12 Things I’ve Learned About Life From Living Alone in the City

So I’m halfway through my second week at my internship, and I’m telling you right now… it is flying by. Just so everyone knows: I’m absolutely loving it. The people I work with are truly amazing, and I’m learning so much. But I do miss all my friends and family back home. This blog post was inspired by multiple conversations I had today with friends about “how it’s going.” And well, I just want to be really honest here.

1. I love the freedom of walking anywhere I please. Eating anywhere I please. I love doing things solely because I want to and because I can. Being alone but not lonely is a strange feeling, and I really like it. I’m not only exploring a city, but I’m learning about myself. What I do and do not like – free from any bias, persuasion or persecution. And that, I’ve got to say, feels so good. There’s a joy that comes from allowing yourself to eat a bowl of gelato before dinner or buying fresh flowers for yourself. How beautiful are a bunch of hydrangeas on my desk! Small bits of joy can really change your whole perspective.

2. I am not responsible for the joy of others. This is one I’ve always, always, always struggled with, and I did not realize the impact until I moved here. Do you ever stop to wonder how much joy we lose because we spend it worrying about things out of our control? Like trying to constantly please picky eaters when there is a delicious smelling Thai place around the corner. Or when you have your friends from two friend groups going out on the same night so you bring them all together…and you’re constantly going back and forth to be sure both friend groups are pleased. Some people have a mission to not be pleased or show joy in life… and it’s not my job to fight that.

3. These shoes are not made for walking. If you are visiting me this summer or planning a trip to the big city, take this one tip from me. Purchase a pair of Chacos (preferably a pair with single straps as the double or triple straps tend to wear blisters) and get them fitted properly to your foot. Then wear them your entire trip. If you absolutely must bring that pair of Michael Kors heels (as I did), put them in your bag and wear your Chacos until you arrive at work, the play, dinner or wherever. Your feet will thank me.

4. There is a infinite amount of wonder lost in the word no. And I get to make the choice to discover that wonder or lose it. I’ll write more on this one later.

5. No amount of phone calls, texts or facetime calls can make up for my family and friends. I miss hugs so much. You do not realize how many hugs you get on a daily basis in the south until you haven’t had a hug in 2 weeks…

6. The 3 years I’ve spent in college prepared me for what to expect at work. My internship has taught me that you cannot expect anything because there truly is not something I do on a daily basis – with the exception of media lists. That’s everyday.

7. Half of the people in my life want me to live in Alabama. The other half don’t care enough to care. But everyone wants to know my decision. And I haven’t made that decision yet. I love Alabama. I love New York. I love above 10 cities across the U.S., and I don’t know where I will be this time next year. And that’s the only answer I can give you. But when I do make that decision, I will make it based on what I feel is best for me based on what I need at that point in my life (aka job and life).

8. Photos are meant to capture moments you’re afraid of losing. Photos are not meant to capture every moment of every day. Selfie sticks are everywhere here. There’s probably one selfie stick to every three people, and that’s not an exaggeration. Coming from a photographer, please listen to this one lesson if you don’t listen to anything else. You miss so much when you sit behind the lens (or try to be in front of it – selfie) For instance, think of the last concert you went to… how many people spent the entire concert recording the concert (not exactly legal, btw)? Now imagine how many people missed little cues from the artists (for instance, John Mayer changed the lyrics to one of his songs to include the city where he was playing “It’s been a long night in New York City, It’s been a long night in Nashville too” —the lyric is actually “Baton Rouge, too”). Imagine how much you actually miss when you’re too focused on focusing the camera. But also imagine how much you actually experience when you stop focusing on trying to remember that moment forever and you just focus on remembering that moment right then and there? Keep calm and put the selfie stick away. Enjoy the moment.

9. There are very few things in this world that I can control. This one will never be easy for me. I am high-strung. I can’t change it. People are going to either love or hate my high strung nature. I can’t change that either. People are either going to love or hate my choices. I can’t change that. People are either going to love or hate my hair, the way I dress, the way I talk, the way I live my life, what job I have, who I choose to date or marry, where I choose to live, what house (or apartment!) I choose to live in, what car I drive (or subway I take to work). I have to pick my battles, and I’m choosing to love the choices that I can make and the things I can (and even cannot!) control.

If there’s anything I’ve learned in the past two weeks it’s that I’ve let a whole lot keep me from enjoying life to its fullest extent. Expectations, worry, doubt, fear, stereotypes, whatever it may be. And that’s not fair to me because even though I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my college years, I haven’t really felt the weight of it all until now because it’s been lifted. There’s an energy here that’s different than any feeling I’ve had before. It’s like the high you get from achievement except different because it’s not a high. It’s an energy. It’s like the first time you realized your parents expect you to make mistakes, and somehow all of a sudden, everything seems a lot less scary.

Whether I chose to return to the city or choose somewhere else in the continental U.S. or abroad or wherever, I will be forever grateful of the time I spent learning about myself. There’s something about losing the comfort of being surrounded by people you know that makes you learn a lot about yourself. And that is quite invigorating.

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