For the first time in my life, I’m living alone. And I freaking adore it.
I have a twin sister, so for the majority of my life, I shared a room with her. When we moved out of our parents’ house at 18 and into a friend’s apartment in Los Angeles we also shared a room. And when the landlord asked us to leave because we were too noisy and we moved out of that place and into our own one-bedroom apartment, we still shared a room.
I finally “broke up” with my sister when I was 24, but I left her for someone else – my boyfriend. I moved across town to the historically Jewish Pico-Robertson neighborhood into a cozy, retro one-bedroom apartment. That same beau and I moved to San Francisco and then to Izmir, Turkey together before parting ways last September.
Living in a sharehouse in Nagoya upon my arrival in Japan was the closest thing I’ve had to a college dorm room experience. While I had my own tiny, somewhat sterile room, I was never far from others. Bathrooms were shared, as was the kitchen and living room. There was always someone around, something going on, noises down the hall. I loved living there, but it was rather hard to be alone.
I wasn’t sure what my living situation here in Kanazawa would be like. When I was offered housing through my job, I eagerly accepted because it was affordable and easy. I was told it would be “furnished, single-use studio housing”, but somehow I imagined it would still be like the sharehouse, with some shared living spaces. The idea of having an apartment to myself just seemed to good to be true.
But when my boss’s mother dropped me off at my new apartment and I took a look inside and saw that it was all mine, I was ecstatic. I couldn’t stop smiling. I set to work unpacking and had my first meal, sushi from the Japanese grocery store, on MY floor at MY coffee table. It could have been a terrible apartment, and I would still be in love with it.
True, it’s smaller than other places I have lived, but it’s just enough space for one person and I can clean the entire place in under an hour. The main room, where I sleep and eat and write and do pretty much everything, is actually fairly spacious, airy and light. Off to one side from the main room is a small balcony, with my own small washer. I want to get a chair for the balcony so I can sit out there now that the weather is getting nice, but right now I mostly use it to air dry my laundry! On the other side of the main room is a traditional Japanese sliding door, leading to a narrow galley kitchen and the tiniest bathroom possible. It’s like a cruise ship bathroom, and completely lined in plastic. Japanese people love baths, so my tiny-ass bathroom even includes the most ridiculous bathtub. It’s very possible to take a bath, I’ve done it a few times now, but it’s impossible to stretch out. Instead, one must submerge in kind of a vertical fetal position with your legs bent. Even with this awkwardness, I love it. It’s my own bathtub, dammit!
Now that I’ve been in the apartment for a month, I’ve finally decorated. Although it was furnished when I moved in, the furnishings were still pretty sparse, so by now I’ve made trips to the ¥100 store (like the dollar store) and second hand shops and have everything I need. (Side note: Japanese second hand shops are amazing!!! I bought a vintage kimono the other day for about $20. I wear it around the house and feel quite glamorous and Japanese. I can do things like that now. I live alone!!!)
The thing I love most though about living alone, is that I am filled with so much freedom. I can do whatever I want, whenever I want. I can stay up late writing or drawing and listening to music, but I can also binge watch costume dramas on Netflix. There’s no one around to judge me, or tell me not to. I can just be me.
Last week for the first time I had other people in my apartment. At my work we had a hanami, a cherry blossom picnic, and some of my coworkers and I went to a local izakaya (Japanese pub) for drinks after. We took the merriment back to my place, and it was so nice to have people see it and fill it with energy. My new colleagues/friends are all very diverse and interesting, and also into creative pursuits. Cameras, journals, stetchbooks and pens were all procured, and we ended up having a sort of drunken art party that finally broke up in the wee hours of the morning. Thinking about that night fills me with such happiness. Up here in Kanazawa, I think I may have found my people, and my place.