Things I've Learned Through Living Alone

I've always imagined my university life being a lot different than what it is now. I always thought I would be pursuing my education in Canada, surrounded by English speakers and living on campus for at least the first year. Then, still staying in the vicinity of school, I would move off-campus with a couple of friends. But alas, life doesn't always go according to plan. Instead, I found myself in Japan, going to school in Tokyo, one of the busiest cities in the world, and living a nice, solid, 40 minutes away from campus. 

I know 40 minutes can sound shocking, but in Tokyo, that's a pretty average amount of time spent in transit. Some dormitories are actually even further than that. The dorm that I was assigned to in freshman year would have required me to spend over an hour on transit, and that was just for one trip. After discussing it with my parents, we came to the conclusion that I would not be living there, and I would not spend over 2 hours on transit each day. And then my journey of living alone began. Since this is my fourth year of living alone, I would say that I have some experience under my belt, and so here are some things that I've learned along the way. 

  1. Laundry piles up super fast. In some ways, this also applies to dishes, but I feel like I'm doing laundry a lot more. I never did my own laundry at home (thanks mum), so the amount of clothes that needed washing really shocked me in the beginning. Not going to lie, to this day, it still confuses me how I'm always doing laundry. 

  2. Keep an eye on the amount of toilet paper you have. This is me going off on the assumption that you've never had to consistently buy toilet paper on your own because I know when I'm at home, toilet paper is the last thing on my mind. But when you're living alone, there's no magic source that keeps toilet paper stocked, and you really don't want to be in a situation where you need something you don't have. Especially for toilet paper. Thankfully, because of how scared I am to run into this problem, I always buy extras when I still have a few rolls left and have yet to run out in a critical situation. 

  3. If there's a bug, it's game over for me. Apparently I'm deathly afraid of insects. I can't even handle butterflies because to me, they look really disgusting. But the thing is, I don't think I've always been like this, and I really think this fear became amplified after I started living alone. So what do I do when there's a bug? I scream and cry and call up a friend for moral support as I try to get rid of it. As of now, I've had to throw away the corpses of cockroaches that magically end up on my balcony. I don't have a solution for this problem, it's just something I've learned about myself. 

  4. It's okay to stay home and spend time alone. And it's okay to love spending time alone, too. Being alone means you get to work on whatever you want without distractions. Whether it be studying or self-care, the opportunities are endless. You get to wear whatever you want too! Staying in pajamas the whole day? No problem. Don't like pants? No one's there to see you without pants. And no one's there to judge the amount of stuffed animals you have! Enjoy and savour the time that you have alone. 

    Photo by Nicole Sung

  5. It's important to be active and reach out to friends you want to spend time with. On the opposite side of the spectrum, it's important that you don't forget your friends in favour of staying at home. Of course, if they're not really your friends and you'd rather be alone, go ahead and ignore them. But I do think it's important that you try to take initiative with people who you actually do enjoy spending time with. 

  6. Join an extracurricular activity that you can actually commit to. While 40 minutes of transit isn't a big deal in Tokyo, I can't be bothered to take the train on days where I don't have classes. I had tried to join a dance club but was never able to make it to the Saturday practices, because I didn't want to spend a total of 80 minutes on the train for 90 minutes of practice. However, ever since joining TEDxWasedaU, I've been going to school on days where I don't even have class to fulfill duties and do work for the organization. (You can read about that here.) So it's important to choose something that you'll actually be dedicated to, or else there's really no point in joining. 

All in all, besides the insect thing, living alone is great. I've heard so many roommate horror stories that I'm scared to ever have any. And in case you haven't realized, I've lived alone for the entirety of my university career. So while part of me is glad that I never had to deal with roommates, part of me still feels like I missed out on a crucial part of university life. Being in a dorm really would have made making friends in the beginning much easier, but I still managed to befriend a lot of people, so I can't say that I would trade in living alone for an easier social life.