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Living alone can be scary.
Whether you’re a new adult and moving out of your parents’ home for the first time, relocating for school or work, separating from a partner, or simply having a fresh new start, it can be a scary world out there on your own.
When I was 14, my boyfriend and I went bowling with his parents once a week because they were in a league. A woman in the league, whom I’d sit and talk with, pulled me aside one night and gave me some advice. She told me it was important to live on my own. Completely by myself—without a man.
Thirty years later, I realized how important that advice was.
Between parents, a husband for 21 years, two kids, and later a boyfriend, I was 45 when I first lived completely alone.
It freaked me the f*ck out.
I’ve lived through many extreme ups and downs, and this was the one time that had me shaking.
I was in a one-bedroom apartment in an area that wasn’t the best, but luckily, not the worst either. I had already lived in the apartment for a little over a year with my ex-boyfriend, so I was familiar with the area. Shortly after we moved in, my beloved minivan broke down. I chose to keep a roof over my head rather than pay to keep the minivan. I couldn’t afford both.
So, I didn’t have a vehicle when he moved out, and I was already accustomed to walking wherever I needed.
There were days I’d walk 13 miles. Not only did I use an app, but I also did rough math of miles I’d walked. I encountered strangers, home-bums, stragglers, males, females, moms with kids, people catching some rest, too many types of people while walking back and forth to work, home, grocery store, and wherever I needed to go. Walking alone at random hours, anytime, didn’t bother me, even at 3 a.m. Daylight hours bothered me. But that was because of the heat and brightness.
One house I walked by regularly after work was of a retired veteran. He’d be sitting outside in his driveway with the garage door open, sometimes with a little TV, sometimes just sitting on his lawn chair quietly. We’d acknowledge each other when I passed with a wave, head nod, or hey—because announcing your presence, especially in that situation, is an important thing to do.
One night he approached me with two liters of Mountain Dew.
“I see you walking every night, and you must be thirsty since you’re homeless. Please, takes this.”
I explained that I wasn’t homeless, just vehicle-less and that I was walking home from work. We talked for a few minutes; that’s how I learned he was a veteran. I have stories about other random people I crossed paths with while walking to where I needed to go.
I knew the area enough that it didn’t bother me. I knew the shadows where people could hide. I paid attention to vehicles and people and felt comfortable enough to walk at night by myself. I even stopped along my walk sometimes at my free ATM to withdraw money then walk to get a money order to pay rent, and I never had an incident. Hell yeah, when I had the opportunity, I stopped to write my name in wet cement.
What scared me was living in the apartment by myself.
As mentioned, I’d already lived in the apartment for over a year. Part of the lease agreement included pest control. However, in over a year, a bug guy never knocked on my door. I never saw a person spraying or a pest control vehicle. And I never came home to the customary note that someone came in to spray. Not until I lived there alone.
I woke up to get ready for work one day and found a note on my kitchen counter that this man had been inside my home to spray for bugs. A panic attack, fear, and anger swelled up inside me.
A man I didn’t know, whom I didn’t allow in, had a key to enter my home whenever—without any notice—even while I was sleeping!
Needless to say, I had a hard time getting ready for work. At the time, I was in too much of a shaken state to think clearly enough to find out how this could have happened (this easily triggered my PTSD).
After processing the incident and calming myself, I called the landlord to find out why and how this had happened. She told me pest control is part of the lease agreement, so they can get keys to come in to spray. When I asked for a time frame and day of the month, she refused to give answers to either. She said, “They do it when they feel like it and when they get around to it.”
Due to my previous experience with landlord tenant law, I knew this was not legal. But it was the only place I had to keep a roof over my head, and I did not have the means to pursue anything in court to exercise my right to feel safe in my own home. I also would take every action possible to avoid shooting someone.
This was a scary difficult situation to encounter while dealing with living alone for the first time in my life. The easiest solution I came up with was to rig the door while home alone.
I had a set of folding card table chairs. When folded up, one wedged perfectly under the doorknob to block the door from being opened from the outside. Someone tried unlocking the door and coming in again.
The door was blocked from being opened, and the noise was enough to wake me up. I yelled no while getting up and slamming the door to get it relocked.
The response I got when I asked who was at the door was simply “it’s the bug guy.”
After getting dressed, I let him in and followed him while he sprayed the kitchen and the bathroom. After that incident, no one tried opening my front door again.
Around that time, I decided to flip the script and embrace the experience of living alone instead of living in fear.
I decided to take advantage, appreciate, and savor my time living alone. After all, it took me 45 years to have this experience; I might as well make the most of it because it may not happen again.
Flipping the script and looking at things from a different perspective is powerful.
Whenever you feel fear or that something is impossible, flip the situation, view it from a different perspective, and experience what can happen.
Have you used this technique before? Did it work? Did it not? What happened?