Living Alone: The Journey
Five years ago, suddenly I had to live alone in a city I have barely known before. That time I had managed to get a full-time job, and a safe place to live. That is all I had. I had limited social network, but one-by-one most of them suddenly were at a good distance from me - then one day, I realized I was starting to embark a new path in my life, that is living alone in a new country. This experience is the focus of this blogpost.
First phase: the newfound independence
You suddenly have a lot of time to use, but you don't know where to start. You can hope things to be smooth-sailing, like you will meet people outside your home and they will immediately accept you as a friend. Yet, instead of motivating yourself to go out and explore, you hesitate. However, you are free to do whatever you want. No would care to know your whereabouts at a certain time. You are independent, and will continue to be that way in the near future. That idea of freedom is very exciting, but could be anxiety-provoking as well. Regardless how you interpret that newfound independence, you will always attempt to go out and explore. At least, that will give you thrills in the beginning, but just be careful, you are prone to mistakes.
Second phase: the tumultuous self-discovery
Yes, the thrills begin to wane out when you start committing mistakes alone. Then, you commit another mistake, maybe of the same type of problem before. That might be repeated again, perhaps several times more. Then, you realize your weakness becomes emphasized when you are alone. Now, you attempt to reflect on yourself, on who you are and your strength and weaknesses. You take pride of your strengths but no would applaud you for that because you are alone. That would be frustrating. Worse, the new society may have values different from you. You will start feeling isolated, and your weaknesses become more highlighted. You will be confronted on questions about yourself. Those questions will be hard and complex to answer in such a way, you might not even attempt to think about answering them.
Third phase: the search for social affiliation
In your attempt to find answers within, you will meet a lot of challenges. Then, you will suddenly realize the only option is to seek answers outside. You try to gain recognition or validation from others by doing what is expected of you, and act like what the societal norms dictate. It will not be all failure though. There will always be people who would somehow allow you to be associated with them, at least loosely. Everything would be based on activities to be affiliated. However, you would expect things to get better - as you become optimistic that you would at last find answers to your questions, and at the same time, find solace in a new foreign place. However, the reality hits - you are expecting more and better than what is really happening. Yet, there is no problem with that because soon enough, you realize the fact that your questions are still unanswered, and now comes more challenging questions about the new environment you are in, and worse, your ability to adapt and integrate into it.
Fourth phase: the attempt to escape home
Living alone now poses two challenges: intrinsic and extrinsic. This could be very stressful to anyone. Just like in any stressful situation, this results into fight-or-flight response. Depending on your social competencies before, you would try to fight and continue searching for answers, for yourself and for effective approaches to be accepted in the new society. You eventually find some solutions, but this would entail that you would have to "tweak" something in yourself within. You change gradually, and subtly lose your identity, perhaps in an attempt to be better one. You start being confused about yourself, and eventually be easily misunderstood by the people around. The misunderstanding results into conflicts and social difficulties, which makes the situation worse. The negative spiral continues, and then the second well-known approach to stress becomes eminent - flight. An escape is necessary for relief. That could be a literal physical escape, but could be a form of mental relief or social deviation. That could be permanent or temporary. That could be real or fantasy, and that could be a major problem for some.
Fifth phase: El Dorado to peace of mind
This phase may seem to be the last, but not all hurdles the fourth phase, possibly most self-destructive phase of living alone. That previous phase may not end because there is no guarantee for transition to this fifth phase. Some may have already drown into the abyss without help. The problem lies one the nature of help one needs - mostly self-help. Yes, the problem is about the self, and the solution lies also in ourselves. And to embark into another journey towards attaining peace of mind, inspite of living alone in a foreign environment, that needs a trigger - the moment you decide to accept the situation, and the fact that escapes don't work, nor solutions provided by others. The solution is within us, accepting what is hard to accept, the realities of living alone. So just go on!
I can say that living alone in a new country is not an ideal situation to be in. Worse, if it had been going on for years. Worse, if you have scepticism around being with new people. Worse, when the society you are in is homogenous enough to have scepticism on newcomers, and have to high expectation to behave in the same manner as the majority. Worse, when you are an introvert yourself, such that it takes time for you to be sociable.
Yes, the situation I am in sounds bad at all, but recently, I realized one thing, the strength of living alone is in its intrinsic weakness. Being alone, one discovers that life is difficult, and is a mess at times. But since you are alone, no one is expected to clean that mess for you, except you! One day at a time, one learns to deal with a lot of mess alone. One opts to clean some immediately, some left a mess for sometime. Regardless of one does, one learns something. Through this learning process, one could end up being weaker or more vulnerable. Some get stronger and better as a person. Whatever the outcome, just start again. No one would know because you are living alone. So start again, and yes, this time possibly also alone.