for a couple of years in my early 30s after moving to a new town for a job. I am a true introvert who loves to have long stretches of being left alone, or just not intensively interacting with those around me. Spending an entire day gardening, reading, or hiking by myself is pure joy. But I hated living alone. I just became really really lonely, and this was actually kind of a big surprise to me. Even after socializing with friends, I would get sad going back to my solo dwelling. I ended up drinking immoderately most nights because of the kind of deep-loneliness-pain-in-my-chest feeling.

Now I'm living in my own nuclear family and I fricking love it! That said, my wife and I have often talked about how a nuclear, single-family home is in many ways such a strange place to raise children; it can be very isolating even when you have good network of friends doing exactly the same thing. So, no situation is perfect.

You do not have to "prove" to yourself or others that you can live alone, and it has nothing to do with being an adult. It is totally normal and healthy to want to live with other people, whether they be family, housemates (even though they're usually annoying), or romantic partners. In fact, this is how most of us are programmed; evolution has selected for primates/humans that wanted to be around others most of the time, and who experienced even minor social rejection as being particularly painful (and changed their behaviors to reduce that social rejection). For almost all of our history as a species, long-term physical survival was generally not possible for any individual out there on their own.
posted by bennett being thrown at 11:09 AM on September 26, 2014

I'm an extrovert who has been dating an introvert for several years. We now live "together" in a double shotgun house. She lives on one side, I live on the other, with no door between - one has to go outside to reach the other half of the house. We're able to have all the time together or apart that we need, based on our individual preferences, activities, sleep schedules, etc.

... which is to say there's no right answer, and if you want to be around people then you want to be around people, and if you don't, you don't, and there's a solution for you and the people you want to be near.
posted by komara at 11:17 AM on September 26, 2014 [5 favorites]

I have achieved many milestones of adulthood, including buying a large house, and I (30F) cannot wait to get it renovated and find a housemate to live in my first floor in-law apartment. Just so I'm not ALONE ALONE in the house, even if I'm alone in my part of the house.
posted by slateyness at 12:17 PM on September 26, 2014

Thank you so much, everyone! You have no idea how relieved I feel.

To clarify:
1) My sister just tried to help me when I called her crying last year from Japan. (You may remember or find what happened in my history.) She meant well, but as I can see now, she was mistaken.

2) I don't mind doing household chores. In fact, I have lived with two elementary school children part-time last year when their mother was away as a flight attendant, and I loved being responsible for them.

3) I am not sure where I fall on the introvert/extrovert scale. I like my time alone and am pretty sensitive to noise I just want to feel that there's someone close by. (I basically want to live in Stars Hollow, I guess.) So I will definitely look into co-housing to see if they have non-party housing. Thank you so much for the suggestion!

4) I have never jumped into a relationship because I was lonely. I am in my first and only relationship right now, which may have triggered a lot of these feelings. Living alone was okay for the first month, but then I started hating my empty apartment after my boyfriend was gone. It's a bit like bennett being thrown describes. Even after having fun socializing, going home to my empty room made me miserable. I remember sobbing on the way back to my apartment. Never again, please.

Again, thank you so, so much!
posted by LoonyLovegood at 12:44 PM on September 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

You'd be surprised at how many people i know, like, basically all of them who made a bunch of noise about wanting their own place because it's an adult milestone or whatever, and very quickly moved back in with friends again.

And the ones who didn't seem to invite another lonely solo friend over to like, bullshit and do roommate things like watch silly tv or even just hang out while the other person makes art or whatever... basically every night.

I myself have never really lived alone. I've had the opportunity to, but have only been truly alone in my own place when SOs or roommates or family members were out of town for extended periods. For all the griping i've spat out about shitty roommates both on this site and in general, it just gets way too lonely way too fast. Time just seems to slow down to a crawl.

I'll read the "entire internet", which is to say every site i regularly check until i start running in to content and posts i've already seen the day before, pick up a book and crush half of it or all 500~ pages, then start playing video games or watching tv or working on projects... and then realize not even that much time has gone by and i'm just horribly bored and lonely.

Everyone i know either openly acknowledges this, or pretends they want their own place but ends up doing the friends-constantly-over thing. I only know a few introverts who seem to truly like living alone. Most of even them, including one of my old roommates(who is basically the maximum, hikokomori level of introvert). She still liked living with other people even if they were behind her half-closed door and quietly doing something in the other room. She mostly spent her time alone, but seemed to really enjoy having the option of going out in the living room and hanging out with me and my girlfriend/her boyfriend or whatever combination of us was around.

There's also something to be said for communal eating. Even if you aren't eating a communal meal. But just like, sitting around making bullshit conversation over food even if it's just a couple times a week. Even though most of the time we just kind of kept to ourselves, the occasional periods of shared music listening/eating/stupid tv watching/etc sort of gave the feeling of "we're all in this stupid human existence thing together, i suppose" through the ennui of seattle winters.

I didn't used to think it, but now i think it's really weird that it's such a normal expectation to live alone. Especially when i reflect on how no one i know really actually does. Everyone has roommates, or family, or significant others. Or... they constantly have friends over.

