I've lived on my own for over three years* now, and I can say with utmost confidence that it's the most self-revealing thing I've ever experienced, as well as being an on-going module in 'important life lessons'. From removing stuck toilet blocks from the U-bend to dealing with power cuts at 5am, from suffering with flu to dealing with agonies of the most emotional kind; every situation seems unfamiliar when you have to face it alone.
When I tell people I have no housemates they generally seem quite surprised. I guess it's not completely normal for a student to choose not to live with friends, or in university accommodation at least. I have no idea why I chose to continue living alone when I returned to York; I hope it wasn't due to any strong misanthropic tendencies, or to an overriding intolerance of other people's bad habits, but I couldn't say for sure. All I know is that when I had to live alone for the first time in France, it was initially quite a shock to the system, but it soon became a luxury I could continuously indulge myself in.
I love having space and time completely for me. Before I worked on Sundays, I used to cordon-off the whole day for myself; my social network closed down for the day and I would take the time to enjoy my own company. Sundays usually involved breakfast in bed with a book, a long run, and a 'treat' such as a cinema trip or lunch in my favourite café, and it was pure bliss, every week.
I haven't taken any days for myself in such a long time; I can't even imagine eating alone in a restaurant now, only two years later. I find this quite disappointing - I'm not sure what, if anything has changed, but I can identify some sort of shift in my attitude in the past two years, almost as if I've somehow lost confidence in myself; as if I need reassurance from the company of someone else.
However, I'm not sure this is such a bad thing. I could accuse my former self of cutting off other people, cutting off opportunities to share myself, and my life, with people I care about. Two years ago I didn't want to ever get married, and I certainly didn't want children, and when I look back it all seems quite selfish. My outlook was 'always be your own number one', which isn't such a bad thing, in itself, but it cuts off every possibility of letting someone else in completely.
In two weeks I'll be moving in with someone who I hope to share every day with for a very long time: a thought that would have horrified me two years ago is now sending zaps of excitement through me every minute of every day. Two years ago I thought living with a boyfriend would reflect a weakness in myself. Now I see that what I saw then as 'giving up independance' is actually 'stopping being so selfish'. If this is giving up my independance then I don't want it anyway, thanks.
*Actually, I tell a lie: I lived in a 'shared house' for a year, and had two other housemates. But still I count this as alone; there was no one to depend on, I called neither housemate a friend, and for the majority of the time I had glorious free-reign of the only shared room in the house - the kitchen.