Living Alone Was Isolating—Until I Made This Change
The solution? Shrimp and Shirley Temples.
Updated Sep 29, 2021 6:56 AM
Moving into a new apartment is the best until it isn’t. After housewarming visits give way to the mundanity of everyday life, the novelty of a new space begins to fade and what once felt like a vessel for infinite possibilities begins to feel smaller. That is, until you begin putting the people you love back in it.
When I moved into my one-bedroom apartment in November 2017, I prided myself on making a home in which my friends would always feel welcome. When I had company, I heated up appetizers and thawed out shrimp rings; I made tea and Shirley Temples. But by January, we returned to regularly scheduled programming. I went back to the routine of meeting my friends in the city. At home, I freelanced full-time from my kitchen table while finishing my first book. And that was fine, until the solitude that tends to accompany endless to-do lists and a smidge of isolation left me feeling sad, lonely, and attributing much of my negative headspace to the space I was living in. Without so many friends coming and going, my apartment had simply become the place where I worked the most, stressed the most, and worried about how much I was doing the aforementioned.
Which obviously wasn’t my apartment’s fault. So after spending a year using my apartment primarily as a place to work and watch TV, I used the upcoming holidays as motivation to make the leap back into who I used to be and offered to host my family for Christmas. Because, as we learned from the emphasis I put on overfeeding shrimp to my friends, I loved hosting. Ultimately, I wanted to know that the people who meant the most to me actually liked hanging out in my space.
And it was stressful. It was loud. It was an exercise in realizing how firmly I could say, “I said get out of the kitchen” while trying to simultaneously wash dishes and make sure I wasn’t burning meatballs.
But I also loved it. I loved forcing food down the throats of people who once held me as a baby. I loved that so many people who mean the world to me chose to be in my space. I loved that a space I’d equated to a very difficult year was the backdrop for what is now a fantastic memory. It reminded me that my apartment could be as fun and nurturing for me as it could be for the people I loved.
So I began doing it more. I had best friends over for a dinner party in winter. I had family over for pie on the balcony once the weather warmed up in spring. I had my aunt over to sort through old family photos and nosh on a variety of dips a few weeks ago. And each time, I was forced further and further out of my own head. Each time, I learned to focus on my company and our food and whether or not our glasses were empty versus whether I was writing enough or earning enough or in what ways I could be more productive. I realized my home was a safe space—a place that belonged to me. Also, that I can make a mean Shirley Temple.