What no one tells you about living alone as an independent woman

. 4 min read . Written by Vanshika Goenka
What no one tells you about living alone as an independent woman

When I think of the quintessential independent working woman, I think of Alia Bhatt in Dear Zindagi – a hot mess, obsessed with her job, trying to get by with a little help from her friends (and her trusted domestic help).

As someone who has lived away from home sporadically and has finally gotten the chance to move out for good, I can confidently say that this is me. We’ve seen countless representations of college-going boys living that hostel life (we get it – you’ve pursued engineering and boys are mean and horny and will rag you. Can we move on now?). What we don’t see nearly enough is how women live away from home – restrictions, fear, judgement and all.

This translates into real life, where we’re taught how to avoid danger lurking around at every corner but never how to enjoy the sweet sweet taste of freedom.

Living independently can be a transformative experience for a woman, so if you’ve been thinking about moving out of the comfort of your home, I have two words for you: do it!

Here are some joyful and humbling things no one tells you about living alone as a woman.

1. You will experience the ‘good girl conundrum’

Dhaniya and mirchi aren’t the only things you’re going to be bargaining for.

As women, we tend to face what I call the ‘good girl conundrum’ – we ask for certain freedoms in exchange for compromise in certain aspects of our lives, though ideally, we shouldn’t have to choose. And wanting to live independently is one such ask.

Many women I have lived with have had to fight to get an education in well-known universities in big cities, and they’ve worked hard to make it happen for themselves. They’ve essentially lived on borrowed time – If you don’t have a job 6 months after graduation, you’re coming home. And so, they’ve toiled and worked to make it.

In exchange, they relax the rules on things such as marriage, for instance – My parents have let me live away from home, so I can marry a man of their choice.

Take a moment to reflect upon what you’re promising to your family before you move out to explore the world. This doesn’t mean compromise is inevitable; it just means that we have to work a little bit harder to be heard. Which brings me to my next point:

2. You will feel guilty – momentarily

Imagine how Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani would have played out had Bunny been told, ‘Itni kya jaldi hai, shaadi ke baad travel kar lena apni wife ke saath’.

Women are often served generous helpings of guilt alongside their ask for freedom. When I decided to move out, I was hit with a ‘But why?’, ‘Why are you wasting your money?’, ‘Have they really called you into the office?’, and, my personal favourite, ‘You really must be sick of your parents’.

While men are encouraged to get out of their shells to expand their worldview and learn how to conquer the big, bad world, single women cannot do so without concrete reasons.

So, if you’ve decided to move out, remember that you will feel a tad guilty for doing it for yourself, but don’t let it dictate your move. If you’ve set your mind to it, the feeling of guilt won’t last long.

3. The voice in your head will sound a lot like your parents

You know that nagging voice telling you to pick your clothes off the floor or guilting you for eating a vada pav off a cart instead of dinner? It’s your parents you hear.

We tend to talk to ourselves the way our parents have communicated with us our entire lives, and given that they are a product of patriarchal practices, we grow up believing certain needs and demands are out of line.

Living alone can help you come to terms with what you prefer without the presence of your kin – which is essential to understand who you are as a person. And what works for you is never out of line.

When you move out, you realise how much of an impact your parents have left on your tastes, preferences, and sense of self. Thanks to mine, I cannot start my morning without old Bollywood songs playing in the background as I have my first cup of coffee.

4. Your survival skills will sharpen

I had once booked a carpenter through an app to fix a broken lock in my apartment. Without so much as examining it, he told me it would cost me three times the amount mentioned on the app, and when I asked him to give me the specifics, he rambled on about the process without explaining much.

It was yet another reminder that men often assume that women don’t understand how things work, which allows them to underestimate us and even rip us off.

When you’re at home, getting help is easy. This is why living alone is important – it teaches you how to solve a problem your own way. Venturing into the unknown and fixing problems by yourself helps build character and independence. Who doesn’t need that?

5. Nothing tastes as good as freedom

Talk to a parent about their daughters and the first thing you’ll hear is, ‘We trust her. We just don’t trust the world’. But here’s the thing about the world – you cannot expect one half of it to compromise for the other half, which often isn’t held accountable.

It isn’t enough to want to shield women from the harm bad guys bring. Expecting women to compromise on learning and unlearning, making mistakes, and failing only makes them less equipped to deal with the bad guys.

We have to teach women to fend for themselves, to be brave in the face of adversity, and to see the world the same way men are encouraged to. And living independently helps them do that.

The fear of violence is omnipresent, but there is no substitute for freedom.

Living alone as a woman often comes with a set of rules on how we should behave. Lock the door. Don’t walk alone at night. Avoid cabs. Get to know your neighbours. Don’t venture out too late. But it also comes with lasting friendships, a renewed sense of self, independence, and the space to just be. And we’d love to see more of that around us.