In the last six years, I’ve discovered a lot about the different personality types. There’s a definite difference between me and my younger sister, Shelby. We are so much alike, but our personality traits couldn’t be more different. Where Shel is content being home, I’m discontent. Where Shel is reserved at large parties, I couldn’t be more comfortable. I used to think of myself as an extrovert, but I’ve recently realized I’m a hybrid of the two.
I love being out in crowds. It fuels me. The hybrid part is being in those crowds with people I know well. I’ve gotten better, but I’m not great at striking up a conversation with a stranger. I have to trick my brain into thinking I’m acting and that this is all normal and fine when my insides are like WTF ARE YOU DOING THEY’RE GOING TO THINK YOU’RE WEIRD. More often than not, if I have the option of going out rather than staying home, I’m going out. In the past, a lot of that was fueled by being terrified of the silence in my apartment. Moving to Dallas meant moving to Dallas to live alone for the first time. Ever. I romanticized it for years but when I actually had to live it out, depression hit pretty hard. It’s easy to tell a depressed person to just get up! go out and do something! But when you’re living alone for the first time, know no one in your city (or the ones you do know you aren’t really close with), and it gets dark at 5:30, it can be crippling. No, it IS crippling. So how did I (literally) survive? How do extroverts and hybrids live alone? Here are the basic ways I’m surviving on a daily basis living alone as an extrovert.
GET COMFORTABLE WITH THE SILENCE
Yep. Living alone means silence. Even if you have the TV on 24/7 there will be moments when silence hits you. Just waking up in the morning, walking in the door from work with no one there to greet you, taking a shower. Never in my life did I anticipate how much silence there’d be living alone. Heavy silence, at that! I grew up in a house with two sisters and a set of parents. We did everything together. No matter what time someone came home, there’d likely be someone or some cat there to greet them. Dad watching the 6:00 news, Formula 1 races on Sundays, mom making dinner, sisters banging out homework at the dining table. Constant noise. Even when I went to my room, I’d be there with my dog watching Netflix and answering the occasional door knock. Living alone? None of that happens. The first two weeks I lived in Dallas I cried every afternoon when I got home from work. I’d call my boyfriend at the time wailing about how lonely I was and how I had no friends. It took five or so months of counseling and the steps below to get comfortable with this. And actually learn to love it!
IF YOU CAN AFFORD IT, GET CABLE. OR AT THE VERY LEAST, HULU
Yeah, your house is gonna be quiet. And dark. And empty. (Sad, yet?) When I told my counselor how much I missed life being in my house, she recommended I leave the TV on all day so that when I got home, it’d at least feel like someone else was there. And you know what? It worked. I got Hulu because of that. Netflix times out after three episodes, but not Hulu! I left that sucker running all.day. For months! I never thought I’d miss commercials, but yo. I missed commercials. Commercials were like a little connection to the outside world. I was controlling Netflix and knew when the next episode was coming up, but I got commercials and infinite scroll with Hulu. This summer, I actually opted in for cable. It’s definitely more expensive, but I know winter is coming and I’m going to get sad again, so being able to leave it on all day is really going to help.
GET A PET! EVEN IF IT’S JUST A FISH
Fish are pets too, kinda. Honestly, if I didn’t have Pepper…well, let’s just say I’m glad I had Pepper in those depressed months. Having her to excitedly greet me every day, even in a quiet apartment, let me know someone loved me. Even if she couldn’t audibly tell me. I could talk out loud to her, tell her about my day (like she cared) and pet her. If your apartment allows, adopt an animal! You’d be surprised how uplifting having another little life in your house is. I liked Pepper so much I went ahead and adopted another one. Oops. On top of them making you feel better, they distract you and take up more of your time. You don’t have time to be depressed or lonely if you’re feeding an animal or picking up the crap they left on your new West Elm rug or picking up cotton they pulled from a pillow. But hey! They turned that depression into anger and frustration. At least you’re not depressed now. My point is, get some life into your house. This includes plants!
LEAVE THE LIGHT ON
I started going to counseling right after Thanksgiving when the light was all but gone from this side of the planet. I mean, seriously. WHY does it have to get dark at 5:30 in the fall and winter?! My sessions started out at 5:00, right after work, but I quickly changed those to lunchtime appointments. Talking about being sad when it’s 40 degrees outside and it’s already dark just made me sadder. At least I’d have 2 seconds of daylight at home by moving my counseling sessions to lunch! She suggested I look into a sun lamp. A sun lamp is a lamp that emits light that mimics the sun. (Target carries them for relatively affordable prices.) Sitting under fluorescents, or even just regular bulbs, doesn’t tell your brain you’re seeing the sun so you get sad. Brains are so cool! I’m fortunate enough to sit next to some pretty big windows at work, but even so, I brought some faux sunflowers to keep next to my computer. Just in case. Don’t want a sun lamp? Print out a photo of the beach or somewhere sunny. Just looking at it can instantly lift your mood. Swear. As for your house, if you can afford it leave some big overhead lights on. Or just a lamp! Walking into a dark house can be rough.
GET OUT AND DO SOMETHING
I know I just said that it’s easier said than done, but look. If you love people, go be with them. In a new city? Don’t know how? I gotchu, boo. I’m working on some posts that will help you do just that! I think part of the reason I dated so much is because I knew no one here. I mean it’s partly my fault for not reaching out to the handful of people I sort of knew here already, but at least I got some really insane stories out of it. Sure, date if you want. But if you’re looking for friends, go hang out in places you like. You’ll find like minded people there guaranteed. Find a home church, get a job with people your age, start following people on social media that live in your area. (It works, trust me.) Or, just stand on a chair in a bar and ask who wants to be your friend. That’s something I’ve always wanted to try.
What do you think? Have you tried these? Do they work for you? What do you do that helps you not feel so alone?