The week before Yay New York, I was in New York City on my own. I decided to take advantage of the fact that I can work from anywhere and went a few days early. David couldn’t get time off work, so I was on my own in a city that I’m used to being on my own in.
It was wonderful. I saw friends on my own schedule; I journaled by the lake in Prospect Park; I walked from Canal to 14th on a lovely summer night because I wanted to check up on everything. When you’ve lived a huge chunk of your life in New York City, it feels like a part of you. When you leave, it can feel like you amputated a limb. So I walked the streets, at each block remembering something different from a different period in my life. “Remember when you interviewed as a nanny there when you were in college?” “Remember shopping for office supplies there when you ran an office?” “Remember staying out late drinking there in your mid-20s?” And frankly, it was nice to do the remembering alone, at my own pace. It was nice to be away from my husband for a few days (even if I missed him after seeing a play with no one to discuss it with).
During my trip, I had a long chat with Kimi of Printable Press about the nature of solitude and family. Kimi, who had a baby earlier this year, told me that partnership had been a harder adjustment than motherhood when it came to giving up solitude. And I got to thinking about how difficult I’ve personally found that trade off to be.
David and I moved in together pretty late. We moved in together when we moved across country, and only because David told me, “It is beyond stupid and expensive to move to San Francisco and then get separate apartments near each other.” Because the truth is, I would have kept separate apartments til the last possible second. I viewed moving in together more as giving up my own place than building a home together (though in the end, it was both).
I’m someone who needs a significant amount of alone time to feel truly balanced. It’s odd because I’m a super extrovert, but I think that all that time being a chatterbox needs to be balanced by just sitting still by myself. And frankly, I have a hard time getting enough of that time as part of a partnership. It’s no one’s fault but my own… or maybe it’s the fault of us not having a big enough apartment for me to ramble off to another room. But I don’t sit alone and write as much as I’d like (professional writing does not count as solitude most of the time), or take quite enough adventures alone. For me, when there is someone else that I love who wants to come, it’s so much easier to take them along than to not.
So for me, the time alone in New York was important. I could think; I could write; I could wake up and go to bed when I chose. I didn’t owe anyone anything. It restored me and balanced me, and it made me realize that I need to reach for more alone time, even when it’s more convenient to settle into family time.
So Team Practical, what is your wise advice? How do you work to strike a balance between solitude and partnership (particularly in a world that does not usually value sitting in a room by yourself and being quiet). Let’s discuss.