Other than my college dormitory rooms, I never lived alone; by myself. And one could argue that despite the fact I had my own dorm room, living in the residence halls is hardly living alone. My senior year of college, I shared an apartment close to the San Diego State campus with Heather. For two years after college, I shared a townhouse with a friend, Barbara. In June 1999, I moved into a two-bedroom apartment with Bryan, my boyfriend at the time. I was only 23 years old. We got engaged a year later and married in 2001.
When I was planning to move in with Bryan, my friend Tammy (whom I still consider one of my oldest and dearest friends) said something to me that has stuck with me for decades. She said, “If you move in with Bryan now and then get married, you’ll never have the chance to live by yourself. And that’s okay, but if you want to live alone for a while, do it now because you won’t have the opportunity to do it later.”
I assured Tammy that moving in with Bryan is exactly what I wanted and I was eager for my life to begin. I believed that then, and I don’t regret my choices at all. That being said, I think there’s a reason her words stayed with me all this time.
Over the course of 20 years, Bryan and I shared an apartment and bought three homes together. Until we separated last August, I never physically lived by myself. Yes, I still had Sophie living with me. But when she started spending nights and days at his apartment, I was truly by myself and physically alone for the first time in my life.
We sold our Indiana house earlier this year, and I went on a search for a new home for me and Sophie. I came upon this little blue cottage-type house that was just over two miles from my former neighborhood, and still close enough to parks and paths that I can run from my front door. The minute I walked into this house, I knew it was destined to be my home. This was like no other house I’ve lived in. It had a front porch and a beautiful green backyard with a back patio with the perfect sitting view of the moon in the night sky. Every room or corner had character, and there was no denying the vibes and warmth I felt inside. Sophie loved it too, and quickly picked out her room.
Fortunately, my offer was accepted and I bought my first house, all on my own. When I signed my closing escrow documents in March (just days before we were forced into COVID-19 quarantine), I took Sophie with me because I wanted her to see her mother signing loan papers and buying her own home. She was bored and sat on her phone the entire time; but I have to believe that she’ll remember that experience one day.
After the final paper was signed and I was given the keys, I pulled out a keychain I bought myself months before. I wanted a new keychain for my new life. It’s inscribed with the words, “She built a life she loved.” I attached the key and Sophie and I went to look at our new home.
I’m proud of the homes Bryan and I bought together. But it was a completely different feeling buying this house and moving just for me (and Sophie). I’m now responsible for things I never was before. While I always paid the bills when I was married, this mortgage payment is all my income. I solely provide for my daughter.
I started mowing my own lawn for the first time in my life. I troubleshoot home maintenance issues, such as when my air conditioner needed a repair. It was up to me to figure out why the porch awning wasn’t working or how the outside garden lights are configured. It’s not that I felt incapable of doing these things when I was married. But I feel confident in a new way that I was not before. And I want Sophie to see that confidence and know that she can also own her own home one day, if she chooses that path.
After moving into my house, I was reminded of a scene in the 1980s movie “St. Elmo’s Fire,” in which Mare Winningham (who played the kind of awkward one of the group) is talking to Rob Lowe in her first apartment. She tells him she woke up in the middle of the night and made herself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. And it struck her that it was HER OWN kitchen, in HER OWN own apartment, and it was the best peanut butter and jelly sandwich she ever had. That scene has always stayed with me, maybe because I never lived physically alone before either. But when I found myself making my French Press coffee in MY kitchen in MY house for the first time, I knew exactly how she felt.