It came as a shock to everyone (well, the friends I texted, so three people) when I assembled a kitchen table and four accompanying chairs this past fall. I am not one for DIY, but after four hours of sweaty upper lip and a playlist titled DFMO (dance floor make out, for those unfamiliar), I completed my architectural marvel. When I was done, I reveled in the pride of having constructed something by myself.
By myself... a state I'm in more often than most people I know. When I first moved to New York after college, it felt natural for me to move into a studio apartment. "Don't you get lonely?" everyone asked. My answer: almost never. In fact, I greatly appreciate the liberty I have in my own space. In terms of decision-making, I don't have to rely on another person to agree or disagree with my choices; I can just act. I can be something it's OK to be at this age: free. Best of all, I don't have to worry about whose turn it is to get more toilet paper -- it's always my turn.
In the several months I've lived in New York, an important distinction has made itself known to me, and that is the difference between doing things alone and doing things on your own. We are alone in instances that most generally include other people. For example, we commonly say, "I went to the movies alone." Nobody says, "I went for a run alone." It's understood that you were most likely by yourself when you went for a run. To do things on your own is to claim the power of self-sufficiency.
Feeling comfortable with being alone is especially important for young women. Too often, we seek the approval of others and base our self-worth on the number of friends we have. We display how well-liked we are by the amount of people we are associated with.
The fundamental problem is that we have difficulty reconciling a young woman's drive to be independent with what it means to be a likable person. We are conditioned to base our value in the size of the group to which we belong. And while we can find value in a sizable support system, it should never be representative of the kind of person we are or choose to be.
Each morning, I get dressed for work without a friend's approval. I can't rely on a roommate to cook when I'm not in the mood, or to make sure I've gotten home safely. But I don't live alone -- I live on my own, and with this perspective comes a sense of independence I can be proud of.