I’m lying on my back on a blue-green rug that ripples like the sea. The lights are off, and the grey late-April twilight outside the windows hints at more rain to come. My muscles ache after a weekend spent schlepping my possessions a mile across Ann Arbor from the shared house I’d occupied for the past year. My parents, in town to help with the move, are on their way back to Grand Rapids, and the bare living room hums with silence.
The silence is beautiful, and the blue-green sea rug is beautiful, and this bare room is beautiful, and it’s all mine.
My airy three-room apartment occupies half of the main floor of a century-old house in downtown Ann Arbor. The honey-toned wood floors slope in a half-dozen different directions, and I love it. I love the way the sun glows on the floorboards in my new bedroom. I love the creamy yellow walls in my living room, waiting patiently to be accompanied by bookshelves, artwork, and houseplants. I love my row of lentils, oats, almonds, and raisins in glass jars lined up along the kitchen counter. I love being able to organize the silverware drawer precisely how I want it. I love letting my food take over every inch of the refrigerator.
I hardly know how to contextualize this milestone: moving into my very own apartment for the first time. It’s tempting to think of it as a step into full-fledged adulthood—but this implies that there’s something inherently infantilizing about sharing space with another human being, which is a) not true and b) decidedly unfair given the barriers my mobile and debt-ridden generation faces when it comes to negotiating the housing and rental markets. It’s an enormous blessing and privilege to have both my own space and the disposable income to fill it.
Still, being in my very own apartment—no family members, no roommates, no pets (yet)—feels like I’ve flipped open a whole new chapter in my life. Before I moved in, I imagined this apartment unlocking some deep vault of self-discipline within myself. I’ll wash my dishes promptly upon using them, I mused. I’ll skip hooking up wi-fi and Netflix binges will become a distant memory. What will I do with all my newfound free time? Why, read, cook, pray, and host intimate gatherings of friends, of course! I can see it now—my pals laughing around a candle-lit dinner table, lingering over glasses of wine while discussing what it means to be truly alive. I’ll wake up on time every morning and start learning yoga. Thanks, solo living!
As it turns out, bad habits don’t evaporate just because there’s nobody around to witness them. Dishes still accumulate on the side of the sink. I haven’t sent around any dinner party invitations. In fact, I have to constantly remind my introverted self not to hermit away from society altogether. And, guess what? It’s still completely possible to binge-watch half a season of Battlestar Galactica in a single night when the public library and its impressive DVD collection are only a five-minute walk away.
Okay, so living alone won’t magically transform me into a better person. Darn. But right now, sprawled on my aquatic rug, watching the day fade into dusk through my new windows, I don’t know all that yet. I’m still basking in the silence of possibility.
Geneva Langeland (’13) survived graduate school with minimal blood loss, escaping with her ms in environmental policy and communication. She now works in Ann Arbor, Michigan, as the communications editor at Michigan Sea Grant. There, she gets to hang out with educators, researchers, and communicators who love the Great Lakes as much as she does.