Advice
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Lessons I Learned by Living Alone

Living by yourself is scary. Moving halfway around the world is downright petrifying. Living by yourself and moving halfway around the world is just crazy. This year, I did all of the above and lived to tell the tale. I have stories upon stories to tell about late nights under the shadow of a castle and early morning coffee runs in Italy. I hiked my way across Scotland and learned how to pack two weeks worth of clothing in a carry-on bag because that’s all the airline allowed. I’ve learned so much this past year but I’ve narrowed it down to a few crucial lessons I’ve picked up along the way:

  1. It’s alright to miss home. It’s okay to want to call your parents more than your friends. Savour their voices as you listen to them talk about their day and how uneventful their week was. Agree when your mother talks about how bitter her coffee was that morning or how horrendous weekend traffic can be. Not everything is going to be a grand story. But like you, you’re parents are getting older and they miss you probably more than you miss them.
  2. Comfort zones are great but don’t get stuck in yours. Go out on Friday night even if you’re not sure it’s your scene. Accept an invitation to go on a camping trip with friends despite not knowing how to pitch a tent or do anything remotely outdoorsy. New experiences are exactly that – new. If you step beyond your comfort zone, you’ll meet some amazing people and learn a lot about yourself.
  3. Spend a little money on yourself. I’m not saying go on a shopping spree around town and buy everything in sight. However, every once in a while treat yourself. Buy yourself that coffee. Get lunch with a friend. Decide to get a new shirt or two for the hell of it. Saving is a good habit to have but don’t forget to pamper yourself from time to time – we all deserve some self-loving.
  4.  Love will come in its own time. Though it can be nice having someone by your side, a relationship is not a necessity. Sometimes it may suck to be the only single one in your group of friends and yes, it’s frustrating to come home at Christmas and have your relationship status be the focus of the conversation. Despite how crummy it might feel, your time will come – maybe tomorrow or in a month from now – but it will come. Don’t settle for anything less than you deserve.
  5. Patience is a virtue not all of us have mastered. Forgive those whose tolerance level isn’t the same as yours because we all handle stress differently. We should never be punished for how we handled ours.
  6. Traveling is great but sometimes being home is just as magical. In the last four months, I’ve visited seven countries and made memories I’ll never forget. With that being said, coming home at the end of a long week full of plane rides and early morning starts is an indescribable feeling. You finally have your own bed back. You can take your time doing things without feeling like you’re missing out on a tour (your bank account will also be thankful for the break!). Enjoy where you live, for all that it’s worth because to some your city is the next destination for them.
  7. You’re not going to get along with everyone. As much as you may try, some people just won’t like you and vice versa. Your personality is not going to mesh with everyone’s but that’s normal. There will be people you like but would never live with. Then there are those who you see every day because you live with them but know you’d probably have lost contact with them a long time ago if you had moved out. It’s okay to have temporary friendships. It’s alright to miss the memories without missing the person you shared them with.
  8. Being at peace with yourself is such a liberating feeling. It’s taken me years to get comfortable in my own skin. I’ve always hated my acne. When I was younger, I was self-conscious of my height. I was never the skinniest girl in class. But despite what magazine tabloids peddle, I don’t actually care anymore. I can’t change how tall I am – my genetics are what they are. Acne will come and go like boys in the summer. I’ll never be a size two because my body doesn’t work like that. Living by myself has taught me that not only do I not really care about those things anymore but the people around me don’t actually care about them either.
  9. There will always be someone smarter. I’ll never know everything despite my years in school and abundance of reading material adorning the shelves of my room. It’s okay to not know everything; it allows us to constantly be searching for answers.
  10. Strive to be someone your younger self would have looked up to because odds are, you’re a role model for someone younger than you (maybe even without knowing). I’m not saying try to be perfect for the sake of being perfect. What am I saying though is to be your honest self. So many children try to change themselves to fit what they see in magazines and on television. If they can meet even one individual that practices what they preach, it can change their entire perspective.

Words by Sarah Sutherland // Photography by Rochana Chalhoub.

© 2017 Reef Magazine

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