I like to think the assumptions and attitude surrounding the fact that yea, besides people who specifically want not to, society would probably be better if people mostly lived together especially as we approach a future in which anything close to 100% employment is going to be a pipe dream for a myriad of reasons... but when i start talking about that, i start sounding like a dirty hippie... so anyways.

Pretty much, yes, there's nothing wrong with feeling this way. Feel good about it, as everyone else said. It's fine. And fuck people like your sister who make noise about it being "juvenile" or whatever.
posted by emptythought at 7:29 PM on September 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Look into "intentional communities".
posted by yohko at 7:44 PM on September 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

"I am not sure where I fall on the introvert/extrovert scale. I like my time alone and am pretty sensitive to noise I just want to feel that there's someone close by."

People put way too much stock into introvert/extrovert and treat it as gospel. Most of us like people sometimes, dislike people other times; get charged up by people sometimes and exhausted by them other times; and like CERTAIN PEOPLE all the time and other people none of the time. I need a lot of time to myself, and definitely space to myself, but I like to know other people are right nearby when I do it. Find the right people and the right balance for you and don't worry too much about labels for it!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:36 PM on September 26, 2014

Introvert here, bear that in mind when reading. I think Narrative Priorities has it: Fuck "normal," do whatever works for you!

Other people can offer all kinds of advice and solutions, but they aren't actually in the situation in the same way that you are and are speaking from that position of privilege. They don't have to deal with the consequences of your actions and choices in the same way that you do. If you want people around you, that's A-OK. If you want nobody around you, that's A-OK too. If you want someone around on a Tuesday night and Friday for lunch, but at no other times, that's also A-OK.

With regards to the introvert/extrovert thing, it's not a complete either/or thing. It's (like most things in life) a spectrum, and right in the middle you have ambivert. Plotted on a bell curve, most people are going to fall in the middle or adjacent to it. You don't have to decide that you're a dyed-in-the-wool introvert because you need alone time (though it's completely OK to do that if you want to - your identity is yours to choose/figure out as you see fit!). Being sensitive to noise did make me think of the concept of the Highly Sensitive Person, something that is often but not always associated with introversion.

The last line of your post stood out to me. Applying my own attitudes towards it, it read like you're scared that you're always going to need someone around. If you do, then you're part of a huge group of people. I think most people, even introverts, like to have other people around. I'm on the extreme end of the introversion scale, and still look back fondly to the time three years ago when I had the house entirely to myself for a few days when the rest of the family went on holiday.

You, though, are in a situation where you have a lot of company, if you'll pardon the pun. very few people are cut out to be a hermit. If you're wired to need people, then spend some time reaching out to folks and making connections with them. Organise a weekly canasta night where you play games and drink cocktails. Some introverts will recoil at this idea, thinking why would they want to increase the amount of time they spend with people. Being in control, as it were, of the social situation can really help, though - you're getting your dose of social interaction at a time and place that suits you, with an activity that suits you, and you'll get to form stronger bonds with people in your own time and way. And when you've had enough, you can call an end to the games and send people away. Giving yourself a little control over a situation, rather than feeling you're at the whims and machinations of Fate, can be immensely comforting and liberating.

Sometimes its useful to tack into the wind, sometimes the wind is too strong. Only you can decide whether or not it's worth fighting your essential nature. If living with other people and calling yourself an introvert works for you, then do it. Do what makes you happy, irrespective of what other people think. There's a reason an opinion is called "two cents" - that's all they're worth, sometimes.
posted by Solomon at 1:58 AM on September 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

1) My sister just tried to help me when I called her crying last year from Japan.

Was the issue about Japan about living in an empty apartment or an overall issue with being in an unfamiliar place where you were on your own and had to figure things out? Because those are two different things.

Living without roommates is not the singular definer of adulthood. But being able to push your limits, approach unfamiliar situations, and figure out how to succeed is an important life skill. I didn't particular like having to pick up my life from the place I had spent most of my adult life to move to a more expensive new city where I hardly knew anyone, but it would have hurt me professionally and personally if I decompensated after a few months and moved back to my old neighborhood. (Notably, I had a roommate in the new city I moved to)
posted by deanc at 4:33 AM on September 27, 2014

I loved living alone because I didn't have to worry about disturbing a roommate if I was throwing a dinner party, spontaneously having friends over to crash after a night out, chatting with overseas friends on the phone, or blasting music dancing around the apartment by myself. I honestly don't know where I fall on the introvert/extrovert spectrum, but what I do know is that living by myself allowed me to have exactly the amount of people time I did or didn't want. It helped me realize that I am totally capable of living on my own. Living alone doesn't mean you'll be lonely.
posted by nicodine at 6:26 AM on September 27, 2014

I recently had a conversation with a friend about his desire to live alone as a marker of growing up. I told him that over the years, I've learned that I have no desire to live alone. If growing up means knowing and owning your responsibilities and desires, then I have grown up by understanding how much I benefit from living with other people. I am someone who goes kinda feral when I spend days alone, like talking to myself in the mirror and only eating whipped cream, and I don't enjoy it at all. Having a roommate or a live-in partner is great for keeping me as a functioning member of civilization. I also enjoy having sometime at home by myself to walk around in my underwear, but I relish that alone time because I know it's time limited.
posted by spamandkimchi at 2:54 PM on September 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

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